Is a Suns player deserving of an All-Star selection? Team AZV weighs in
The 2021 NBA All-Star starters have been announced. Representing the west include LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Nikola Jokic, Luka Donic and Kawhi Leonard with seven spots remaining for the pool of Western Conference players to be drafted by Team LeBron or Team Durant.
For the longest time, Suns fans had to fight the reality that with the team so far down in the standings, their top players didn't receive All-Star invites unless they put up outrageous numbers. There have been several seasons where Devin Booker had done just that but it still wasn’t good enough. It took a Damian Lillard injury to make Book’s All-Star dream a reality.
Now, the Suns have one of the best records in the NBA as we head toward the 2021 All-Star break so that caveat of the team not winning is FINALLY not in play. Do the 2021 efforts so far by Booker and Chris Paul warrant a selection? Do they both deserve it? Will neither get in?
Team AZV collaborated on a round-table on if anyone from “The Valley” deserves to suit up in Atlanta for what will promise to be a very different All-Star weekend:
Devin Booker should get his second All-Star nod while leading all West shooting guards in scoring at 24.4 points per game and has his team tied for fourth in the West.
I do realistically think CP3 should get looks as well, but the glut of point guards in the West is hard to beat with Dame, Curry and Doncic to go along with Fox, who could get his first All-Star selection over CP3.
So, would they take CP3 over Fox? Or will it even be an option? Hard to guess.
CP3 is more efficient and in fourth place, but Fox has carried the Kings many nights, but in 11th place.
I always look at it where the eight playoff teams should get at least one player and some would get two plus some possible superstars that are not in the playoffs currently that all fans want to watch or already got voted in.
So, with that thought process, this could be the 12 players in:
R. Gobert, D. Mitchell, LeBron, A. Davis, Kawhi, D. Booker, D. Lillard, D. Derozan, N. Jokic, S. Curry, Doncic and Z Williamson.
So, if Davis doesn't play due to injury that would leave one more spot.
Ja Morant? CP3? Fox? Ingram? SG Alexander? P George?
Those are six good options. Since I live in Phoenix, I am rooting for Paul to get in!
Stats aside (though obviously 17 and 8 with a steal or two is pretty freaking good) Chris Paul deserves to be an all-star based on the invaluable lift he has given the Suns as their veteran leader. The once-scrappy Phoenix team that was fun as a little side story months ago en route to crowning the real top squads in the league is now a legitimate playoff contender. The Suns made some decent moves like getting Crowder and re-signing Kaminsky, but Paul is the major difference between a team trapped in mediocrity to now.
It is likely the AZ homer in me but I think Booker should be an all-star too, though he is the one I think should be more on the bubble than Paul. The most impactful argument is that he is an elite scorer, as 24.4 points per game is the eighth-best in the conference and fourth among guards (though we all know 2021 LeBron actually runs the point, so maybe fifth). His defense isn’t special, but he’s gotten better. And he is spectacular, always making big plays, sometimes flashy in the best way, when needed. I think what hinders his chances are the lack of other high-level stats and his non-all-star-level PER (17.27 is 31st in the Western Conference).
Do I think he deserves it? Yes. Does he get there? I don’t know.
Going from 34-39 last season, even after going 8-0 in the bubble, to 17-10 this season (5th in the Western Conference) merits representation in the All-Star game. This is a good team and it features very good players with good arguments for All-Star consideration.
Devin Booker: Booker is one of the more exciting players in the league, averaging 24.4 points a game (15th in the NBA, 4th amongst shooting guards) which is better than perennial all-stars James Harden and Donovan Mitchell...and with a better shooting percentage than both of them as well. Devin is the engine of this Phoenix squad. His horsepower is their horsepower and it has this Suns team in near position to host a playoff series... Booker is All-Star worthy.
Chris Paul: Chris Paul enters his 32nd season in the league (give or take a season) and once again is playing at a very good level. Paul, the 10-time All-Star, is averaging 17.2 points a game, which is just a point under his career average and actually higher than his points average in two of his previous All-Star seasons. The Wake Forest product is also averaging 8.2 assists a game, which is 7th in the league and 4th amongst point guards and higher than his 2019-20 All-Star season. The Suns point guard also has the lowest turnover average amongst the Top 10 in assists. He's not just padding stats out there with careless ball movement. Chris Paul though is more than just what shows up on stat sheets. Chris has always been the heart and fire of any team he's been on. One of the biggest if not THE biggest season why the Suns have shown this significant turnaround in record is because of Chris' leadership in pushing his teammates to their consistent best. There may be more athletic point guards and ones with better stat lines but when the league points to what point guard leads his team best- Chris Paul continues to be an all-time great in the category...and this 2021 season has been no different. He's an All-Star on my ballot.
Looking at the West Reserves is certainly an interesting dive and there are probably eight guards in the mix for four spots.
To answer the question of "deserves", I'm going to say the Suns deserve to have two all stars in Devin Booker and Chris Paul, which would be the first time The Valley gets two in an All-Star game since the 2010 game (not ironically the last time the Suns made the playoffs).
Seven reserves get selected. Here's how I see the first part breaking down:
· Guard - Damian Lillard and Donovan Mitchell
· Forward - Anthony Davis, Paul George, Rudy Gobert
That leaves two Wild Cards. I see both of them coming out of the back court. Chris Paul gets one of them. He's transformed the Suns this year from their past and would get his 11th all-star selection. He simply elevates the offense with his awareness and competitiveness. The numbers show otherwise in terms of scoring, but Paul has been the Suns' best player.
I think Mike Conley gets the other one. Utah's record (24-5) is tops in the league and I can see the Jazz getting three all-stars. His numbers (16.5 points, 5.8 assists, 3.7 rebounds, 41% 3-pointers) are a little lower than the competition, but he carries the sentiment of being 33 and never named an all-star.
Yes, I know Anthony Davis isn't going to play in the game. I think his injury spot will be used on the front court with Zion Williamson. He may not play much defense, but last time I checked, this is an offensive showcase and the league will want to increase eyeballs by having Zion in it.
Among the snubs with Booker would be DeMar DeRozan (SA), De'Aaron Fox (SAC), and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (OKC). Book is averaging 24.4 points, 4.4 assists, and 3.7 rebounds. He's hitting shots at a 49% clip (best of his career), but only makes two 3-pointers per game. Booker got his all-star appearance last year and should have many more. Plus, it will likely ignite a fire of revenge for the second half of the year to get him into the playoffs for the first time.
With their record, the Suns are definitely deserving of at least two if not three All Stars. I think Book is in for sure, although he missed a stretch of games, because of his play in the bubble.
Chris Paul gets in on name recognition and the fact the Suns are growing into a playoff contender for the first time since Booker was 14.
If you asked me who has had the better year between Book and CP3, my response is it depends on the week. At the beginning of the year, they both were learning each other and the new system of them co-existing. But since, there have been weeks where Paul has clearly been the leader of this team and then a week like the last one where Book looked like a top 10 player in the league in route to Western Conference Player of the Week honors.
If I was forced to pick one, my heart says Book because he so deserves to be SELECTED for this honor and not placed in as an alternate while Paul has had this chance many times. My brain says Paul and his unbelievable 121 offensive rating with 49/37/97 shooting while averaging over 8 assists and just under 5 rebounds per game. Not to mention the way the addition of him to this team has elevated the team overall drastically. He’s been the team’s MVP and that person is probably more deserving of the selection.
I believe both deserve it but will both get that chance? I am thinking yes. Between players like Anthony Davis being hurt and a few others in this COVID environment that may opt-out of playing, there could be 2-4 spots up for grabs.
I have a similar list of reserves to Gregg and others that includes LeBron, Anthony Davis, Lillard, Gobert, Mitchell and Zion. I think Paul at the end of the day will get the nod putting that west pool at 11 and I’ll add in Paul George to make it 12. That leaves Booker along with guys like DeRozan, Conley, Gilgeous-Alexander and Morant as five guys who could possibly fill in for 2-4 spots. Can Booker get in over those other four? If he keeps up with his play from the Suns’ recent seven game home stand, I think he will be in solid position to do so.
Bottom line, after the last decade of horrible basketball, just having this conversation about deserving players on a winning team is just so nice in-itself. Let’s keep winning basketball games!
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