Each week, Nick Ashooh and Wes Hall look at the biggest storylines going on in the NBA bubble in Orlando. Since they can't do it in person, we bring you their actual chat:
NICK: Well, we're about a week into the NBA bubble, Wes. At least real games that is. I gotta say, I thought we'd have one or two surprises, but man there's been a ton of guys out there really upping their 2K ratings
WES: This thing has me thrown in so many directions. The Lakers are mailing it in, the Rockets only want to shoot threes, and the Suns don't know they're supposed to lose. LOL
NICK: Okay, who stood out to you so far? To me, Michael Porter Jr. is clearly gonna be a star. Injuries aside, he was considered a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, and the Nuggets' gamble is paying off. He's about to surpass Jamal Murray as their second-best player.
WES: MPJ is legit, indeed. What I'm most surprised by is the whacky minutes restriction on Zion Williamson! He's had four months off. What are they waiting for?
NICK: This will be Zion's career. It's frustrating but we need to be realistic. They had to work him back into game shape after leaving the bubble on top of all the time off. He's such a unique talent but being so unique no one really knows how to put him in the right position to succeed yet. I wonder how long before he starts to get frustrated with the Pelicans over all these limits too.
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WES: My ultimate hope is they don't stifle his growth by NOT allowing him to go 100 miles per hour. He needs to slim down just a tad and he needs to get and stay in basketball shape. Regardless of his conditioning, will the Pelicans make the playoffs?
NICK: Nope. I'm going with Portland for that last spot. Jusuf Nurkic has stepped back in and been huge, not to mention Gary Trent Jr. averaging 18 points per game just makes them better. Trent becoming a big scoring threat off the bench is an added bonus to a team that made the Western Conference Finals last year but have been a huge disappointment this year.
WES: Portland has found the weaknesses of a lot of teams...fatigue. After the Blazers struggled in the regular season, they found a way to lean on veteran leadership to navigate them back to competitive basketball. Another surprise has been the Phoenix Suns. Did someone forget to tell Devin Booker that they aren't supposed to win these games?
NICK: You know I love Devin Booker so this is so great to watch. That team has a nice young core and I like Monty Williams as their head coach. I told you there would be at least one team playing with house money and it's them. Those kids don't care. The Suns fear no one and heard everyone say they shouldn't be in Orlando.
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WES: RIGHT?! They have no fear and it's glorious to watch. It makes me wonder what would happen if the Wizards could play spoiler like the Suns. Obviously the Wizards are down three of their top players but imagine the shock they would present to the league by stealing a game or two. Rui Hachimura, Troy Brown Jr., and the other young guys could really use that boost!
NICK: The fact that you didn't mention Jerome Robinson is just wrong. He's been their biggest surprise, although I hate to call him a surprise given he was a lottery pick two years ago. I loved that Tommy Sheppard snagged him before the deadline. Robinson is starting to find his shot again and he's gonna play a big role for this team moving forward. He just didn't get any time with the Clippers.
WES: Robinson is definitely a surprise for the Wiz and so is Shabazz Napier. Although neither has been consistent in the performances, they both have shown they have what it takes to play in this league, and at a high level. The next test for the Wizards is the Pelicans. This one may be the best head-to-head matchup we see for the Wizards in the bubble.
NICK: Of course the other test is how long they actually play Zion. Either way, the bubble has been fun so far. Seeing all these breakout performances, and we didn't even mention T.J. Warren, there's bound to be some players who come out of this much better getting into next season.
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