Where Rockets’ James Harden belongs among top 10 NBA Bubble players

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Houston Rockets

Sacramento Kings De’Aaron Fox (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images)

Second-Team All-Bubble

10. De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings

In some ways, it was cruel that the NBA invited as many teams to the bubble as they did. The Kings had little to no chance at the playoffs and spent their time in Orlando helping other teams’ causes, but it hasn’t been because of their budding superstar De’Aaron Fox.

Fox averaged 26.2 points and 7.3 assists on 50.4 percent shooting. The Kings didn’t quite make a run for the playoffs, but the progress Fox has shown has made an otherwise fruitless trip to Florida well worth it.

Houston Rockets

Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

9. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers have been slowly disintegrating this season, but Joel Embiid has been rounding into form at just the right time. In only 25.3 minutes per game, Embiid has averaged 20.1 points and 10.4 rebounds as the 76ers have outscored the opposition by 4.7 points with Embiid on the court.

Embiid’s offensive impact is only half of the equation, and his defense has been stellar as always. Embiid tweaked his ankle while in Orlando but should be ready to go as the Sixers look to make noise in the Eastern Conference without Ben Simmons.

Houston Rockets

Denver Nuggets Michael Porter Jr. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

8. Michael Porter Jr., Denver Nuggets

Outside of a questionable theory about COVID-19’s origins, Michael Porter Jr. has been nothing but smiles for the Denver Nuggets. After coming off the bench for the Nuggets for most of the season, the highly regarded Porter Jr. was cast into the starting lineup and instantly impressed.

After a quiet first game, he exploded for 37 and 30 points in Nuggets wins. He averaged 22 points a game on 55.1 percent shooting and provided Denver with a brand new X-factor heading into the postseason. Has Porter Jr been better than Jokic? Maybe not, but sportswriters love shiny new things, and Porter Jr.’s unexpected rise is too good to pass up.

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LA Clippers Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)

7. Kawhi Leonard, LA Clippers

The Clippers remain the favorites to make it out of the West because of Kawhi Leonard. The Clippers are +13.3 when Leonard is on the court, which is the best +/- in the entire bubble. He is possibly the best wing defender in the league and averaged 28.8 points per game in the bubble.

Leonard’s scoring has been as efficient as his use by the Clippers. The load management necessary to keep him healthy and at peak performance will always rob him when it comes to awards, but that’s a small price to pay when you’re singularly focused on championships.

Houston Rockets

Milwaukee Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

6. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks have not been as dominant in the bubble as they were outside of it, but that has hardly been because of Giannis Antetokounmpo. He averaged 27.8 points and 12.2 rebounds in only 25.8 minutes a game while shooting 62.6 percent from the field.

If Giannis were averaging more minutes, he’d have a real claim to the bubble’s best player, but since he’s the presumptive league MVP, I’m sure he’s okay not winning this award. The Bucks are more concerned with getting ready for the playoffs, and Giannis looks ready to rumble.

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