3 Players who could get axed from the Suns’ playoff rotation

Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images) /
3 of 3
Cameron Payne #15 of the Phoenix Suns
PHOENIX, ARIZONA – MARCH 25: Cameron Payne #15 of the Phoenix Suns drives (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

1) Cameron Payne

Payne saved his NBA career a few years ago with several strong performances during the Suns’ run to the 2021 NBA Finals.

Unfortunately, last year’s playoffs proved the prior year to be a fluke, as Payne shot an abominable 30% from the field and 17% from deep while being excised from the rotation.

Payne is a trick-or-treat player; if the shot falls, he can be helpful, but he’s a small, inattentive defender without many other useful attributes. The NBA playoffs are a different beast than the regular season, and teams will relentlessly attack Payne every time he steps on the floor.

Payne has a high foul rate for a guard, a big no-no for coach Monty Williams, who has spent significant time recently harping on the importance of clean defense. A recent “DNP-CD” a few days after committing five fouls in a game reinforced how seriously Williams takes this issue.

Adding Durant to the duo of Booker and Paul ensures that, if he wants to, coach Williams can always have two capable ballhandlers on the court. Payne sports a reasonable 37% mark from deep, but he only hits 34% on catch-and-shoots. So if he’s not handling the rock and likely won’t be, the Suns have superior options.

The signs are already here: in 41 games without Kevin Durant this season, Payne played 21 minutes per game. In the seven games he’s shared the court with Durant, he’s only averaged 13 minutes per game.

The NBA playoffs always lead to a tightening of rotations. No back-to-backs, less travel, and the importance of fighting for every minute means that players on the margins tend to be squeezed out. The good news for Payne (and the others): they’ll almost certainly have a chance to prove their worth, and a seven-game series allows for a little room for experimentation. The bad news: ninth and tenth men rarely get second chances.

If these three players want to stay in the rotation, they must make a strong first impression.