Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton came to Phoenix together as part of the team’s 2018 draft class.
He knows the big fella better than anyone on the squad.
So when Ayton received his first Western Conference Player of the Week honor Monday, Bridges knew how much it meant to his Suns' teammate from Day 1.
“Just happy for him,” Bridges said before Monday’s 122-117 win at Sacramento. “He’s worked hard. I know he needed it. Just happy for my guy. Just keep going up from here.”
Ayton came into the season with the goal to become an All-Star. His head coach, Monty Williams, is fully aware of that as the two have discussed it.
“His next step is to become an All-Star and that’s what I’ve been pushing him to think about, but he has to put forth that kind of sacrifice and effort every night the way he has been,” Williams said.
Ayton posted a career-best sixth-straight double-double Monday, going for 17 points and 12 boards. After the game, Ayton reiterated his goal to become an All-Star, but does realize it’s not going to be handed to him.
“It’s very important, but you just can’t be an All-Star and not be consistent and thinking you can just walk into games,” Ayton said. “Being an All-Star is literally the best players in the world and I think just coming in every night and playing as hard as I can, doing what I’m supposed to do, and more, I think I can do that.”
So, is Ayton an All-Star?
Not yet, but will have plenty of opportunities in Phoenix’s next five games to show he’s worthy of consideration.
Last five: 5-0
Overall record: 14-6.
Best win: 113-112 vs. Utah on Saturday. The Suns avenged their last loss of the season with a thriller as Ayton posted his third career 20-20 game – 29 points and 21 boards, which ties a career-high.
No losses, but: Chris Paul remains out with a sore right heel. He’ll miss his 11th straight game Wednesday against Chicago, but Suns General Manager James Jones says the veteran point guard is “close” to returning.
Best performance: Ayton’s 29 and 21 was very special, but Devin Booker going for 44 points, eight rebounds, six steals and four assists in Monday’s victory over the Kings can’t be overlooked.
WTH: Patrick Beverley’s shove in the back of Ayton late in Phoenix’s win over the Lakers led to a three-game suspension without pay for the fiery and emotional guard. Insane scene in Phoenix.
Quote: “I don’t know what he ate for Thanksgiving. I wish I had went over there." – Booker after Ayton’s 29 and 21 effort against the Jazz.
Wednesday vs. Chicago Bulls
Record vs. Suns last season: 0-2.
Outlook: DeMar DeRozan continues to play at an elite level, but the Bulls had a stretch in which they lost six out of seven. They’ve gone 3-1 since with big wins over Milwaukee and Boston.
Matchup with Suns: Nikola Vučević is a tough cover because he can stretch the floor and score inside. Nice test for Ayton.
Friday vs. Houston Rockets
Record vs. Suns this season: 0-1.
Outlook: Young squad with a lot of talent. Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. are the go-to guys, but they have the worst record in the West for a reason.
Matchup with Suns: Got a little chippy last time. Expect more of the same Friday.
Sunday at San Antonio Spurs
Record vs. Suns last season: 0-4.
Outlook: Clearly rebuilding under legendary coach Gregg Popovich. Devin Vassell is a nice piece, but the Spurs lack star power and defense. San Antonio is last in the NBA in defensive rating.
Matchup with Suns: Always intriguing watching Popovich and Williams match wits. This will also be Suns backup big Jock Landale’s first game against his former team.
Monday at Dallas Mavericks
Record vs. Suns this season: 0-1.
Outlook: Luka Doncic is putting up MVP numbers, averaging 33.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 8.4 assists, but the team is underachieving.
Matchup with Suns: Damion Lee delivered in the clutch to stun the Mavericks in the season opener. This may be the game Dallas needs to get it going as it'll be the second of a back-to-back for Phoenix.
Dec. 7 vs. Boston Celtics
Record vs. Suns last season: 1-1.
Outlook: The best team in the NBA. Jayson Tatum is having an MVP year, Jaylen Brown is doing his part and the Celtics are rolling under interim head coach Joe Mazzulla.
Matchup vs. Suns: This could be a finals preview. Celtics reached the finals last year while the Suns were supposed to be there. Game on.
For subscribers: 5 takeaways as Booker cooks Kings for 44 points in Suns' win
Next 5 prediction: 4-1
The Suns should handle the Bulls, Rockets and Spurs.
The Mavs will be a problem, especially on the second of a back-to-back, but the question is will Paul be back by then?
And when he does return, how will the Suns adjust? They’re playing faster without him and Cameron Payne is playing at the one.
The big one is Boston.
Measuring stick for Phoenix.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Next 5: Is Deandre Ayton an All-Star? Suns-Celtics showdown on horizon