Let’s start with this: I hope this article becomes irrelevant. I would like to join you in setting it on fire as soon as Chris Paul is cleared to play for the Phoenix Suns in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
However, if CP3 is not cleared for Game 1 or possibly even Game 2, then it’s time to start thinking about what the on-court product could look like. Not only will the rotation be important, but the staggering between guards Cameron Payne and Devin Booker will be the storyline.
So how will they fill the void of the point god? Monty Williams was asked about it during a presser on Wednesday.
On what he (Monty) learned about his team’s ability to play without Paul when he injured his shoulder in the first round against the Los Angeles Lakers:
“I think guys are always ready to play, especially in these moments. Now obviously, Chris Paul is not someone that you fill in for easily. But it’s the reason why your player development program is so important. We’ve had guys this year step up in big moments at that position, with Cam Payne to (backup guard) E’Twaun (Moore). Book has even played some point for us from time to time.”
For more interesting nuggets like this, check out the full presser recap from Trevor Booth.
All signs point towards Cameron Payne getting the start (as he should) with E’Twaun Moore coming in for spot minutes, and a dash of point Book minutes if necessary. If Moore isn’t cutting it and Payne gets in foul trouble, a Jevon Carter or Langston Galloway appearance is not out of question.
Cameron Payne, Devin Booker, E’Twaun Moore
Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Torrey Craig, Cameron Johnson
Big Man Rotation
Deandre Ayton, Dario Saric ... Frank Kaminsky (?)
Depending on the matchup, it remains to be seen which of Dario or Frank will be used. If it’s the Jazz then the bigs will be more necessary, but against the Clippers, we could see a ton of small-ball lineups.
Now, let’s be clear. Predetermined minute rotations for playoff games can go off the rails in a hurry with how quickly things can change due to foul trouble, poor play, hot streaks, matchups, adjustments, etc.
This is what (on paper) I believe the guard rotation should look like from a minutes perspective in order to stay afloat for a full 48-minute game.
- Cameron Payne starts: Plays 6 minutes — sits final 6 minutes
- Devin Booker starts: Plays entire 1st quarter (12 minutes)
- Point Book: As Payne sits, play Booker at the point the final 6 minutes
*Point Book lineup: Booker, Bridges, Johnson, Craig, Ayton/Dario
Use Moore for spot minutes if necessary in point Book lineup ^
- Cameron Payne starts: Plays 9 minutes, sits final 3 minutes
- E’Twaun Moore starts: Plays until Booker returns (~5 minutes)
- Devin Booker sits: Plays the final 7 minutes of the quarter
- Final 3 minutes: Point Book returns.
Then you rinse and repeat for the 2nd half, but set yourself up to close with Payne and Booker on the floor.
Notice a trend here? Keeping at least one of Payne and Booker on the court at all times is the goal. The offensive creation with both of those guys on the bench is something I prefer not to witness. This puts Payne at ~30-32 minutes played and Booker around the ~38-40 minute mark assuming they play a bit more in the second half.
Let’s say Chris Paul misses two games, then the ultimate goal should be to split those two and set yourselves up for a 5-game series with CP3 back in the fold. You just need to stay afloat.
If Paul misses just one game, and you steal that game then all of the sudden, the odds of Phoenix reaching the NBA Finals increases dramatically. Again, the hope is that he is cleared and we avoid all of this, but it’s worth prematurely hitting on given the current state of the Suns.