Welcome to ‘Inside the Suns’, your weekly deep down analysis of the current Phoenix Suns team.
Once again, we’ll start off this edition of with a look at the current Western Conference standings and playoff probabilities.
Graphic courtesy of PlayoffStatus.com.
And now, on to the Fantable — a round table of Bright Siders who give their takes on the Suns latest issues and news.
Fantable Questions of the Week
Q1 - Does anyone really deserve the MVP award more than CP3?
Sun-Arc: As much as I love CP3 for everything he does, I would not be able to give him the MVP for this season. Though hard to argue he deserves a lot of recognition for this season’s accomplishments, and also over his entire career.
The person I think who deserves it the most this season is Giannis Antetokounmpo. I think he is the most unstoppable force in the NBA today, and the numbers bare that out. some might say Embiid, but Giannis’ PER (32.3), TS% (.630), AST% 33.8), USG% (35.1), and VORP (5.3!) are almost all higher. They are about equal in rebounding, but Giannis is better this season in everything else.
Compare that to Paul’s PER (21.1), TS% (.577), AST% (44.4), USG% (19.9), and VORP (3.5) and you can tell Giannis is just more incredibly important to his team. Especially that disparage in usage rate.
There is a case for Jokic, who has the highest numbers in the league for VORP (6.8), PER (32.5), OWS (7.3), WS (10.4), and WS/48 (.297). Those are barely better than Giannis but the per game standard stats favor the Greek Freak. Plus we all know Giannis is a much better defender.
Paul has an insane AST% (44.4 this season, though he has been as high as 52.7 in the past), and yet is not quite as dominant as Giannis.
SouthernSun: Probably? But I'm sort of at a loss for coming up with a good argument. Devin Booker is putting up numbers and is obviously crucial to the Suns success, but I definitely think Chris Paul has more of an effect on the rest of the team as a whole, making guys better. And I’m not sure there’s a player in the NBA right now who is having as big an effect on the rest of his team as CP3.
Alex S: I’d still give the nod to the consensus top 3 in Giannis/Joel/Nikola but Chris certainly deserves that next level of love for MVP. The Suns are just too balanced to truly give an award that insinuates individual achievement above all else in my opinion.
Yet the Suns are so good and Chris has had such a quality season that I advocate for him being in top 5 conversation. Just as I’d advocate for Book being in the top 10 as well.
Rod: No. But honestly, I also can’t say that he deserves it any more than any of the other MVP frontrunners. The one thing that I think that really makes him special though is that he’s not just a great player, he’s also an on the court coach/teacher that that helps guide and mold the Suns every night. That doesn’t show up in his stats though and may not be taken into consideration when the voting happens. But if the Suns do wind up winning the championship this year, I think him winning Finals MVP is a strong possibility and I think he’d prefer that to the regular season MVP.
Q2 - Mikal Bridges just keeps getting better and better. What do you think his ceiling is?
Sun-Arc: I hate to guess at Bridge’s ceiling. People compare him to Shawn Marion, but Marion’s numbers were more gaudy except for 3pt shooting. Marion was also bigger and stronger and a WAY better rebounder. And Shawn has twice the TRB% of Bridges in their first four respective seasons. Marion also averaged 21.2 pts/game in his fourth season, compared to 13.3 for Mikal. And, yes, those were the pre-Nash years were Marion was pretty much the #1 scoring option- but remember, he was the #1 everything option in those years- doing it all. I cannot imagine Bridges being that in his first four seasons anywhere.
Yet I do think Bridges is becoming more well-rounded player while also being a smarter defender each season. He’s really really good. I just don’t think it is fair to compare him to Marion.
And lately Bridges has reminded me more of one of my other favorite ex-Suns players: PJ Tucker. Not that their games look all that similar, but Bridges has become the dependable guy that plays hard and (more importantly) effective Defense, and will do whatever the team needs. If we need someone locked down, he’s there. If we need rebounding for a five minute stretch, he’s there. If we need him to take the scoring load for a few minutes, he’s there. His scoring is, of course, WAY better than PJ’s. But my point is that every good team wants a PJ Tucker, and we have a guy that is emerging as a better PJ than PJ ever was. Those guys are really hard to find. Bridges may be the best of them out there currently.
And that is a hell of a ceiling if you ask me.
SouthernSun: I don’t think he’ll ever be Kawhi. I’ve seen people toss it around. He’s definitely been playing better offensively lately, putting together a string of really solid performances, but I'm not sure I trust it? Will he fall back to earth and be the 12ppg guy we usually see? Or can he consistently put up numbers like he has been? If he can sustain what he’s been doing lately, he will be an extremely effective two way player.
Alex S: His ceiling is a consistent all-star level talent that is a fringe candidate in the Western Conference for multiple years. Furthermore, he’s got DPOY-level talent on the defensive end while having the skill set to be a 16-19 ppg scorer on a playoff team.
I will say in order to unlock Mikal’s full potential… there would need to be a bit of roster turnover and for him to take on more responsibility to truly see what his ceiling is.
I have a hard time doubting what Mikal can become based on his year to year improvement thus far in his career.
Rod: I believe that Mikal is going to evolve into a perennial All-NBA Defensive Team member, constant DPOY contender (if not winner) and be named to several All-NBA Teams. If his scoring continues to improve, All-Star game appearances are also likely. I see him as ultimately a Scottie Pippen-type player and by that I mean his team role will be one similar to Pippen’s on those great Jordan Bulls teams, not that he will be a Pippen clone. Mikal is Mikal, not anyone else and he will eventually leave his own unique mark on the NBA.
Q3 - Who are you rooting for in the All-Star game, Team Book or Team CP3?
Sun-Arc: I really do not care much for the all star game. But looking at the rosters I see players I very much like and dislike on each side. I would guess Lebron’s will win. I mean, c’mon… LBJ, Giannis, Curry, Jokic, Doncic, Paul, and Butler? And they would have had Harden too. Good grief, Charlie Brown!
So I’ll cheer for Durant’s team, because I see them as the underdogs.
Enjoy the festivities and break, everyone.
SouthernSun: Always gonna side with Book in things like this. He’s our guy. I love CP3. Think he has had just as much if not more of an impact on the Suns season as Devin Booker. But D Book has been here for 7 years and dealt with a lot of bs and stuck it out, so I have to root for our guy.
Alex S: I’m rooting for no injuries and at this point I have a feeling Chris might not even play. I’ll go with Book as this is his first time ever being an initial All-Star pick and also the first reserve selected in the draft as well. Either way, I’m happy the whole gang will be out there!
Rod: Normally I wouldn’t pick favorites between CP3’s or Book’s AS teams but I’m rooting mostly for CP3’s team this time because it’s also Monty’s team. Other than that, I really just want CP3 and Book to both have great games and come home healthy.
As always, many thanks to our Fantable members - GuarGuar, Sun-Arc, SouthernSun and Alex S. - for all their extra effort every week! (GuarGuar did not participate this week.)
Interesting Suns Stuff
The Phoenix Suns Are The Scariest Team In The NBA And Its Not Close
How Chris Paul’s On Court Communication Makes The Phoenix Suns A Well Disciplined Team
Last Week’s Poll Results
Last week’s poll was “What is your overall grade for the Suns’ trade deadline performance (added Craig & Holiday, subtracted Smith & Nader)?”
53% - A.
44% - B.
03% - C.
00% - D.
00% - F.
A total of 674 votes were cast.
This week’s poll is...
How do you rate the possibility of CP3 winning MVP?
This poll is closed
He’s a strong contender.
He has an outside chance.
He has virtually no chance.