Crucial Suns player losing form at worst time of the season

The Phoenix Suns should be rounding into playoff form, but instead one of their most crucial players has had a tough stretch at the worst possible time.
New Orleans Pelicans v Phoenix Suns
New Orleans Pelicans v Phoenix Suns / Chris Coduto/GettyImages

With the Phoenix Suns only having a pair of regular season games remaining, they still do not know if they will be taking part in the play-in tournament for the first time this season. Both themselves and the New Orleans Pelicans left to duke it out for the sixth and final automatic playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Should the Suns manage to advance straight to the postseason proper, their reward will hardly be what the organization had in mind before the season began. A first-round series - in which they will not have home court advantage - against one of either the Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets or Oklahoma City Thunder.

The three best teams in the conference by some distance this season, although the Suns can at least point to the fact they're basically healthy and have players pushing late for playoff minutes on their roster.

This group will need more than just their "Big 3" to succeed though, which is why it is worrying to see Grayson Allen struggling at the worst possible time in the season.

Allen has been a revelation for the franchise this season, and still leads the league in 3-point shooting percentage, at 45.6 percent. A title he has held for most of the season, although Luke Kennard of the Memphis Grizzlies has reached 45 percent himself, and has a chance to catch Allen late for this accolade.

That's because Allen's ridiculously consistent shooting from has left him at the worst possible time, and the month of April as a whole has the worrying numbers that really hammer that home. The worst shooting month from beyond the arc Allen had put up prior to April was a fantastic 43.5 percent, on what was nearly six attempts per game.

At his absolute peak this season that number has reached an insane 56.6 percent, which Allen managed in January nailing just over three of his 5.5 attempts each game. The Suns needed Allen to hit those shots at that point in the campaign as well, with Bradley Beal in and out of the lineup with injury and the team needing somebody to assume the mantle of their third best player.

That Allen was able to do exactly that is a testement to the season he has had, far surpassing the expectations everybody had for him and in turn forcing owner Mat Ishbia to think long and hard about giving Allen the kind of contract this summer that would have financial implications for the organization.

On the defensive end Allen also chipped in and played beyond the role envisioned from him, forcing the Suns to move on from Yuta Watanabe at the trade deadline, while Eric Gordon has not been able to take minutes from his teammate despite being known as the better defender either.

That willingness on the defensive end - and an athleticism that stretches back to his days at Duke which people seem to forget he has - is still there. It's just with his shot no longer falling at the same rate, the Suns as a whole have struggled some offensively as of late, because Allen had been the release valve they could kick it too when a possession was breaking down.

A strange turn of events given Devin Booker and Kevin Durant are on this team, but it is Allen who is always, and will continue to be, open while opponents zone in on his more illustrious teammates. How bad has it gotten recently then? Well there was the 0-for-8 night in the dreadful loss to the L.A. Clippers recently, although Allen was not alone in having a bad night.

But that marked the third occasion in the last nine games where Allen didn't make a shot from deep. For a guy who was setting franchise records from beyond the arc earlier this season, that is going cold at the wrong time. In fact prior to that run, Allen had failed to connect from deep three times all season, and one one of those occasions, he didn't attempt a 3-pointer either.

Which has led to Allen shooting 30.6 percent from deep so far this month, and with only a couple of regular season games to get out of that funk. That number isn't just terrible for Allen, it is below league average and the kind of figure that should have head coach Frank Vogel thinking long and hard about running different kinds of plays that don't involve Allen in the near future.

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It is fair to point out that he takes 5.9 shots from deep per game, less than Booker's 6.2 and the same amount as Gordon. A 35-year-old who is making 38.2 percent of his own shots, a number which is acceptable and had Allen been doing the same earlier in the season, it would not have been a problem.

Only we've seen how good Allen can be - so much so that this group has come to rely on his shooting for spacing purposes - and the vanishing act it is performing so late in the season is one of the worst things that could have happened for this team. It needs to come back - and soon - because if not, this playoff run is going to be even shorter than it already looks like it will be.