Even after dropping games to the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder, locating flaws in this Phoenix Suns team is no easy chore. You have to dig through their pristine 62-12 record to find bad losses, scavenge for inefficient stats, and dive at least three years into the past to find any stories pertaining to bad chemistry or coaching issues.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been trying to dance around the cliche “needle in a haystack” idiom when describing any potential issues with Phoenix’s on-court product. Put simply, this team looks fortified and in-synch, like a slick new Cadillac.
But for as often as that “needle in a haystack” phrase gets thrown around, people tend to ignore one key component of it. Although the needle remains well-hidden within the barrel of hay, it still exists in there, even if you cannot always see it.
For as perfect as the Suns look, they have their own needle buried under all the success which they’ve attained this season. It’s small and only recently became visible, but Monty Williams and his staff will need to bring out a magnet, and swiftly remove it before the playoffs begin.
The Suns need to get Cameron Johnson’s Shooting Right Before the Playoffs
With him shooting just 2-14 on 3-pointers since making his return off the injury report, Suns swingman Cameron Johnson’s long range stroke represents this lone issue for Phoenix.
Prior to his injury, Johnson resembled arguably the entire league’s best 3-point shooter. Shooting from deep at a 44.8 percent clip on 5.9 attempts per game, only Joe Harris and Luke Kennard hit more efficiently at that high of a rate.
Such marksmanship even had Johnson on pace to challenge a variety of Suns 3-point shooting records earlier this season. Even now, his 43.6 percent shooting from deep has him slated to finish with the 16th best percentage for a season in Suns history. However, his maintained 2.6 made triples per game would break Raja Bell’s record should he keep it up over this final week.
But regardless, it’s that efficient 3-point shot which the Suns need to revive by playoff time. Although Phoenix’s abundance of wins might skew this stat, the fact that they have a 31-8 record when Johnson shoots it from three at 40.0 percent or higher means something.
Johnson’s 14.3 percent shooting over his last two games, which have both resulted in Phoenix losses, also speaks volumes.
Granted, Landry Shamet’s recent surge kept the Suns as a top-notch 3-point shooting team even without Johnson and amidst his lackluster return, with the team just one tenth of a percentage point outside the top-10 from Johnson’s last game until now.
But either way, getting the former Tar Heel right and while maintaining Shamet’s hot streak promises to give the Suns some additional firepower off the bench—which they gravely lacked last year.
With jump-shooting being a task that starts with getting lift out of our legs, and with Johnson having just recovered from a quad contusion, one can understand his early struggles. By no means has his inefficient return been unacceptable or concerning.
However, it has been noticeable, and if the Suns want to get their hands on the Larry O’Brien trophy this summer, they need him to return to form.
Although these final few games might feel boring to some Phoenix fans with the West already locked up, they will be key for Johnson to re-discover his shot. Watch for Monty to grant him some additional minutes like he did recently against the Thunder, allowing him to clear out those cobwebs and re-calibrate his deadeye targeting system.