3 Factors to Dictate how the Suns will Function without Chris Paul

Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Chris Paul (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Phoenix Suns, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson
Phoenix Suns Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Phoenix Suns Life Without Chris Paul: The Twin Tandem

The Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson tandem, frequently referred to as the “twins” due to their similarities in play style, will be vital in preserving Phoenix’s winning efforts minus Paul. I’ve spoken at length about the former, but the latter of this duo is now presented with an opportunity to showcase his readiness to handle more pressure in self-creation.

Aside from his elite spot up 3-point shooting, Johnson has been far more involved as a mobile floor spacer, mainly by lifting and sinking to create cleaner passing angles that free himself up for better quality looks, relocating after passes, and getting out in transition to fill lanes with pace.

On the fast break, his scoring and foul-drawing tendencies have both increased since his last season. Johnson also finds himself generating more rim pressure this year, along with a sense of flair and creativity while doing so.

But Johnson does this all in the half court almost as often. The former Tar Heel strategically attacks closeouts and has a feel for slipping screens and then making plays from the short roll area of the floor. In that, he’s put up 76 shots at the rim this year,  already tying his total from last year and with a conversion rate that has him in the 91st percentile amongst forwards.

The importance of Johnson’s growth cannot be overstated, as Phoenix’s main struggles during the NBA Finals last year dealt with their lacking creation outside of Paul and Booker, who Milwaukee focused their entire defensive game plan on.

So between Johnson’s improvements and the aforementioned growth displayed by Bridges, one can feel safe in asking them to shoulder some of the load with Paul gone.

Lineups featuring these two currently rank in the 96th percentile for efficiency differential, largely thanks to each player’s smart play styles. The aforementioned screen intelligence, playmaking out of slips, ghosting to the short roll, cutting catalog Bridges puts on display nearly every possession, and shooter’s IQ from Johnson—they all add up to a functioning offense even after a set fails.

Next. Top 5 Wins for the Suns Halfway Through Season. dark

These dynamics of the Suns rotation will be relied upon exclusively with Paul stuck wearing street clothes for some time, as they ramp back up for action down the stretch and blaze toward the postseason.