Whether or not making at least the play-in tournament is a concern for Phoenix Suns yet or not is debatable, but the team’s inability to overcome adversity is.
Despite losing nine of their last ten games, the Phoenix Suns are still in eighth place in the Western Conference and in the thick of the play-in, if not the playoff picture. However, as the adversity has grown this season, the Suns have struggled to adapt, which is not a good sign for a team hoping to make a playoff run.
Injuries and absences hurt, but you must overcome for the Suns to be great
Devin Booker is great, and missing him is always going to hurt. Ask Los Angeles about life without Kawaii Leonard or New Orleans without Zion Williamson; when the star is out, the team and game are different. Injuries happen, and players miss games that is the reality in the NBA that many teams must face.
Of course, for the Suns, it is about more than missing just Booker if you include Jae Crowder – five of the team’s top seven players from the last two seasons – who have missed many games.
Chris Paul has missed significant stretches this season, as have both Cams – Johnson and Payne. All five players – Booker, Paul, Payne, Johnson, and Crowder – are currently unavailable for the team, all missing the loss to Cleveland. Moreover, the best-case scenario is that two of the five – Paul and Payne – are day-to-day, with no return dates for Booker, Johnson, or Crowder.
All that said, the Phoenix Suns must be better than winning one out of their last ten games, no matter who is available. Thus, amidst these injuries and absences, the Suns need more, and it is up to Monty Williams and his staff to change the trajectory and make a difference.
Williams must adapt the Suns’ offense to survive until Booker returns
It has become apparent that the Suns cannot run the same offense without CP3 and Booker, and not enough has changed to compensate for their absences. James Jones will not suddenly get replacements for all the injured players, and Booker will not be back for several weeks. Consequently, the team needs to change and adapt to the players available each night – at least temporarily.
Good coaches, the best coaches figure out ways to make things work without their best players, it’s called coaching, and Williams needs to do some. Williams is a terrific leader and manages the team well. However, tactically and schematically, Williams may need to prove something.
In many ways, the Suns face the same issue we saw against Dallas in the playoffs. The Mavericks had figured the Suns plays out, and Williams stuck with his belief that the system could do it and they could keep running the same plays. We know that approach did not work then and is not working now.
Whether Williams goes with a bigger lineup or a smaller one, slows the pace, or ups the tempo, Phoenix cannot keep running the same dead offense with the current rotation. If Williams and the Suns cannot make some changes and put the players they have in a better position to succeed, that concern about the play-in tournament will become all too real.