Devin Booker is going to win MVP of the NBA Finals, and the Phoenix Suns are going to beat the Milwaukee Bucks to win the franchise’s first championship.
Before diving into why, it needs to be said that Chris Paul making the All-NBA Second-Team while Devin Booker was excluded from all of the top-three teams is a flat-out disgrace and a discredit to the integrity of the game of basketball.
Devin Booker averaged 25.6 points per game this season, his fifth-straight season leading the team. He also pitched in 4.3 assists and 4.2 rebounds and shot 48.4% percent from the floor, tied for sixth-best in the league at the position and third-best amongst qualified players at the position considered to be their team’s primary scorer.
Chris Paul had a tremendous impact on the franchise, no mistake about it— but a 16.4-point, 8.9-assist per night player, is not more important to a team than a prolific shooting guard in a fast-paced, scoring league. Paul and Booker in the backcourt is a match made in heaven, and the fact that CP3 received all of the credit is shameful. After all, the Suns finished the season on an 8-0 streak in the bubble without Paul and with Monty Williams as the head coach.
According to DraftKings, Booker is a slight favorite for the award at +175 to Paul’s +200, although other sportsbooks disagree.
The other viable candidate for MVP in this series is Giannis Antetokounmpo, the “Greek Freak,” whose status for Game One, and the series as a whole, is in question. Antetokounmpo suffered a hyper-extended knee injury in Game Four against the Atlanta Hawks last Tuesday and has not returned since.
Giannis feasted against the Suns in the regular season, averaging 40 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in two matchups that the Bucks lost by one point each; despite this, he is set up to struggle, should he return, and has been given +380 odds to win the MVP award.
Look at what the Bucks have done in the playoffs thus far: they swept a drastically underperforming Miami Heat team that were bubble frauds last season and lost players in the offseason, beat an injury-decimated Brooklyn Nets team that pushed them to overtime in Game Seven, and then needed six games to beat a much worse Atlanta squad that did not have their best player for the final three games or their starting forward and primary defender for the whole series.
While Giannis may have gotten his MVP-like number against Phoenix in the regular season, there is no way that he would be able to recreate these performances, whether he comes back at full strength or not.
The Suns have done a great job at forcing teams to beat them from the outside in these playoffs, limiting the best paint-duo in LeBron James and Anthony Davis to 40.7 combined points, sweeping the league’s MVP, Nikola Jokic, and the Denver Nuggets, then running the Los Angeles Clippers out of their building in Game Six to advance to the Finals.
With Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, and Torrey Craig all available to rotate on and off of the Greek Freak, and DeAndre Ayton waiting to match Antetokounmpo’s size and strength inside the paint, it is hard to see Giannis being the clear-cut best player in this series; in a vacuum, sure, but not in these seven games.
Back to the Suns: Booker is leading his team with 27.0 ppg in the playoffs, also reaching 6.4 rpg and 4.8 apg in 40.4 minutes of action. Outside of his statistical dominance, Booker has also created the all-important signature performances that also play a major factor in determining the award winner.
Whether it was his 33-point first half to close out the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, or a 40-point, 13-rebound, 11-assists triple-double against the Los Angeles Clippers and without Paul in the lineup, Booker has shown that he does not shy away from the spotlight, with or without his running mate.
CP3, to his credit, has had special scoring performances, reaching 37 against the Nuggets and 41 against the Clippers— but they have, predictably, come after the momentum has swung Phoenix’s way.
Narratives of the greatness of Chris Paul’s guidance aside, Devin Booker is the Suns’ player built for the big moments, the one who gets them the lead; and he has the numbers to back it up.
So, when you are sitting on the couch doing your final research, heed this advice: bet the house on Devin Booker to win Finals MVP.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.