Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton have gotten off to a hot start under the CP3 era in Phoenix

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For quite some time now the Western Conference in the NBA has been one of the most competitive in all of sports.

Get ready to add another team onto the list of competitors in the NBA's wild west. The Phoenix Suns are currently in first place in the west and are tied with the Philadelphia 76'ers for best record in the league after starting out 5-1. The addition of Chris Paul in the offseason has been paying dividends early, and appears to have expedited the development of a few of their young stars.

If you follow basketball then you know who Devin Booker is, and you probably know the name Deandre Ayton by now as well. But to start the season the Suns are getting strong contributions from third year player, Mikal Bridges, and Cameron Johnson who is now in his sophomore season. Both lottery picks, not selected by Phoenix initially, are finding themselves under the tutelage of the future hall-of-famer Paul.



Paul himself is having a down year if anything so far. He is below his career averages in points, steals, assists, rebounds, and field goal percentage in the Suns first six games, but what he's excelled at so far is showing these young talents how to win in the NBA. CP3 did the same thing in Oklahoma City last season as he led an unsuspecting Thunder team to a 44-28 finish which was good enough to earn the fifth seed in the Western Conference Playoffs.

After Paul was traded to Oklahoma City for the Thunder's all time favorite son, Russell Westbrook, expectations were low as people questioned Paul as someone who could lead a team to wins at his advanced age. What happened was quite different, and instead Paul quickly assimilated and formed a new culture with his new team. Thunder saw Shai Gilgeous-Alexander flourish into a budding superstar as he was able to both benefit from sharing the court with CP3 and learning from him. This season Gilgeous-Alexander has increased his assists per game average to 6.8 over his career average of 3.3 which one could argue is a direct result of working with Paul over the course of last season working on court vision and anticipation.

However Paul has an effect on young players, it works. Just look at the production we've seen from Bridges and Johnson this year compared to their BCP (Before Chris Paul) seasons.

Bridges is averaging 6.2 more points per game (15.3 ppg this season) and has increased his three point shooting percentage by nearly 14 points up to 50% average! Cam Johnson is scoring just over four more points per game this year along with increasing both his field goal and three point percentages (51.9% fg, 42.9% 3pt).

The consensus belief around the NBA has been that Devin Booker is exciting and Deandre Ayton is a versatile big man that can help a team win someday, but if the Suns can continue to get production like this from Bridges and Cam Johnson throughout the season, the Suns could actually be that team Ayton helps win now.

There's no need to talk about how good Ayton and Booker are, we know, we saw it in the bubble at the end of the 2019-2020 regular season. Booker looked like the best player in the league for a six game stretch as he fought to earn the final playoff spot for his Suns while falling just short. The biggest roadblock for Ayton's ascent towards being an elite NBA center is his health, so his future is in the hands of lady luck.

Phoenix isn't just a top heavy team however, the veteran play they're getting from Cameron Payne and Jae Crowder have brought a calming stability to their bench and allowed the Suns to feel more comfortable letting Booker get some much needed rest from time to time.

Phoenix has a long way to go to be considered a legit contender in a Western Conference that only got better since the end of last year, but they have good wins over playoff teams already such as the Mavericks, the Jazz, and the Nuggets. Chris Paul will not back down to anyone, and he tries to instill that bulldog mentality in his teammates. This young group needed that, they needed someone established like CP3 to take them under their wing and let them know that they're his guys and he's going to ride with them to the end. That makes Phoenix a dangerous team. Maybe not good enough to win this year, but good enough to make some people nervous.

Start paying attention to the Phoenix Suns, and at the very least do yourself a favor and follow their Twitter account, it's really one of the best in sports.



From Your Site Articles

DMX on the Madison Square Garden marquee

Madison Square Garden

For many managers, their playoff prospects are dark and hot as hell heading into the final week of the fantasy basketball regular season.

But before you can compete to be grand champ, you need to stop, drop, shut your duds down and open up the waiver wire for your last gasp this regular season. Here are some names you should be looking for to give you that push you need.

Rest in peace, DMX.

Booms

Kyle Anderson Forward Memphis Grizzlies

The former UCLA star might have taken the tale of the tortoise and the hare a little too seriously, but the "slow and steady" mantra has given him a successful NBA career and impressive fantasy numbers. For the past week, Slow Mo has averaged 16.3 points on 48.9 percent shooting, seven rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.3 made threes, two steals and one turnover a game.

Anderson has been a consistent contributor throughout the season and it's tough to see his numbers take a hit even when Jaren Jackson Jr. returns at the end of the month. If you haven't rostered him yet, it would be a huge mistake.

Jalen McDaniels Forward/Center Charlotte Hornets

Staying on the court has been a problem for McDaniels this season, but the absence of Gordon Hayward has forced the Hornets to look for other options on the court and the second-year player has been one of the beneficiaries. In the last three games, the San Diego State product averaged 16.3 points on 62.5 percent shooting, two made threes, five rebounds and 3.3 assists. He even threw in 1.3 steals and one block per game.

Hayward is expected to be out for at least three more weeks. Until he's back, expect McDaniels to continue his more proactive approach on this team.

Miles Bridges Forward Charlotte Hornets

McDaniels isn't the only one who has taken advantage of Hayward's injury. Bridges has cranked his game up a notch, averaging 21.7 points on 60.5 percent shooting, three made threes, six rebounds and one steal in the last three games. He may have even had the dunk of the year, posterizing Clint Capela on Sunday.

Until Hayward is back, Bridges will get a lot more freedom to operate and that means more fantasy contribution in the coming weeks.

Reggie Jackson Guard Los Angeles Clippers

Depth has not been a problem for the Clippers the last few seasons, but it has been trouble for fantasy managers looking for consistent contributors on that team. Rest and injuries haven't slowed the Clippers' winning ways this week because Reggie Jackson stepped up for them and gives fantasy participants a short-term high performer to lean on for the week.

In a week where Patrick Beverley, Rajon Rondo and Paul George missed time, Jackson thrived, averaging 17.3 points on 61 percent shooting, three made threes, 4.8 assists, and 1.3 turnovers in four games.

With Beverley out with a fractured hand and Rondo/George/Kawhi undoubtedly taking games off to save themselves for the playoffs, Jackson may not be a bad desperation option in standard fantasy and worth tracking in daily fantasy formats.

Busts

Tim Hardwaway Jr Guard/Forward Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks' recent success has not translated into numbers for all players. Tim Hardaway Jr. is one of them.

The Michigan product averaged 12 points on 37.5 percent shooting, 3.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists in four games last week. He did make two three-pointers per game in that span, but that is like threading a silver lining on a used rag.

Hardaway is still the third scoring option on the team, so he will get more chances to increase his production, but this week was a tough pill to swallow for a lot of fantasy managers.

Derrick Rose Guard New York Knicks

Rose has found a home with the New York Knicks, but his role has not been kind to fantasy managers. We all know the former MVP can still score, but head coach Tom Thibodeau hasn't asked him to do much else.

In the last four games, Rose has averaged 14.3 points on 43.1 percent shooting, 0.8 made threes, 1.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists. That kind of one-dimensional play is a killer of many fantasy teams looking for a more diverse portfolio of contributions.

If you need a boost in scoring, Rose isn't a terrible option to consider, but if you need anything else, you should leave him on the waiver.

Lou Williams Guard Atlanta Hawks

Like Rose, Williams isn't asked to do anything other than score at this point in his career. But even in the past week, he can't even do that at an elite fantasy level. Only averaging 11.8 points per game, 1.8 made threes, 2.8 assists and basically non-existent in every other category in fantasy sports.

It's safe to say that Lemon Pepper Lou's effectiveness as a fantasy star is gone.

Jusuf Nurkic Center Portland Trail Blazers

Okay, I know Trail Blazers have been trying to ease Nurkic back into the lineup and giving him restricted minutes. However, with the fantasy managers looking for that final push to the postseason, there might have to be an executive decision on whether Nurkic needs to be played or pitched.

Teams firmly in playoff position can hold out for him to be used properly again, but other managers won't be able to stomach another week of missed games and low-end production.

Bogdan Bogdanovic

USA Today

For college basketball, the madness is over. For the NBA fantasy managers, the madness is just beginning.

We are two weeks away from playoffs, and people are scrambling for solutions to their team's problems. Take a look at these waiver wire picks and see who will give you that final push you need to get into the postseason and avoid the humiliation of whatever fantasy punishment you may face.

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Shane Bieber faced off against the Dodgers in Spring Training. He bested Trevor Bauer, allowing only two runs, and striking out nine

Getty Images

Welcome to the Mock Draft lab.

This is where we are running experiments, crunching the numbers, and proving hypotheses, so you can reap the rewards of our hard work. The rules for this exercise were simple: Take the best pitcher in each round without reaching more than 10 spots away in either direction. (This kept us honest and realistic as to who would be available and prevented any major overpays for talent.)

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