A look at the best and worst of the Suns start, including thoughts on Paul, Bridges and the All-Star game
Enjoy these days, Suns fans. The Suns (17-9) are off to their best 26-game start since the 2007-08 season at the near-height of SSOL. They are on a 6-game winning streak, and have won 9 of their last 10 games overall.
Your Suns have the league’s 5th best record, 5th best defense and 6th highest overall net rating. And they’ve got that record while absorbing injuries up and down the lineup. Only Bridges, Ayton and Cam Johnson have been in every game. Back court guards Chris Paul and Devin Booker are heavily in All-Star consideration, and Mikal Bridges and maybe even Deandre Ayton profile as All-Defense guys.
We took a look yesterday at four big topics as the Suns completed one-third of their 72-game schedule this year, including best/worst game, pleasant surprises, and our takes on Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. Click the link below to catch up.
Today, we look at four more big topics.
*All stats as of game 24, which was 33% through the season
5 – Chris Paul is averaging 8.1 assists per game, 5th in the association. How much of a factor has his playmaking been for this squad? Do you think his dimes or Book’s points are more essential for elevating this team?
John Voita: Playmaking is always a factor, so replacing Rubio’s ability to find teammates with CP3 wasn’t just expected, it was needed. What are most essential for this team outside of statistics are the intangibles Paul brings: leadership, respect, national notoriety. And State Farm commercials.
Matthew Lissy: Both are playing to their strengths and it almost becomes natural for both. This Suns team couldn’t do it without him.
Dave King: Both CP3 and Book need to dish the ball to get their teammates in rhythm, and then focus on scoring when clutch time comes. That’s exactly what’s happening lately and I love it. Even while Booker dominated in scoring over the past week, his assists are back up too and that’s important to keep the rest of the team engaged.
Khaleel Abdullah: His playmaking and leadership are the glue for this team. Booker’s scoring is needed as well but CP3’s ability to not just make the right play but lead are what has brought this team above the pack.
6 – Mikal Bridges’ offense has definitely taken a leap. He’s making 2.0 threes (+1.0 from last season) on 39.7 percent accuracy (+3.6%) and posting 14.5 points (+5.4%) per game. That’s while continuing life as “The Warden” and keeping opponents on lock. How crucial has his development been for this team’s success? What do you see as his peak?
JV: Every player’s growth this season has contributed to the team’s success. Mikal taking a year 3 jump is fantastic to see; we drafted the right guy! His peak? Scottie Pippen. Sure, why not?
ML: Mikal like the rest of the team continues to improve. I think the trust from other players and coaches really helped him develop and do what he wants on the court. Peak would be the best version of Mikal Bridges- defending, dunking, and fade-always.
DK: It’s highly important for Bridges to be a serious threat as the 4th leading scorer or so, but his defense is what’s going to get the Suns into the Finals.
KA: His ability to guard the best player on the other team is tremendous. This season, he’s taken a huge leap offensively and that’s only led to good things on the court. John, I like that! Scottie Pippen Part II.
7 – So far in February, when both CP3 and Book play, the Suns are 5-1. They’re starting to mesh. In the first 13 games, both scored 20 points only twice. They’ve done so in 3 of the last 5. This month, Paul has made 2.4 threes at a 42.9 percent clip while posting 21.4 points, 6.2 assists and 1.4 steals. Booker has made 2.3 treys at a 38.9 percent clip while averaging 26 points per game, including back to back 30 point games. Where would you rank this backcourt duo in the NBA?
JV: If you ain’t first, you’re last. So first.
ML: Second, right behind LeBron James.
DK: Top 2 or 3. Gotta include Brooklyn’s guards in the convo too.
KA: Easily top 5.
8 – With the NFL unable to hold the Pro Bowl due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, they made it entirely virtual within Madden NFL 21. (Props to Kyler Murray of the Cardinals who won Pro Bowl MVP by the way.) What do you think of the NBA doing something similar?
JV: Anything is better than actually holding the game in Atlanta. Why jeopardize the health of the best players in the league? The All Star Game, and its surrounding activities, is a celebration of the NBA. The best way to celebrate this season’s accomplishments are to respect how we arrived at this moment: by (for the most part) doing the right thing. The NBA is in a position here to celebrate their stars by providing them with the All Star designation and also thank them for their efforts by giving them the time off. Let them rest. The last 6 months (including last year’s Bubble) has been a grind for all of the players; thank them by looking out for their health and letting them have a few days off.
ML: Keeping the stars separated like the President of the United States and the Vice-President is key in surviving this mess. But I believe once it is all said and done, they will be safe and it will be a success.
DK: Sure why not. Certainly, I don’t think they should have a live game. But overall, I’d suggest dumping the game itself, and just awarding the spots, for contract bonus purposes and street cred. All-Star nods are still a point of pride for players, with or without bonuses in their contracts for it. And I have to admit I’d love seeing one or both of Booker and Paul named to the team. Considering the deep talent in the West, it’s likely down to one of them.
KA: I think a live game is not a good idea at this point. The NFL was smart doing what they did and I totally wouldn’t mind the NBA doing the same thing. Maybe Devin Booker can be NBA 2K21 All-Star MVP. We’ve seen how good he is at the game.
What’s YOUR take on these questions, Suns fans?