How on Earth will the Phoenix Suns Replace Chris Paul?

Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

On paper, it was a strange technical foul that took Phoenix Suns point guard Paul back to the locker room last evening, but his injured wrist probably would have had him back there all the same.

After whipping a pass inside aimed at Deandre Ayton, Paul’s arms smashed into with Jae’Sean Tate’s. The momentum from his hands swinging forward made for an awkward collision, and Paul immediately jumped backward, wincing in pain.

At this point, we know not how severe this injury might be for the Point God. Last year, it was a wrist injury that turned Paul into a shell of himself during the NBA Finals and put him on the operating table for offseason surgery. However, that was on his left wrist, and last night he hurt his right.

Shortly after last night’s game, Devin Booker did say that he expects Paul to still play in the All-Star Game this weekend. That certainly sounds like a good sign. However, the Suns will lean on the side of caution, still scheduling CP3 for an MRI this morning.

So as we wait on those results, we’ll play it safe as well and begin preparing for the worst with regard to Paul’s future availability—breaking down how the Suns might go on without him.

The Phoenix Suns will need Cameron Payne to heal up with Chris Paul out

Although this season has been rough sledding for sixth man Cameron Payne from a statistical standpoint, he owns a history of playing his best with his back up against the wall.

Last year in the Western Conference Finals, Payne averaged 20.0 points and 9.0 assists per game while shooting 50.0 percent from the field in the two games Paul needed to sit out. Phoenix of course won both contests en route to its first NBA Finals berth since 1993.

He knows how to operate Phoenix’s pick-and-roll oriented offense, push the pace in transition, and push the floor. As Paul’s “Robin” at the point guard spot, you want him on the floor anytime CP3 is not.

Granted, getting healthy is the name of the game right now for several NBA teams, but with the Suns potentially down to two point guards, you cannot help but point the finger at the injury bug and hope that it relinquishes its hold on Payne.

The Phoenix Suns will need Devin Booker to step up in as a passer

Devin Booker resembles a much better facilitator than people give him credit for, fully capable of setting up his teammates for high percentage looks. So with Paul possibly unavailable, he needs to lean into those secondary skills of his, especially during stretches where he cannot find his own shot.

At the same time, asking Booker to fully transition over to the point guard spot feels a bit counterproductive, even if Payne remains out for some time as well. Book has been nothing short of incredible at his home position of shooting guard during the past month, and Phoenix would be foolish to mess that up now.

But on a few plays here and there, primarily in the half court, Booker might want to look to involve his teammates a bit more.

Mixing that with his aggressive scoring will require Booker to “feel it out” each night, but the Suns need someone to create those easy looks which Paul normally does to keep their offense humming. With Booker averaging the second most dimes per game on the team, we know he can do it.

The Phoenix Suns will need Elfrid Payton to sharpen up his game

As most third string NBA players do, Elfrid Payton gives you some good stuff in short spurts, but often looks lost when left on the court for extended run time. But with Paul and Payne potentially wearing street clothes to Phoenix’s next few games rather than their uniforms, some extra minutes will fall to him, which he will need to take in stride.

With a nice handle, quickness, and solid vision, Payton has the tools to work as a nice facilitator. He averages the second most assists per 36 minutes on the Suns, and frequently often creates space with ease.

But at the same time, he just as often commits those turnovers and just general bonehead plays. It feels lazy to say that Payton simply needs to “stop playing bad,” but his issues are so easy to identify, which should make them easy to patch up.

Hopefully playing more within himself for however long Paul might be out, look for Payton to sharpen things up and avoid taking bad shots, hitting the open looks he does create, and pump the brakes on those ugly turnovers.

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We all know there is no way to really replace a guy like CP3. While Devin Booker is certainly the heart and soul of this team, Paul is the brain. He commands the team with poise, confidence, and vigor, and Phoenix will miss him regardless of what these three guys bring to the table.