The Phoenix Suns took a while, but they’ve finally convinced the bookmakers they should be the NBA title favorites this season. The Brooklyn Nets, now the second favorite after dominating the bookies’ picks for most of the season, will have to make things work with a part-time player in Kyrie Irving and new acquisition Ben Simmons, who hasn’t played a single game this season.
The Suns didn’t generate much of a wow factor when they signed veteran point guard Chris Paul, but hindsight suggests there should have been much hype as he helped them to within two wins of an NBA championship.
The Suns have picked up right where they left off but still aren’t the subject of hype, with the Los Angeles Lakers, Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, and Golden State Warriors dominating the headlines. Phoenix, though, owns the NBA’s best record at 46-10 and is the 9/2 favorite to lift the Larry O’Brien trophy. Hopefuls could take advantage of BetMGM Arizona bonus codes on that front.
Paul has opted to go it on his own for all of his career, unlike the rest of his Banana Boat clique. He’s the only one who has refused to play for a super team and his joining the Suns can’t be considered to be anything like that as they were relatively obscure before his arrival, despite boasting a scoring machine in Devin Booker.
As hardly ever turns out, CP3 is a superstar whose career has brightened towards the latter years. The Phoenix experiment wasn’t expected to work out as well as it has, perhaps due to folks thinking he wouldn’t mix well with Booker yet it’s been quite the opposite.
Much like his team, Booker is doing his thing under the radar. One of the best scorers in the league, no one questions his ability but he probably does not make it to most fans’ dream team of current NBA superstars. Booker is averaging 25.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists a game this season; he leads the Suns in scoring.
The Suns also have a solid player in Mikal Bridges, who is posting 50/40/90 this term. A top 3-and-D player, Bridges has taken up the job of making life more difficult for the best scorers in the league and is now in the conversation for an All-Defensive mention and possibly the Kia Defensive Player of the Year Award.
The player recently discussed his defensive formula, shedding light on how he chooses to defend different players.
“That’s the IQ part,” he said, via NBA.com. “Certain things you can do with some guys — with LeBron, you can be a little bit more physical. Steph, you have to guard him out a little farther, because of how fast he is with his handle. LeBron, deal with his strength. It’s just about taking pride and playing hard. But those two guys are unbelievable, NBA greats, they’re tough.
“So many, man. Like Dame, Luka, Harden, KD, they’re ridiculous. And guys coming in like Trae Young, my age or younger. There’s a lot of talent. I’m seeing guys every night.”
“When I was young, I always liked getting steals,” Bridges added. “I had a pretty high [defensive] IQ as a kid, and I knew how to make kids do a right-to-left crossover so I could pick-pocket them and go get a layup.
“But the defense really came when I got to college. Whatever it took to be on that floor, and defense was part of it. I’ve kind of stuck with it ever since.”
As potent as Phoenix’s players have become, things wouldn’t have been as great without Paul in the mix. The point guard has been averaging more assists in his 18th season than he has in the last eight years, while shooting 48 percent from the field.
According to AZSports’ Kellan Olsen, “Aaron Holiday called Chris Paul probably the best point guard to ever play the game and said it’s a blessing to join Phoenix and get to learn from him.”
It’s no wonder the Suns rank first in assist-to-turnover ratio and effective field goal percentage.
While other teams have undergone key changes, the Suns have kept the core that took them to the finals last year. They added JaVale McGee, and Bismack Biyombo’s arrival on a 10-day contract worked out pretty well as he earned a spot for the rest of the season. The Suns weren’t slowed down when DeAndre Ayton missed seven games with injury, winning all seven as Biyombo proved his importance.
While former favorites, the Nets, struggle to get out of a funk that has seen them lose 11 consecutive games, the Suns continue rolling on as they look to return to the finals and make good on their appearance this time around.