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.
The best record in the NBA belongs to the Phoenix Suns The Chris Paul effect https://t.co/wF0gVpBoKa— 𝑪𝒐𝒏𝒆 🌩 (@𝑪𝒐𝒏𝒆 🌩)1609561888.0
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.
🚨 CLUTCH. CHRIS. PAUL. 🚨 @Suns 104 @nuggets 100 7.1 left on League Pass ➡️ https://t.co/34MvdivBto https://t.co/hGGJKLOP4L— NBA (@NBA)1609561716.0
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.
The Phoenix Suns are for real. Surround top 20 players in Devin Booker and Chris Paul with smart, unselfish players… https://t.co/tMK9aNp0to— Kevin O'Connor (@Kevin O'Connor)1609562196.0
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.
Westy will not be immortalized for just playing basketball. He will be remembered for how he lived his life, and ho… https://t.co/1Ja8rmTlb8— Phoenix Suns (@Phoenix Suns)1609617877.0
If this doesn’t make you smile on the first day of 2021... idk what will. https://t.co/XyWyVoWQER— Phoenix Suns (@Phoenix Suns)1609562283.0
Sunday's NFL Playoff action featured six teams who don't like each other at all.
All these games were played between teams who had played each other at least once during the regular season. If you thought those games in the regular season were intense, Sunday's playoff matchups upped the stakes even more.
The Chicago Bears even replicated a dubious feat from their regular season matchup, as one of their wide receiver Anthony Miller was ejected after throwing a punch at C.J. Gardner-Johnson. The New Orleans cornerback also got into the head of Chicago wide receiver Javon Wims in the November matchup, causing Wims to get ejected in that game after he threw a punch at Gardner-Johnson.
The Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs has passed, and we're now down to the remaining four teams that are vying for a Super Bowl championship this season.
HOW ‘BOUT THOSE CHIEEEEFS?!?!? https://t.co/rWt2MIdoP2— Kansas City Chiefs (@Kansas City Chiefs)1610995798.0
As the NFL postseason got underway last week, it became clear we need to make some halftime adjustments with our picks this week.
The Ravens were an easy cover for us, especially once Lamer found his groove and the grooves in Tennessee's D. Throw in a few head scratching punts by Mike Vrabel and that does the trick.
Meanwhile, Stefon Diggs came up two catches short for us with three targets left on the table. It was always going to be tough to get that many grabs, but it was worth a few bucks just to see what would happen.
Please, please, please remind me never to bet unders. I haven't hit one all year and yet the siren's song calls me to shore. I maintain this is the best one I bet all year. The pick 6 and DK Metcalf bomb in the second quarter killed after the best start imaginable. After 15 minutes, we had a combined score of 3, 15 minutes of game time later? 30. Bananas.
Then I don't really know what else to say about Pittsburgh losing to Baker Mayfield and co. that hasn't already been said. I just have to edit my list of completely impossible things to put, "Snowing in the Sahara desert," and "Taylor Swift ever getting back together with Jake Gyllenhaal" above "The Browns beating the Steelers in the playoffs."