Who are the Early Standouts from the NBA’s Bubble Scrimmages in Orlando?

Joakim NoahNBA action is back! Scrimmage action kicked off on Wednesday in Orlando as teams started to warm up for the official season restart, which begins on July 30.

With 11 total games in the past three days, all 22 NBA teams in Orlando have now gotten the chance to play one scrimmage contest each. USAbetting reviews a few standout players from the early action.

Joakim Noah, Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers’ signing of Noah at the end of June looked like a mere insurance move to give the team some extra frontcourt depth in case of injuries. As it turns out, Noah may be more than just an emergency option at center.

Ivica Zubac, the Clippers’ normal starting center, traveled to Orlando on Friday and may need some time to get up to speed with the team. Key backup big man Montrezl Harrell is still away from the bubble tending to a family emergency. As a result, Noah got his chance to start in the Clippers’ first scrimmage against the Orlando Magic and he looked great.

Noah’s numbers of four points, five rebounds and three assists in 15 minutes against the Magic don’t jump off the stat sheet, but it was more about how he looked on the court after not playing an NBA game in 16 months. The former Florida Gator set bone-crunching screens, he looked very comfortable executing his role in the Clippers’ offense and he looks to be in great shape overall.

While Noah is 35 years old, he has played just 2,383 total minutes since the 2014-15 season ended, which is fewer minutes than he played in many individual seasons when he was in his prime. He looks like a young 35 years old and he just might play a key role in the Clippers’ run at a championship this year.

Bol Bol, Denver Nuggets

Without question, Bol was the biggest story of the first day of NBA scrimmages on Wednesday. His night wasn’t perfect by any means, but he still managed to produce 16 points, 10 rebounds and a whopping six blocks in his NBA debut against the Washington Wizards. The 2019 second-round draft pick’s only NBA action before Wednesday was just eight G-League games.

Bol’s combination of size and skill is very intriguing. He’s 7’2” with a 7’8” wingspan, and he can shoot from the outside, protect the rim, move fluidly up and down the court and even handle the ball a bit. We did see his struggles with shot selection and turnovers on Wednesday, and the biggest knock on him is still his extensive injury history.

The fact that the Nuggets were willing to start Bol and play him 32 minutes on Wednesday is very telling, even with a depleted squad. Denver knows it has a very unique talent on its hands and Bol could even get rotation minutes in the playoffs if the team realizes it needs a different look against a certain opponent.

Seth Curry, Dallas Mavericks

Curry is one of the NBA’s most underrated players. I think the fact that he plays with popular players like Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and Boban Marjanovic and another high-volume offensive option in Tim Hardaway Jr. takes away some of his shine. Curry doesn’t do that much besides shoot the ball from the outside, but he is almost on par with his older brother, Stephen, in that specific skill.

Since the start of the 2020 calendar year, Seth has been on a tear, averaging 15.8 points in 27.4 minutes per game on a ridiculous 69.8 true-shooting percentage. He picked up right where he left off by dropping 23 points in 16 minutes on 8-of-8 shooting, including 6-of-6 from three-point range, on Thursday against the Lakers.

It seems like a lot of the NBA public finally woke up to Seth’s capabilities during Thursday’s game, with so many fans watching to see what players would do after the long layoff. Expect Curry to keep bombing away for the Mavs with opponents paying so much attention to Doncic and Porzingis.

Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, Portland Trail Blazers

I’m lumping Nurkic and Collins together because they are both big men for the Trail Blazers who missed all or almost all of the 2019-20 season and came back strong in their first action in a long time. In 39 combined minutes against the Pacers on Thursday, the duo put up 20 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and two blocks on 9-of-15 shooting from the field. Their conditioning looked very strong, as well.

I certainly didn’t expect Nurkic and Collins to look so close to 100 percent this soon, but I guess the extra time off was exactly what they needed to get their bodies right. This makes Portland a much more formidable team as the squad looks to put itself in position for a playoff spot.

Moving forward, Portland’s concern is how they will divvy up minutes between Nurkic, Collins and Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside sat out the Thursday scrimmage with minor Achilles soreness, but he started all of his 61 games for the Blazers this season and averaged more than 16 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks per game. I do ultimately think he’s a better fit to come off the bench for the Blazers, but it will be interesting to see what head coach Terry Stotts decides to do.

Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder

Adams, like Seth Curry above, is a player who doesn’t get his proper due. He is a very hard-working center who does a lot of things that don’t go in a traditional box score, like boxing out, setting hard screens and keeping offensive players from getting good position down low.

On Friday, though, Adams did have a nice box score performance in a scrimmage against the Boston Celtics. He bulled Boston’s big men for 17 points, seven rebounds (four offensive) and one block in 15 first-half minutes. The 6’11”, 265-pound bruiser proved that he can take advantage of opponents that don’t have a true big man who can match him in size or strength.

Look for Adams to stay aggressive for Oklahoma City when the real games begin, sometimes deviating from his normal responsibilities to put up big numbers in the scoring column when he has an advantage.