Closing time. We know the stars will be out there, but who will surround them and why?
That may change on a game-by-game basis depending on the different looks and counters each team throws at each other. It will be the game within the game as two of the best coaching staffs in the NBA go head-to-head.
The Phoenix Suns closing lineup seems pretty simple on the surface, right? Well, I mean, yeah. It should be their starting lineup. But what if the LA Clippers decide to go small? What if they hunt Chris Paul successfully and the Point God’s shot isn’t falling that night?
In those cases, Monty Williams may face some tough decisions that could be the difference between winning or losing in clutch time.
Chris Paul is playing his best basketball of the season at the right time, and if he’s shooting confidently and leading it will be tough to remove him from those closing lineups.
Over his last 17 games, Chris Paul is averaging:
14.7 PPG, 8.6 APG, 4.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG on 48/39/89 shooting splits. The efficiency is what jumps out along with the willingness to let it fly from deep. If CP3 can confidently shoot the rock, that truly changes the entire dynamic of the Suns’ offense.
*DISCLAIMER: Let’s focus on three potential closing lineups outside of the obvious “starting five” unit. We all know that Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Josh Okogie, Kevin Durant, and Deandre Ayton will close most games.
But what if they don’t? Let’s dive into some other options.
Lineup 1: Point Book?
Devin Booker-Josh Okogie-Torrey Craig-Kevin Durant-Deandre Ayton
This lineup is simple. You have your two shot creator stars surrounded by long, athletic players that can switch and play defense.
The floor spacing could be a concern, but if you factor in the timely cutting and offensive rebounding this group would generate, those extra possessions could make up for some teams forcing an Okogie three in the corner here and there.
Lineup 2: Small Ball Counter
Chris Paul-Devin Booker-Josh Okogie-Kevin Durant-Ish Wainright
I do not think the Clippers have what it takes to necessarily play Deandre Ayton off the floor, but in spurts going with small-ball looks to give Ayton rest could be an option. You must also consider potential foul trouble.
Ish Wainright truly could be a factor in this series if the Clippers decide to run Marcus Morris or Covington at the five and go with the versatile “wing-only” lineup we’ve seen in the past.
Not only do I think Ish could be a key in small-ball lineups, but having an extra body to throw at Kawhi will be helpful. Ish’s size/strength combo could theoretically disrupt Leonard from time to time.
Lineup 3: Floor Spacing + Size
Devin Booker-Landry Shamet-Terrence Ross-Kevin Durant-Deandre Ayton
This one is kind of out of left field to be transparent here. The idea is to surround your two seven-footers with shooters.
Ross may not even have a consistent role in this series, but I could see there being a game where he has the hot hand and they don’t shy away from using him in heavy minutes. I expect that leash to be short with the defensive concerns, but this lineup’s offensive ceiling (if Shamet and Ross are on) is limitless. Do I expect to see this one? No. Would it be fun if everything is clicking? YES!
This series has Ish Wainright, Josh Okogie and Torrey Craig written all over it. Phoenix will need to use their versatility on the defensive end to counter the many looks the Clippers will throw the Suns’ way.