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It’s been a Payne-ful postseason for CP15

We know Monty won’t replace him in the rotation, but the Suns need more from him.

2022 NBA Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

You have to give credit where credit is due, and the Dallas Mavericks have earned that credit after defeating the Phoenix Suns by nine points in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Alas, there will be “Suns in 4”. PSA: Can we stop chanting that crap until a member of the Phoenix Suns is on the free-throw line late in the fourth quarter in a game four in which the Suns are completing a sweep? It’s just tacky.

I feel like I’m stating the obvious, and I know that I’ve written about it before, but Cameron Payne has been unbelievably ineffective during this playoff run. The minutes that he provides needs to be as valuable as possible. When you see Cam Payne in the game, that means either Chris Paul or Devin Booker is getting much needed rest. And the way to give them even more rest is to be as productive and effective as possible during those minutes. That is the Cam Payne role. And it is a role that he has struggled executing this postseason.

Last season during the postseason, Payne played 19 minutes a night, averaging 9.3 points on 42.5 percent shooting, including 36.2 percent from deep. He dropped 3.2 assists. He filled in as a starter with Chris Paul in health and safety protocols.

This season? 15 minutes a night. 5.2 points. 32.8 percent from the field. 16.7 from deep! 2.1 assists and 1.1 turnovers.

This season? 15 minutes a night. 5.2 points. 32.8 percent from the field. 16.7 from deep! 2.1 assists and 1.1 turnovers.

I hear my fellow Suns fans who are pining for more Aaron Holiday minutes.Those metrics are downright putrid.

And, while I agree in theory, I know it will not happen. For one thing, there’s no reason why Monty Williams would modify his rotations so radically in the middle of a playoff run, especially when he’s up 2-1 in a series, in order to get a plus in the plus/minus box score.

As much as we love Aaron Holiday, we have to recognize that his strength is more from a shooting standpoint than a playmaking standpoint. He definitely has some Eric Bledsoe to him. That is, he drives to the hole, jumps in the air, and if the shot isn’t there, that is when he looks to pass. It’s a dangerous way to operate as a point guard.

Monty will continue to ride Cam Payne, hoping to capture that playoff magic that he possessed during the postseason run last season. Has he been painful to watch? Absolutely. And our short-term greed is telling us to switch up the rotations. But if our long-term greed is to win a championship, we are not going to do so unless Payne plays better.

Hopefully he is working through the slump and by the time the Suns are in the Western Conference Finals, he’s figured out what is holding him back.

One major adjustment that I believe could help the 7th year guard is to slow down. Allow your screens to develop. Too often I see Cam Payne not allow his screener to get set and he darts past them. What this does is add length to the defenders on him, and many times he’ll have two defenders as one has slipped the screen, and it puts him in a situation where he has no passing outlet. Just slow down Cam.

Oh, and make your wide-open layups.

Sure, it’s been tough to see Payne go through this slump. It was a rocky season for him and, although he had moments in which we believe that he could be the point guard of the future for the Phoenix Suns, this prolonged slump has occurred for the last two months. The only way for Payne to get out of it is to get minutes.

But with only high leverage minutes available, you can’t keep him out there for 24 minutes a game in hopes that that’s what it takes for him to figure it out. It’s a tough task before him. But he’s a pro, and he showed us in the past that when playing in the face of adversity, he overcomes it.

Hopefully we start to see some of that in Game 4.

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