The Phoenix Suns weren’t supposed to be here, and neither was Chris Paul.
The Suns were supposed to lose to the Lakers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs serving as a speed bump for a LeBron James-Anthony Davis Finals run.
Paul was supposed to be sidelined or limited by a shoulder injury.
Instead, Phoenix has looked impressive in building a 2-0 series lead against the Denver Nuggets in Round 2, and Paul is gaining momentum as a Finals MVP candidate.
Fresh off 17 points, 15 assists and zero turnovers in Game 2, Paul’s odds to win Finals MVP have been cut considerably. Paul entered Wednesday’s game at +4200 to win the award at FanDuel. On Thursday morning, that number is down to +1800. He’s +1800 at DraftKings and +2000 at PointsBet.
There’s still a steep climb for Paul to win the award, but the path is there.
First, the Suns almost certainly need to win the title. They’re currently -900 at FanDuel to move on to the Western Conference Finals and +600 to win the title. That’s still behind the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference and Brooklyn Nets in the East.
Paul also has to keep playing well. It’s already forgotten that Paul only scored double-figures once in six games against LA. Should his shoulder issue persist — or another injury pop up — his minutes and production could be limited.
The other hurdle? Teammate Devin Booker.
Booker has had a breakout postseason thus far. He’s already had one signature performance with 47 points to eliminate the Lakers in Round 1. While Paul is important, the Suns will go as far as Booker’s scoring takes them.
Booker is +1000 to win the Finals MVP.
Paul potentially winning this award will go well beyond the box score. If you’re betting on him now, you’re betting on narrative being the deciding factor.
Human beings vote for this award, and human beings love a feel-good story. If the Suns win the title and the pick comes down to Booker or Paul, it’s not hard to see this becoming somewhat of a lifetime achievement honor.
If the Suns win, Paul will have exorcised postseason demons of his past. He’ll be the veteran, calming presence that steered the ship full of inexperienced players. The Suns were 34-39 last year without him and 51-21 this season with him, if you hadn’t heard.
Each game we get a broadcast team pointing out how when the Suns get into a rut, it’s Paul who brings them out of it. We’ll hear about Booker’s age (24) compared to Paul’s (36). Voters could think Booker will have plenty of chances; this may very well be Paul’s last.
It’s not an easy way to get to the award, but it’s not out of the question either.
And we haven’t mentioned the hardest part: Likely having to go through the Nets or Jazz, which is why Kevin Durant (+145) and Donovan Mitchell (+350) are the current favorites to win the award.