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It’s not 2022 anymore, Suns fans. Or 2021 either. In each of the last two years, Phoenix Suns players, coach and GM got big awards or at least finished among the top finalists for their outstanding performances for the best regular season team in the NBA from 2020-2022. Let’s take a quick run down memory lane:
- Coach of the Year 2021 (voted by coaches): Monty Williams, Suns
- Executive of the Year 2021 (voted by media): James Jones, Suns
- All-Star 2021: Devin Booker, Chris Paul
- All-NBA 2021: Chris Paul
- Coach of the Year 2022 (voted by media): Monty Williams, Suns
- All-Star 2022: Devin Booker, Chris Paul
- All-NBA 2022: Devin Booker, Chris Paul
- All-Defense 2022: Mikal Bridges
This year, you won’t find them on any lists anywhere.
Remember last year when Mikal Bridges finished second in the Defensive Player of the Year voting, behind Marcus Smart of the Celtics? Inspector Gadget put all his energies into stopping the opponent’s best offensive player without getting into foul trouble, a formula that worked beautifully through the regular season.
This year, while the Suns still have the league’s 8th best defense despite myriad injuries and trades, none of the players on this Suns squad would even make an All-Defense team, let alone win DPOY.
Okay fine, we can let that go. But if they introduce an All-Foul-Trouble team, the story changes.
Moving on, while we’re on the topic of Mikal Bridges, he will be one of the finalists for Most Improved this season as he’s put up 26 points per game for Brooklyn as their main scoring option.
Lauri Markkanen of the Utah Jazz is the runaway winner here, another example like Mikal of surprising everyone, including his old teams, just how good he is this season. Even Lauri’s family couldn’t have predicted a breakout to the extent Lauri’s had. Good for him.
Let’s move on to Sixth Man.
A year ago, we might have nominated Cameron Johnson to this award. This year, Cam moved into the starting lineup for the Suns, promptly got hurt and missed 90% of the games before the All-Star break, got traded to Brooklyn with Mikal, and has been starting alongside Mikal with the Nets. The Nets are 7-12 since the trade with the 27th ranked offense and 14th ranked defense (Suns are 8-8, with the 14th ranked offense and 10th ranked defense despite only 3 games from Kevin Durant).
Who from the Suns could be Sixth Man of the Year this year? No one. That’s partly because the Suns weren’t that deep to begin with, once Cam moved to the starting lineup, and partly because they’ve suffered so many injuries that their best bench players have spent much of the year either starting or on the injured list. Torrey Craig would never make a Sixth Man list in any year, yet doesn’t even qualify this year because he’s started 56 of his 61 games!
Sigh. Moving on again.
Last year, Devin Booker finished 4th in MVP voting as the Phoenix Suns finished well ahead of the league with the best record in the NBA by 8 games. They were so far ahead — their lead at the All-Star break was 7 games — that they coasted to the finish line. Book got his due in MVP voting.
This year, none of the Suns will be mentioned as Joel Embiid might finally walk away with one.
If the Suns had been healthier, both Devin Booker and Kevin Durant would be in the conversation for MVP. Durant was a top candidate in December as he led the Nets to 18 wins in 20 games to climb to 2nd in the East, and Booker won a Player of the Month award for the six-week period of October/November. Both both have missed a ton of time since then and probably won’t even make All-NBA at this point because of it.
It’s been a tough regular season, Suns fans.
All we can hope for now is health during the playoffs. I’d rather have Book and Durant vie for Western Conference Finals MVP and Finals MVP than regular season MVP anyway.
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