As the regular season winds down this weekend, some of the anointed national media folk will be voting for various awards for NBA Players, including:
- Most Valuable Player (MVP)
- Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY)
- Sixth Man of the Year
- Rookie of the Year
- Coach of the Year
- All-NBA teams (3 teams, 5 players each team)
- All-Defense teams (2 teams, 5 players each team)
- All-Rookie teams (2 teams, 5 players each team)
The Phoenix Suns figure prominently in a few of the award races, though among the individual awards they are only the favorite: Coach of the Year, for Monty Williams. Williams has the best odds by far to win the award.
Suns players are also favored to be among the 15 players named to All-NBA team (Devin Booker and Chris Paul) and among the 10 players named to the All-Defense team (Mikal Bridges).
Today, let’s break down the Suns chances for various player awards.
Most Valuable Player (MVP)
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Phoenix Suns three-time All-Star Devin Booker has the 4th best odds to be voted the MVP this season. This is by far the highest Book has ever ranked, and quite the turnaround from the ‘looter in a riot’ reputation.
But those odds are well behind the top three candidates.
The odds-on favorites also mirror the thoughts of those voting media members who have been talking about one of Nikola Jokic (2021 MVP), Giannis Antetokounmpo (2019 & 2020 MVP) or Joel Embiid, who received the second-most votes for MVP in 2021, taking home the award this year.
But make no mistake: Booker has his own case for MVP anyway. In fact, no player with Book’s numbers (26+ points, 5+ rebounds, 4.9+ assists) on the league’s best team failed to win the MVP that year. DraftKings has Book leading that next tier, ahead of the likes of Luka Doncic, Ja Morant, DeMar DeRozan, Jayson Tatum, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and LeBron James.
Chris Paul, Booker’s teammate and future sure-fire Hall of Famer, finished 5th in MVP voting a year ago, which was the 8th time in his career he ranked among the top 7 players to receive MVP votes. That’s a helluva career.
In a pleasant surprise, your friendly neighborhood Inspector Gadget has risen up near the very top of the ‘Defensive Player of the Year’ betting odds at DraftKings, behind only the Boston Celtics’ Marcus Smart — best defender on league’s best defense — and the Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo, the best defender on the league’s 4th best defense.
Right after them is Mikal Bridges, the best defender on the league’s 2nd-best defense.
If Smart wins the award, he will be the first guard since Gary Payton won it way back in the 90s. And that was a different league, folks. That league rarely switched, allowing Payton to spend most of his time on guys his size. Smart, on the other hand, is the leader of a defense that switches everything. He can effectively defend all five positions, even at just 6’4” tall. Bam has a history of being great, especially in a switch-heavy league, at defending all positions too.
Mikal doesn’t quite have the ballast to hold his own on the block against a 7-foot center, as opposed to those other guys. But Mikal truly excels in defending the best players at every other position, and that’s where all but about three of the league’s very best players reside.
Book is a lock, and CP is a strong maybe.
You can’t be an MVP Finalist and not make one of the three All-NBA teams. Don’t be surprised if you see Book’s name on the first-team, next to Ja Morant. It helps that Stephen Curry has missed time this year, dimming his forcefield around a first-team spot.
Chris Paul is likely on an All-NBA team too. He’s having an excellent season, leading the league’s best team. With Paul healthy, the Suns were head and shoulders above the league, holding a 7.5 game lead over the field at the All-Star break — a lead so big no team had that kind of margin since the 90s. He might drop off the lists, though, because he’s just now returning from a month-long absence that lasted almost all the post-All-Star part of the season.
My guess: Book makes second-team, while Paul makes third-team.
Bridges is a lock to make one of the two teams, so the only remaining question is whether he will make first-team or not.
His primary competition for a first-team spot appears to be Matisse Thybulle, despite Thybulle playing more than 10 fewer minutes per game than Bridges this season in a similar role. The Sune have a better defense (2nd overall) compared to the Sixers 9th). And if you’re believer that Thybulle’s MVP caliber teammate Embiid is an incredible defender who will make All-Defense himself, is it fair to award two defenders from a defense ranked as low as 9th?
Remember, Thybulle is the one who beat out Mikal a year ago for second-team, despite barely averaging 20 minutes per game coming off Philly’s bench. A year later, he still plays 10 minutes fewer per game than Bridges and has a much smaller offensive load on his shoulders. But all that means is voters LOVE them some Thybulle and they still do, so don’t be surprised when Thybulle gets more All-Defense votes than Bridges.
The Suns don’t really have any other candidates for All-Defense this season. Booker and Ayton are both very good, but Book has a bad rep and Ayton missed too much time (22 missed games) to make a huge impact on voters’ minds. Chris Paul has been named All-Defense nine times, but unlikely to get enough votes in a year because he missed a month of games and hasn’t been voted for All-Defense since 2017.
If all goes well in the voting, the league’s best team will likely have the Coach of the Year, a first-team All-Defense player a pair of All-NBA players. Somehow, that still doesn’t seem like enough, but it’s better than the Suns have boasted since the Nash days.
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