During the Phoenix Suns’ final game before the All-Star break, Chris Paul suffered a fractured thumb avulsion. Paul will now be re-evaluated in six to eight weeks, bringing Paul’s probable return right before the postseason begins.
Luckily for Phoenix, it is six-and-a-half games ahead of the Golden State Warriors for the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed, and it would take a noticeable slip for the Suns to be caught by anyone in the West. This will be a serious test for the Suns though, because Paul has actually avoided serious injuries on the court throughout his tenure thus far in Phoenix. Paul has only missed four games with the Suns, but this will now be a real evaluation period that could potentially help them in the long run.
Both Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet are expected to be back from ankle injuries after the All-Star break. Also, the new acquisition of Aaron Holiday now brings a sigh of relief for Phoenix's overall depth. Holiday’s tenacious defense and adequate floor-spacing ability have already made him an upgrade over Elfrid Payton as the Suns’ emergency third-string point guard.
Paul’s extended absence will cause major ripple effects on their offense though. With Paul on the floor, Phoenix is scoring 115.9 points per 100 possessions — 11 points better than when Paul sits for the Suns. (By the way, that’s tied for the best mark in the Association with the Utah Jazz for Offensive Rating.) In the small sample of minutes Paul has been off the court, this season more so occurring in blowout victories, the Suns’ ORTG dips to 105.4.
Since the Suns’ explosion, we’ve yet to really see Devin Booker run the show as much for obvious reasons. Booker playing extensively off the ball alongside Paul has helped conserve his energy for career-best defensive moments and being an assassin in the scoring department. Before Paul arrived, though, Booker had very important moments of growth as a facilitator in the Suns’ down years.
From 2018-2019, Booker operated with no starting-caliber point guard after Eric Bledsoe seemingly quit on the team via Twitter and was subsequently traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. Operating in the backcourt next to names like Payton, Isaiah Canaan, Mike James and Elie Okobo for an extensive period of time forced Booker into being the entire offensive operation.
Everything flowed through Booker every single possession, a baptism by fire so to say, but the Suns’ young shooting guard continued to blossom into a multi-faceted weapon. Booker’s playmaking allowed for Paul to have a steady running mate, and now with the latter sidelined for potentially the rest of the regular season, this could open back up that box even further.