Phoenix Suns forced to make adjustments without Chris Paul

Phoenix Suns Devin Booker and Chris Paul (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns Devin Booker and Chris Paul (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /

With Chris Paul sidelined for what could be the remainder of the regular season, the Phoenix Suns are forced to make adjustments on the fly.

Just before the All-Star break, Chris Paul suffered a fractured thumb against the Houston Rockets. Even with Paul only playing 19 minutes before his injury, the team collected their 47th win of the season, maintaining a strong lead for first in the Western Conference.

This gives the Phoenix Suns a bit of uncertainty for the rest of their season. Chris Paul brings leadership and talent to a franchise that is performing its best in years. It is reported that Chris Paul will be evaluated again in 6-8 weeks with a fractured right thumb. His return will come very close to the beginning of playoffs, beginning April 16th.

A surprising and confusing All-Star Game appearance

All-Star weekend was full of memorable moments. A moment that left many fans confused was when Chris Paul checked in during the first quarter of the game, playing just two minutes.

This was Chris Paul’s 12th All-Star game as well as the same night as the NBA 75 ceremony. Even with limited playing time, the justification for him playing injured in an exhibition game is unclear.

How the Phoenix Suns have performed without Paul

Since the NBA resumed, the Suns are 1-1, playing back-to-back with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the New Orleans Pelicans. On Thursday vs. the Thunder, Devin Booker had an impressive game on both sides of the court, getting 25 points and 12 assists as well as having six of the team’s 14 steals.

It will be exciting to see how Booker will lead the Suns while they are missing their usual point guard. The Suns defeated the Thunder 124-104 with six Suns players scoring double-figures.

Despite another solid night from Booker against the Pelicans on Friday where he scored 30 points, the Suns struggled shooting from 3, only making 12 out of 40. On the other end, CJ McCollum continues to play impressively with his new team, scoring 32 points for the Pelicans and averaging 29 points in his 6 games for the team. The Pelicans ended up winning 117-102.

What to Expect from the Phoenix Suns During Chris Paul’s Injury

Despite losing their last game, there are a lot of reasons for the Suns to be excited and think positively. After all, they are six games ahead for 1st place in the West and Paul’s timetable matches up with the playoffs. There is a possibility that Paul will come back rested and ready to lead his team for the first round.

Another positive is that Booker performed well in the past two games, and it is clear that he will see more time as the playmaker and primary ball-handler. Monty Williams and the Suns will have to make adjustments to the variety of defenses they will see to try and limit Devin Booker’s effectiveness. Along with 55 points on 47 percent shooting the past two games, Booker also ended up with 17 assists.

Other starters and role players for the Suns will have to continue playing solid basketball for them to continue winning. Cameron Johnson could see a bigger role for the team, especially while Cameron Payne is out with injury. Starting the past two games, Johnson averaged 18 points, much higher than his season average of 12.1.

Mikal Bridges should see a bigger role as well as he continues to grow his offensive game this season. Bridges is averaging 13.4 points this season, almost identical to the previous season which was 13.5.

Known as a solid defensive player, this is a great opportunity for Bridges to grow as a playmaker and facilitator. Bridges contributed to the Suns’ win on Thursday against the Thunder, scoring 21 points on 10-17 shooting.

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With 20 games left in the season, it is expected that the Suns will keep their first-place standing. Their next game is on Sunday afternoon at home against the Jazz who just had a huge win on Friday against the Mavericks. It should be an exciting matchup with two strong Western Conference teams.