The Phoenix Suns received unfortunate news during the All-Star Break that superstar point guard Chris Paul will be out for six-to-eight weeks with a right thumb aversion fracture. Even at his age, his importance cannot be understated, especially with his massive extension. The good news, however, is that the Suns are first in the Western Conference with a 48-10 record and are 6.5 games ahead of the second-place Golden State Warriors. Perhaps they won’t win at the same rate without Paul, but Phoenix can certainly maintain the lead they have at first in the standings.
Phoenix Suns: Three Ways to Stay Up Without Chris Paul
1. Utilize the New Point Guard Depth
The Suns traded for Aaron Holiday during the NBA trade deadline. Now, he’ll be thrust into a larger role than he could’ve originally imagined. This shouldn’t be any concern.
Holiday is averaging six points and two assists per game this season. The numbers aren’t impressive, but they are coming in just 16 minutes per game. He is, however, shooting a very solid 37 percent from deep. In the 2019/20 season, while on the Indiana Pacers, Holiday averaged over nine points and three assists per game while shooting close to 40 percent from deep. That wasn’t long ago and it proves that Holiday can contribute well if given the minutes.
Cameron Payne remains an important piece. He’s listed as day-to-day with a wrist injury at the moment but should return shortly. He’s averaging close to 11 points and four assists per game this season. Payne can be streaky, but during his tenure with Phoenix, he’s proved to be a reliable player. His minutes and numbers will certainly jump.
2. Use a Wing-heavy Lineup
Booker and Deandre Ayton will be getting the most minutes for the Suns. With Paul out, they are the two most important players. Phoenix, however, has a plethora of talented wing players. Using three of them in a line-up with Booker and Ayton will give opposing teams headaches on both ends of the floor.
This lineup of wings includes Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Cam Johnson, and the newly-acquired Torrey Craig. All four of these players can play defense and shoot threes at a high level. Using three of them will give Booker plenty of room to operate, as well as have Ayton open quite often in the paint. Using a constant rotation of these players allows for constant high energy.
1. The Phoenix Suns Need to Let the Big Man Eat
Ayton’s numbers are down from his best 2019/20 campaign, but mostly up from his numbers last season. He’s struggled with an injury earlier this season as well as COVID-19. In addition, Javale McGee and Bismack Biyombo have played very solid roles on the team as well.
With Paul out, it’s time for Ayton to feature as the second option on the offense – and he’s more than capable of doing so. He’s also on a contract year, and although already due for a big contract, he can show his deservedness for a max contract within these next two months.
Phoenix needs to feed the 2018 number one overall pick as he can certainly get up to 20 points per game in this stretch without Paul.
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