Suns’ Devin Booker, Chris Paul crack The Athletic’s top 20 NBA players

The Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker, Chris Paul and four other players were named in The Athletic Seth Partnow’s Top 125 NBA players for 2022-23.

Partnow looked at playoff viability and success, envisioning the player in the role he would likely play for a contending team and the whole of a player’s recent career, eliminating year-to-year swings.

Booker and Paul were ranked in “Tier 2: Players 9-19” of The Athletic’s list.

Chris Paul and Devin Booker might be victims of a week-long Suns bad stretch at the worst possible moment. I had both at least a sub-tier higher midseason, but Dallas holding Phoenix to 104.1 points per 100 possessions over the final five games of their second-round series has me a little spooked about the Suns’ two main offensive cogs. In particular, the combination of Paul’s age and seeming tendency to wear down over playoff runs raises concerns about the degree to which his regular season dominance can be sustained against the sort of rangy, athletic defenders that top teams can throw at him. (For the record: Paul was a legitimate MVP candidate in my eyes before his February thumb injury).

Paul and Booker both were placed in the 2C category with Portland Trailblazers’ Damian Lillard, Los Angeles Clippers’ Paul George and Minnesota Timberwolves’ Rudy Gobert.

While Paul did not see any movement from last year’s category ranking, Booker took the jump from 3A to 2C.

Mikal Bridges and newly signed center Deandre Ayton qualified under “Tier 4: Players 41-84.”

Ayton has made a jump over the last two consecutive years, going from 5A in 2020 and 4B in 2021 to 4A in 2022.

Deandre Ayton’s inability to progress into Tier 3 or above this past year illustrates why I thought Phoenix was wise to not offer him a max extension before the season. However, he remains right on that border, with the most obvious area of ​​improvement being to play with force more consistently. He took about one free throw attempt for every five field goal attempts, a ratio which ranked him 135th out of 228 minutes-qualified players, per Basketball-Reference. This is a stat dominated by bigs, with 18 of the top 25 being listed as centers or PF/C’s. Among centers, only Nikola Vucevic, Mo Bamba, Bobby Portis, Al Horford and Chimezie Metu were lower, all of whom made up for the lack of free throws with high 3-point attempt rates.

Bridges was just one of four players to fall under the “Elite Role Players” category.

Jae Crowder and Cam Johnson made the back end of the list in the “Tier 5: 85-125” category.

Cam Payne was removed from the list, being marked as a “2022 Dropout.”

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