After sweeping the Denver Nuggets out of the postseason in four quick games to reach the Western Conference Finals, it appeared the Phoenix Suns had set themselves up perfectly. With the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz in a slugfest in the other Western Conference playoff series, the Suns were set to kick their feet up and recharge the batteries for about a week. Now that has all changed.
Chris Paul is set to be sidelined for an indefinite period of time, landing on the Covid-19 health and safety protocols list. This according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
While the Suns were able to scoot by the Los Angeles Lakers in round one with CP3 dealing with a brutal shoulder injury, him missing any full games in the Western Conference Finals poses a bigger threat to the Suns winning the title. Here are three reasons the Suns would be screwed if Chris Paul misses any Western Conference Finals games.
Chris Paul was at least able to play through the shoulder injury in Round 1
There’s no doubting that CP3 was labored by his shoulder injury in the first round against the Lakers. The Suns’ maestro only attempted 21 total shots in the first three games combined after suffering the injury in Game 1 against LA. Still, the threat of CP3 just being on the floor is enough for the opposition to have to pay him some attention even when he’s injured.
This was the case for the Lakers as well. Sure, CP3 was at well less than 100% but his decision making was still top notch as was his ability to work the pick-and-roll to some extent while being more of a facilitator for the Suns.
All of that goes out the window if Paul misses any games in the Western Conference Finals. These guys can play through injuries like CP3 did, there’s no escaping the Covid-19 health and protocols list until there’s a full clearance from the league.
Cam Payne has been awesome this postseason for the Suns, there’s no doubt about it. But if CP3 misses one or even two games, it could put Phoenix squarely behind the 8-ball in the Western Conference Finals.
Devin Booker wouldn’t have a true co-star
Devin Booker and CP3 have formed one heck of a duo for the Suns this year. They coexist perfectly on the floor together and Paul really helps to compliment Booker’s game.
Perhaps without Paul for any number of games, the Suns could mold into what the Utah Jazz are, but the Jazz have been this team all year while the Suns would be learning on the fly to work without the services of CP3.
The Jazz are the rare case of being one of the best teams in the league but doing it with a legitimate team effort.
Donovan Mitchell is “the guy” in Utah just like Booker would be without CP3. But Mitchell is surrounded by other really great talent like NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, Bojan Bogdanvoic, Joe Ingles, Mike Conley (when healthy), NBA Sixth Man of the Year Jordan Clarkson. The list goes on and on.
Phoenix has some good depth too with Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder, Mikal Bridges and others. But the formula for success for the Suns this year has been working with two co-stars in Paul and Booker.
Ayton isn’t quite to the level of being a consistent co-star but could do it sporadically on any given night, maybe.
Different recipes work for different teams and the Suns would have to hope that they could do what Utah does by finding means of success through a large group effort. Doing so without CP3 is a tough burden.
Would either team that advances have a significant injury like the Suns’ first two opponents?
Let’s get out in front of this by saying the Suns are legit. There’s a reason they are in the Western Conference Finals, it’s not a fluke. However, they have caught some unfortunate “luck” in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
CP3 dealt with his own injury but as mentioned, was able to grind through it and play through it.
The same can’t be said for Anthony Davis, who basically missed two full games for the Lakers in round one. It’s very possible the Suns win the series even if Davis is healthy, but that question will never have an answer.
Denver gave an admirable effort at the tail-end of the regular season when Jamal Murray tore his ACL. It came back to haunt and catch up with the Nuggets in the second round when their guards like Austin Rivers and Monte Morris disappeared for some full games against the Suns.
Tip of the cap to Phoenix for assisting in those poor efforts from Denver’s guards but looking ahead, the Jazz are almost at full go.
Utah is missing Mike Conley, a huge piece for their squad but it sounds like a return in the WCF would be likely for Utah’s floor general. Meanwhile, the news on Wednesday was not great for the Clippers as Kawhi Leonard will miss Game 5 and potentially the rest of the series for LA. It’s tough to try and imagine a scenario where LA advances without Leonard playing but if they do, then the Suns could catch that break.
It’s been an incredible season for the Suns and fingers crossed, it will be one that continues on for Phoenix fans. There’s a chance Chris Paul is cleared for Game 1, there’s a chance he misses a couple of games. The best bet for now, is for Suns fans to come together and hope the Jazz – Clippers series goes a full seven games.