The NBA has revealed its finalists for all major awards for the 2022 NBA season. Two Phoenix Suns players made the final three for a season-ending award, though neither of them was Devin Booker.
The ‘twins’ Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson are finalists for Defensive Player of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year, respectively.
Tyler Herro is by far the betting favorite for the Sixth Man award, but it’s nice to see the media acknowledging Cameron Johnson as one of the most accurate three-point shooters in the league who is also a two-way player. who can make the difference on the defensive side. as well.
Johnson posted career highs across the board with points (12.5), rebounds (4.1), assists (1.5) and shot splits of 46/43/86 in 26 minutes per game off the bench, who ranked 6th on the team.
His teammate Bridges has a slightly better chance of winning the DPOY. He broke out in the 2021 season and proved he was going to be an elite player in this league for a long time. But in 2022 he returned to achieve his best season yet.
While the numbers this season are nearly identical to last, Bridges’ defense has clearly improved and is a big reason for the Suns’ success.
Last season, the Suns (with the same healthier roster) had a defensive rating of 110.4 good for 6th in the league. This year, the Suns had a defensive rating of 106.8 which ranked 3rd.
Now, we obviously can’t attribute all of this to Bridges, but he’s the best defensive player on the team, so it’s only fair to give him his fair share of credit.
Bridges paced the team in both defensive win shares and on-off ranking (a statistic that measures how much better or worse the team is with X player on the ground).
With Mikal on the ground, the Suns are nearly 10 points better per 100 possessions. For reference, Chris Paul and Devin Booker’s on-off ratings are +5.4 and +4.8. These are almost half as good as bridges.
Much of this has to do with Bridges having the least replaceable skills on the team (ironically enough).
Paul’s play and Booker’s scoring are the Suns’ two main offensive elements, but game by game the Suns have figured out how to pull that production from virtually nowhere when the dynamic duo are on the bench.
However, no one on the team can switch and defend like Bridges can and that’s what makes him such a special perimeter defender and a worthy competitor to DPOY, even if he doesn’t win it.
Suns head coach Monty Williams was named one of three finalists for the media’s Coach of the Year, a week after winning his coaching fraternity’s version of the same award.
His teammate Devin Booker was not among the three most valuable player finalists, however. Booker was widely considered the 4th guy in a three-way race behind world centers Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo.