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Igor Kokoskov and his Suns fare poorly in The Athletic’s 2019 NBA Player Poll

Kokoskov was third among coaches whom opposing players would NOT want to play for.

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

It’s one thing to look sideways at the Suns and wonder what’s going on in the Valley — it’s another to outright dismiss a respected coach.

Somehow, Igor Kokoskov received 11.5 percent of the votes from the 52 players who answered this question from The Athletic in their inaugural NBA Player Poll. That was enough to put the first-time head coach third behind Tom Thibodeau and Jim Boylen on the list. Wonderful company.

Overall, the site polled 127 NBA players on everything from officiating to which NBA player would be most scared of in a fight.

This just goes to show NBA players hate more than anything to lose. They equate Kokoskov with losing because in his first season, the Suns have the worst record in franchise history. Boylen’s reputation as somewhat disrespectful or asinine because of the way he reprimanded players upon taking over midway through the season probably is the reason he got more votes than Kokoskov, and Thibodeau is out of work.

Somehow, Knicks coach David Fizdale escaped scot-free in this one, even earning 2 percent of votes for who players DO want to play for despite the Knicks finishing four games BEHIND the Suns in the standings.

I shouldn’t be surprised by this but ... I am. Kokoskov put together an offense that downright embarrassed teams in Utah some nights. His system helped turn Joe Ingles into an above-average starter. He helped earn Gordon Hayward a maximum contract. He had a hand in infuriating the 12 teams who passed on Donovan Mitchell.

The No. 1 pick in the draft improved greatly under Kokoskov in just one year. Kelly Oubre Jr., a target of a ton of criticism in Washington, went to another level on both ends under Kokoskov. Come on.

The rest of the results bare out an even more puzzling understanding of what’s going on in Phoenix. Of the 116 answers on who is the most underrated NBA player, Devin Booker received one vote. That’s fine, it’s hard to know where to come down on Booker until the team around him makes more sense. I also don’t know if I would classify him as “underrated” considering how much discussion he’s already generated.

Even weirder is the “best defender” poll. Suns rookie Mikal Bridges received 1.7 percent of the 114 votes in this category despite being on the 29th-ranked defense in the NBA and being a rookie. Most veterans agree rookies can’t play much defense, but somehow Bridges is the most-respected Phoenix player in this poll?

It really is a Villanova army in the NBA.

Remember, NBA players are likely more plugged into the Suns than national media or talking heads because they play these guys at least once every year. Many players around the league passed through Phoenix at one point. They should be better at this.

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