With the NBA regular season wrapped up, playoffs and divvying up end-of-season honors remain on the association’s docket.
After ESPN’s Zach Lowe gave his top choices for the individual accolades such as Most Valuable Player and Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday, the NBA analyst revealed his All-NBA, All-Rookie and All-Defense squads on Thursday.
And while Lowe didn’t have Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker or small forward Mikal Bridges in the running for MVP or Defensive Player of the Year, the duo did crack a couple of first-team nods led by Booker’s All-NBA selection.
Booker is eligible at both forward and guard, raising the possibility of designating him at forward, bumping (DeMar) DeRozan or (Pascal) Siakam off, and adding (Donovan) Mitchell as an extra guard. But Both Booker and (Jayson) Tatum deserve first-team honors for their excellence on great teams — Booker on the league’s wire-to-wire wins leader.
Booker heads to the postseason after averaging 26.8 points on 46.6% shooting (38.3% from deep) to go along with five rebounds and 4.8 assists over 34.5 minutes per game in the regular season. For his efforts, the guard was named an NBA Player of the Week three times.
Bridges on the other hand was a no-brainer for Lowe’s First-Team All-Defense.
Bridges is the steadier all-around defender, and logged 1,200 more minutes than (Matisse) Thybulle. At that point, it’s open and shut. I’d have had Bridges fourth on my Defensive Player of the Year ballot, a tick ahead of Smart, and he’d be a deserving winner if it goes that way.
Aside from the task of guarding the opposition’s best perimeter threats on a nightly basis and never missing a game over his four-year career, Bridges has also seen an uptick offensively. In 82 games played this season, Bridges averaged 14.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists over 34.8 minutes per outing.
Point guard Chris Paul wasn’t left off the All-NBA list, either, sliding in as a third-teamer.
Advanced stats say Paul might merit a second-team case. (I couldn’t quite get there given games missed and Paul’s career-low scoring numbers.) The Suns won eight more games than anyone else. They deserve two guys.
Despite missing 17 games this season, Paul averaged 14.7 points, 10.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds in 32.9 minutes per outing. He shot 49.3% from the field and 31.7% from long range over the course of the regular season.