Tyson Chandler

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Russell Westbrook wins union’s Players Voice MVP

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The players union released its long-anticipated long-overdue awards, and there are some doozies. First of all, I still can’t figure out what Chris Bosh – who was announced as the “host” of the Twitter-released awards – has to do with this. But let’s get to the actual winners.

Here are the major awards, with the traditional award/Players Voice equivalent:

No surprise Westbrook won both MVPs. He deserved them. Still, James Harden could’ve hoped for a split result like in 2015, when Stephen Curry won actual MVP and Harden won the players’ version.

There’s obviously slight differences in the other categories. I think Green had the best defensive season and deservedly won Defensive Player of the Year, but I also think Leonard is the NBA’s best defender and therefore deserved this honor. I would’ve picked Andre Iguodala for Best off the Bench (and Sixth Man of the Year, for what it’s worth), though that’s a minor quibble. But how on earth did Joel Embiid not win Best Rookie? He was the best rookie in years, let alone this season. I picked Brogdon for Rookie of the Year based on his overall contributions in far more playing time, but there should have been no question about the best rookie.

The union also released several awards without a corresponding NBA honor:

  • Comeback Player of the Year: Joel Embiid
  • Hardest to Guard: Russell Westbrook
  • Clutch Performer: Isaiah Thomas
  • Global Impact: LeBron James
  • Player You Secretly Wish Was On Your Team: LeBron James
  • Most Influential Veteran: Vince Carter
  • Best Dressed: Russell Westbrook
  • Best Social Media Follow: Joel Embiid
  • Coach You’d Most Like to Play For: Gregg Popovich
  • Best Home Court Advantage: Warriors

LeBron winning Player You Secretly Wish Was On Your Team has to be an implicit slap in the face to Kyrie Irving. I’m glad to see Thomas and Carter deservedly recognized.

Lastly, the union awarded a Teammate of the Year on each team:

Dirk Nowitzki won the NBA’s Teammate of the Year – which is voted on by current players after a panel of former players selects nominees – then didn’t even win for his own team here? That’s just weird.

Report: Cavaliers would pull trigger if Suns put Eric Bledsoe, Josh Jackson in Kyrie Irving trade

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As they should, the Cleveland Cavaliers are starting negotiations on Kyrie Irving trades asking a lot: An elite young player on a rookie contract, veteran starter who can help them now, and a first-round pick.

So far, no team has offered that kind of package up.

One team that easily could: The Phoenix Suns. They have picks, and they have quality veteran point guard Eric Bledsoe. However, they have told both of their young stars — Josh Jackson and Devin Booker — they will not be traded. If Jackson were in the deal, it would be done by now, according to Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Cleveland also wants Josh Jackson, a 6-8 rookie drafted fourth overall by the Suns in June. Phoenix reportedly doesn’t want to trade Jackson, and a source said the Suns told Devin Booker he would not be traded — which would seem to put a serious hamper in this potential trade.

“If that deal (Bledsoe, Miami first rounder and Jackson) for Irving was there, it’d be done by now,” a league source with knowledge of the Cavs’ thinking told cleveland.com.

Phoenix is rebuilding, and they like what they have in Booker — a 20-year-old who averaged 22.1 points per game last season but is not efficient, and needs to improve his playmaking and defense — and the just-drafted Jackson (who is very athletic, shows defensive promise, but has work to do on his jump shot).

While you can argue the Suns should pull the trigger on this deal — NBC’s own Dan Feldman broke it down and is less opposed than I am — I would be cautious. Irving and Booker plus the rest of the Suns’ roster — Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, T.J. Warren, and the aged Tyson Chandler — are improved not making the playoffs in a deep West. Then the Suns need to load up the rest of the roster to try to keep Irving happy and wanting to stay a Sun when he is a free agent in two years.

The Suns can get better now, but will slow and steady win the race? It’s a discussion for GM Ryan McDonough and owner Robert Sarver to sit down and have. What direction do the Suns want to go, because they often seem to head down one path and then jump tracks to another, grinding their momentum to a halt. If they want to build slow, then do it right. So far they have quality young pieces, ones they may eventually want to trade, but is it that time now?

Suns hire NBA veteran James Jones for front office position

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James Jones spent 14 years in the NBA, was a trusted sidekick of LeBron James and with that has been to seven straight NBA Finals had has three rings. It’s been a good career, one where he was back in the Finals with the Cavaliers last season.

Now he’s stepping out of that uniform — and into a suit. Or, at least a pair of khakis and a Phoenix Suns’ polo shirt.

On Wednesday the Suns announced that they have extended the deal of general manager Ryan McDonough, and created a new role in the organization for Jones, the new Vice President of Basketball Operations.

“James has a wealth of experiences that will greatly benefit our organization,” McDonough said in a statement. “He is a three-time NBA Champion and has been one of the top executives with the National Basketball Players Association over the past few years. We welcome ‘Champ’ and his family to our Phoenix Suns family.”

Jones has a good basketball mind and can help the Suns evaluate both players in the league now and college guys coming up. At the press conference announcing the moves the Suns as an organization preached patience and development, things Jones can help with (if they stick to that plan, the Suns don’t always stick to the plan).

Also, make no mistake this is part of the “we’re going to make a run at LeBron next summer” potential in Phoenix. The Suns often swing for the fences, have the ability to have max cap space (moving Brandon Knight or Tyson Chandler for an expiring contract would help), and they can boast a good young core of Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, and Alex Len. I wouldn’t move the Suns to the top of the list of likely LeBron landing spots, but Jones may at least get them a meeting. The Suns are smart to put themselves in position to go after him, and if not him pitch other big time free agents next summer — Paul George, Russell Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas, DeMarcus Cousins and more.

Report: Suns re-signing Alan Williams to three-year, $17 million contract

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Not long ago, restricted free agent Alex Len was the Suns’ center of the future.

But Phoenix’s first order of business this summer (beyond a two-way contract for Mike James) wasn’t the former No. 5 pick.

It was undrafted Alan Williams.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The 6-foot-8 Williams is relatively undersized and unathletic. But through excellent determination and positioning, he’s a darned good rebounder. He can finish inside and even protects the rim a bit.

His physical limitations might prevent him from assuming more than a reserve role, but this is a fine price for someone so effective in his role. And there’s always a chance the 24-year-old would hold up against better opposition or in more minutes. He has gotten in better shape since turning pro.

The Suns, who have Tyson Chandler locked up as their most expensive center, must figure out how to handle Len. They’re headed toward a logjam.

But they’re better off with Williams in it than playing elsewhere.

Rule change kept Paul Millsap off All-Defensive teams

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Giannis Antetokounmpo made the All-Defensive second team at forward with 35 voting points.

Paul Millsap missed the All-Defensive second team at forward with… 35 voting points

The difference? Antetokounmpo had more first-team votes (seven to zero), and that was the tiebreaker. But not long ago, both would have made it.

The league changed its policy a few years ago to break ties rather than put both players on the All-Defensive team, league spokesman Tim Frank said.

In 2005, Dwyane Wade and Jason Kidd tied for fourth among guards with 16 voting points each. Even though Wade had more first-team votes than Kidd (six to four), both made the All-Defensive second team.

In 2013 (Tyson Chandler and Joakim Noah) and 2006 (Kobe Bryant and Jason Kidd), two players tied for the first team. So, the league awarded six first-team spots and still put five more players on the second team.

I was definitely against that. A six-man first team should have meant a four-man second team – four guards, four forwards and two centers still honored.

But with a tie for the second team, I could go either way. Having a clear policy in place – and it seems there was – is most important.

It’s just a bad break for Millsap, who, in my estimation, deserved to make an All-Defensive team based on his production.