Key injury to Western contender gives Phoenix Suns an advantage

The Phoenix Suns may need help from elsewhere to scale the NBA mountain in the coming months, and the latest injury news elsewhere certainly helps.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns
Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

The Phoenix Suns continued their impressive play without the injured Devin Booker on Thursday, as they won another game without their superstar. Earlier this week we delved into how the Suns had quietly adapted their play without Booker, and that was on full display in the home win.

The sooner they can get Booker back from his ankle injury the better though, as there is no doubt this group have been at their best this season in the limited run we have seen with Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal out on the court. With Jusuf Nurkic also playing his part, the pieces exist to enjoy an extended playoff adventure.

The Suns will also need help from around the league to achieve their goals however, and the latest out of the Minnesota Timberwolves has given them that.

The Timberwolves currently occupy the top seed in the Western Conference, and represent a matchup problem for the Suns should they meet in the playoffs. They have a growing superstar in Anthony Edwards, a former multiple time winning Defensive Player of the Year in Rudy Gobert, and one of the best offensive bigs this century in Karl-Anthony Towns.

The Suns have experimented bigger lineups in the absence of Booker, throwing out Nurkic, Durant, Bol Bol and Eric Gordon for spurts in some games recently. Gordon being able to defend guys like Towns, as we have seen him do this season. Yet despite this, there is little doubt that Timberwolves at full strength would have had too much size and skill for this version of the Suns.

Which is what makes the news that Towns has suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee that requires surgery, and will be re-evaluated in four weeks interesting for the Suns. Nobody ever likes to see a player go down with injury, but these things happen every year, and the Suns could be in position to profit.

They're not going to catch the Timberwolves for the top seed, but what is more conceivable is the Suns nab the fifth spot in the West, and the Timberwolves free fall to fourth. If that's the case, the Suns would surely be favored by many because of the playoff experience of both Durant and Booker, not to mention the coaching of Vogel, who won a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Looking at the shorter-term impact, and the Suns have the toughest remaining schedule of any team in the league. Only they have two more meetings with the Timberwolves this season - including in Minnesota as part of a three-game trip against Western Conference opponents - and the prospect of facing them without Towns makes it that little bit easier.

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There are some out there who think that Towns is the odd player out with that team anyway, and that the Timberwolves will keep winning at roughly the same pace. But in a playoff matchup the Suns don't really have anybody they can put on him for long stretches - Gobert and Nurkic would be the duo to bang in the middle all series long - and Towns has shot a sizzing 42.3 percent from deep this season.

Which makes this news unfortunate for the Timberwolves as one of the up-and-coming groups in the league, but information which can be spun positively for the Suns. Assuming they enter the postseason fully healthy themselves, the Timberwolves not having one of their three best players - while also missing two regular season games - is exactly the lucky break from elsewhere they needed.