Devin Booker is the only choice for the Bubble MVP award.
Before we get into why we have to establish a definition for what MVP means.
The MVP stands for “Most Valuable Player.” Often the urge is to give it to the player with the best numbers. That would be fine for a Most OUTSTANDING Player award, in which case this article would be about Luka Doncic who’s averaging 2k My Player numbers for a fun Dallas team that can’t stop a nosebleed. Value is more nuanced. It is the measure of a team’s performance against expectations and how much of it was driven by a single person.
Did you expect the Pheonix Suns to be 7-0 right now?
Luka has been amazing. Ditto for Damian Lillard and the legend formerly known as T.J. Warren. But we are talking about single-player impact on team success. Devin Booker has the PHEONIX SUNS 7-0 headed towards a Thursday showdown with the Dallas Mavericks and a potential chance to play for the eighth seed. No player has been more instrumental to this opportunity than the 23-year-old Michigan native.
The Suns were an afterthought heading into the bubble. The NBA could have went directly to the playoffs with the top 16 teams but felt the need to give
Zion teams that were in the playoff hunt the chance by expanding to 22 teams with a chance to make the playoffs. Pheonix was so far back in the standings that they very well might go a perfect 8-0 in the bubble and not even make the play-in round. Regardless of whether they make it or not, Booker has had his fingerprints all over their stunning run.
BOOKER. CALLED. GAME. pic.twitter.com/50QtNzJU0O
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 4, 2020
Booker’s high-level play over the last few weeks is more timely than it is new. He established himself as one of the game’s nuclear scorers in 2017 by being one of the six players in NBA history to have scored 70 points. He’s had a slight uptick in points per game and true shooting percentage, but by-in-large what we have seen is what the first-time all-star gave us all season.
Booker is averaging 31p/6a/4r on 63% TS for the bubble’s only undefeated team as of this writing. Whether they are able to beat a Mavericks team that likely will rest their stars or not, the fact that the Suns are even in the picture is a testament to Booker’s ascension to superstardom when his team required it and the big-time performances of the rest of the team. All this work could culminate in a first-round matchup with the Lakers in the first round. Logic would tell you that they’d be little more than a stepping stone for the experience and star-power of Los Angeles but these are unique circumstances and the Suns are hot at the right time.
As talented as Booker is, Pheonix’s lack of success has prevented his talent from being more widely appreciated. Receiving this award for doing the impossible and spearheading the biggest twist of the bubble would give him some of the recognition he deserves. It remains to be seen if Booker is the type of talent that can be the best player on a championship team, but it’s clear that if he had began his career in better circumstances we would look at him in a different light. He’s certainly more than just a volume-shooter.
Booker’s name has floated around in occasional trade rumor columns due to Pheonix not being relevant at all during his career to date. It will be interesting to see what the Suns decide to do. The 76ers could make an attractive partner if they wanted to try to swap for Ben Simmons, but they might be better off staying put and seeing what this young core can do together over the next season or two. Pheonix started off the regular season hot before tapering off following a Deandre Ayton suspension. Management may want to put together a full year before making any decisions.
Pheonix’s job isn’t done. They need to win today and get a loss out of either the Memphis Grizzlies who play the Milwaukee Bucks at the same time and the Portland Trail Blazers who will face the Brooklyn Nets tonight. Booker is unfazed.
“We came in with the right mindset,” Booker told AZ Central. “We’re treating this as just another game.”
They may say that for the media but make no mistake, this is the biggest game of Devin Booker’s young career and he knows that. No matter the outcome, the fact that we are even talking about the Pheonix Suns at the end of the seeding round makes Booker the only choice for the Bubble MVP.