Phoenix Suns shoot for the playoffs: ranking top 3 roles

Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul, Devin Booker (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul, Devin Booker (Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /
4 of 4
The Phoenix Suns' Chris Paul is an outside contender to earn an All-Star reserve spot.
Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul (Photo by Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports) /

Phoenix Suns: The No. 1 most important role

Devin Booker, the Western Conference Player of the Month for February, has found his comfort zone again. The early-season stumbles are in the distant past, and, with Chris Paul having a stunningly efficient desert debut season, this combo can take Phoenix into the Western Conference Finals.

Remember the conference finals? That’s the last place fans saw the Suns in the postseason — 11 long years ago — in a loss to Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers.

Booker has lifted his shooting numbers — .362 from 3-point range and .554 on 2-point field goal attempts — beyond his career averages and better than last season, too, in which he scored 26.6 points per game.

His signature midrange game is evolving and improving, too, having raised his percentage on shots from 16 feet out to 3-point range from .402 last season to .468 this season. Opponents really don’t have an answer.

Paul is just befuddling opponents, climbing the assists chart to No. 5 in the league, averaging 8.8 per game. As good as he was for Oklahoma City last season, he dished out only 6.7 assists per game.

But it’s his top two assets this season — leadership and 3-point shooting — that provide the biggest boost for Phoenix.

He has Deandre Ayton parroting the premise of consistent intensity — and most fans believe that Ayton truly has turned the corner.

He has given confidence to those open shooters, as well as helped his backup, Cameron Payne, develop his game to the point that the second unit routinely outplays the opponents’ backups.

But those 3-point splashdowns, right? In his past three seasons, Paul has gone from .358 to .365 to a stellar .391 from long range.

Suns fans appreciated Ricky Rubio, but outside shooting was something Phoenix just has to have from its point guard.

They have that and much more from Paul, who, with Booker could take this team back to where they were as 2010 ended. And maybe beyond.

Phoenix Suns midseason grades. dark. Next