As the Suns go to Canada to face a team that thrives in four-wing lineups, they will be short-handed once again.
The Phoenix Suns announced on Monday that Cameron Johnson, who had impressively stepped up into a starring role recently, will miss Tuesday’s game (and possibly much more) with an ankle sprain suffered in the closing minutes of Saturday’s loss to the Heat.
If you have followed the Suns m.o., when you see ‘ankle sprain’ you immediately add ‘out two weeks’ to the injury report. Earlier this year, Cam Payne (hamstring), Devin Booker (hamstring) and Deandre Ayton (knee bruise) all missed about two weeks with their own soft tissue. The safe timeline has been a staple of the Suns training staff for years.
The Suns have not given any timeline, but losing Cameron Johnson for any stretch is a big loss for the Suns.
Johnson had been on fire recently, scoring in double figures in 19 straight games (after never going more than 3 straight with 10+), and has the longest streak in the league of making at least two three-pointers in a game with 22 straight, which is also a Suns franchise record.
Overall, he’s scored 10+ points in 28 of the Suns 39 games this year, posting career highs of 25.6 minutes, 11.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and .8 steals per game with 46/44/83 shooting splits. His extra production is not just because of the extra minutes per game — his productivity is up per-minute-played across the board.
Over the last 19 games, he is averaging 15.6 points on 49.8 FG% (47.4 3FG%) and 3.3 three pointers per game.
Johnson had been a picture of health for the Suns, one of only three Suns to be healthy for all 39 games so far this year (along with Mikal Bridges, Chris Paul).
The Suns may have a reputation for ‘being healthy’ but have missed a lot of time...
- Deandre Ayton missed 14 games (knee bruise, flu, COVID)
- Devin Booker missed 7 games (hamstring)
- Jae Crowder missed 6 games (COVID)
- Cameron Payne missed 5 games (hamstring)
- Head coach Monty Williams missed 4 games (COVID)
- JaVale McGee missed 4 games (COVID)
- Landry Shamet missed 3 games (COVID)
- Jalen Smith missed 2 games (flu)
And then there’s the ongoing issues...
- Abdel Nader missed 24 games and counting (knee / management)
- Frank Kaminsky missed 26 games and counting (knee / surgery)
- Dario Saric missed all 39 games and counting (knee / surgery)
Now, three more have been added to the OUT list:
- Cameron Johnson OUT (ankle sprain)
- Ish Wainright OUT (health and safety protocols / COVID)
- Justin Jackson OUT (not with team)*
Not sure why Justin Jackson, in the midst of a 10-day contract, is out. Could be related to Canada’s strict controls on border crossings related to COVID. Recently, half the Golden State Warriors rotation skipped the Canada trip entirely, missing the road game in Toronto, for fear of being put into a 10-day quarantine. The Suns are getting tested daily anyway, so I don’t know why Justin Jackson is the lone wolf skipping the trip. Hopefully, he’s back for the next game in the US.
Now, the Suns are without three forwards for a game against a wing/forward-heavy Raptors. Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder are the only forward-sized wings available.
Who else can play on the wing?
The Suns will need to throw backup center Jalen Smith and shooting guard Landry Shamet into the forward rotation and hope for the best. Both are a wish and prayer.
Jalen ‘Stix’ Smith has been highly productive as the lone big man on the floor in the Suns one-big scheme, but has gotten lost in a forward/wing role next to another big man. He is improving but still does not operate well in space, often getting lost on rotations/switches and really lacking a strong outside-the-paint offensive presence.
Shamet is undersized as a wing, and will look small compared to the Raptors. Plus he’s just now coming back from COVID and you saw on Saturday night what that quarantine period can do to your timing and conditioning.
On the plus side, the Suns will have their starting five back together for the second game since injuries/illness began to hit last month.
Off the bench will be another story. Cameron Payne is going through a season-long slump. JaVale McGee and Landry Shamet will play, but are still getting their wind back. Elfrid Payton (learning how to play off-ball next to Payne) and Jalen Smith (learning how to play forward next to another big) are wild cards.
The Suns play the Raptors at 5:30 PM AZ time tonight. Our Bright Side Game Preview will be up later this morning to set the stage.