The Phoenix Suns, at 34-9 the kings of the NBA so far this season and wearing a crown on the chart below to prove it, also have the 5th biggest bubble.
No, I’m not talking about ‘The Bubble’, from way back in 2020 where the Suns went 8-0 to kickstart their dominance in the NBA’s win column.
I’m talking about the bubble of ‘man games lost’, where the Suns have lost the 5th most win shares so far this year due to injury or COVID. Not only have the Suns suffered in COVID losses like everyone else, but they’ve lost some of their most important players for big stretches of the season.
Devin Booker missed a couple weeks (7 of 43 games). Deandre Ayton has missed nearly a month now over four different stretches (15 of 43 games). Other players with high win shares per game that have missed time include Cameron Johnson, Jae Crowder, Frank Kaminsky and JaVale McGee.
The Suns Big Three of Ayton, Booker and Paul have only played together in 23 of the Suns 43 games so far this season.
Only Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges have played every game this season for the league-leading Suns, who with just 9 losses (in 43 games) are the only team have lost fewer than 12 games and one of only two teams to have lost fewer than 15 games this season.
They’re winning despite losing the 5th most win shares and 5th most vorp (value over replacement players), according to the popular website mangameslost.com.
Yep. Suns 5th most impacted by their injuries so far this season when adjusted by quality of players missing. Confirmed by two different metrics (Lost-ws and Lost-vorp)https://t.co/pX2mpQmQvT— Man Games Lost NBA (@ManGamesLostNBA) January 18, 2022
As you might expect, the Los Angeles Clippers have the 2nd highest ‘lost-win-shares’ metric because Kawhi hasn’t even suited up for them yet this season and Paul George has missed considerable time as well. The Clippers and Magic’s injury losses have translated on the court to game losses. The Magic (8-38) have the league’s worst record by far, and the Clippers (22-24) are all the way down in 9th in the West, barely in position for the one-game play-in.
Guess who’s not being counted among the man-games-lost, because it breaks with the philosophy of the site?
No. I started off the season counting him, but then later decided I don't track games missed due to stupidity.— Man Games Lost NBA (@ManGamesLostNBA) January 18, 2022
That’s right. This metric is not including Kyrie Irving, who has been healthy all season but has sat out nearly all the Nets games because of his anti-vax stance.
According to the FAQ, here’s how the man-games-lost numbers are derived for the NBA. Looks like he uses the available data on basketball-reference.com, which is where I always go as well.
Now, from the same FAQ, a little bit on the IIT factor, which is where the bubbles are coming from.
To find out more details, subscribe to mangameslost.com
What does it all mean?
It means what you think it means.
The Suns have been the 5th-most severely impacted this year in terms of quality of players missing time. And that doesn’t even include losing head coach Monty Williams for four games (more than two-thirds of NBA head coaches have gotten COVID so far this season).
The Suns also have the best record in the NBA, thanks in part to Monty’s great system, in part to the health of Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges and in part to general manager James Jones team building wizardry.
Jones talked last offseason about building a roster like index cards in a 3-by-5 format. Meaning, three-deep at all five starting positions. That’s easier said than done, but with versatile players he’s gotten close to perfection.
The Suns were short on big men last offseason, which finally hurt them in the Finals when Dario Saric went down and left Deandre Ayton as the only rotation guy taller than 6’6” who weighed more than 210 pounds. This year, they doubled down by signing JaVale McGee while bringing back Frank Kaminsky and Jalen Smith, and then found Bismack Biyombo when even THAT depth was tested.
We still have 39 games to go, and we’re still crossing our fingers over the health of the little guy in his 17th NBA season.
But so far, GM James Jones, coach Monty Williams and their respective staffs have been absolutely brilliant in leading the Suns to the best record in the NBA by a 3-game margin despite being 5th-most negatively impacted due to injuries/COVID.
The Suns will be without Deandre Ayton (ankle) for their nationally televised tilt in Dallas against the Mavericks. Ayton is rehabbing a rolled ankle after landing on Booker’s foot in a win earlier this week.
Since Ayton was drafted No. 1 overall, ahead of Luka Doncic, the Suns have won 8 of 9 games against the Mavericks in games both players have played. On a stage that matters more than regular season games in January, Ayton also has a lot more playoff wins than Luka (14 to 5), and playoff series wins (3 to 0), for what it’s worth.