It may be time to panic as the Phoenix Suns season could be in jeopardy considering the team can’t seem to shake the injury bug that has been plaguing their stars since the beginning of the season.
Last night, in Kevin Durant’s return to the court after missing three games with right foot soreness, Devin Booker exited in the third-quarter after suffering a right ankle injury. Booker’s status for their upcoming game on Friday versus the Denver Nuggets is questionable. So, is it officially time for Phoenix Suns fans to panic?
The injuries to the Phoenix Suns stars are stopping them from getting the one thing they needed the most in order to be a real contender in the playoffs: consistency.
The Suns are currently 18 games into the season and their ‘Big 3" have yet to take the court together. If that wasn’t alarming enough, each one of the big three has dealt with one, or more, injuries so far this season.
Fans may be lulled into a false sense of security because the Suns are currently sitting in 5th place in the Western Conference with an 11-7 record. However, the panic shouldn’t be around where the Suns are now, but where they want to be.
The last two years, the Phoenix Suns have been bounced from the playoffs in the second round. In 2022 they were a 64 win team, and still didn’t make it to the finals. Last year, they added Kevin Durant to help them make the postseason push, but Durant only played eight regular season games with Devin Booker before the playoffs started.
They played well in the post season but couldn't make it past the Denver Nuggets who went on to win the finals. The Suns’ organization, and every fan, knew that the key this season was Durant and Booker getting time on the court together to develop their chemistry.
Then, with the addition of Bradley Beal, the excitement for the Big 3 was born. Since then, Bradley Beal has played 3 games (all three with Durant), and Booker has played 8 games (none of which with Beal). The inconsistency of appearances for the starters has led to clear offensive issues for the team. With every game that passes, the Suns are one step closer to the playoffs and still no chemistry on the court among the key starters.
While Booker managed to play the remainder of the game after suffering his right ankle injury, it is important to note that the injury is on the same leg his previous calf injury was, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him miss games, even as a precaution to make sure that leg gets fully healthy.
Booker missing games means a lot more strain on Kevin Durant who just got back from injury had had a rusty 11-of-30 performance against the raptors. Long story short, it is not looking great for the Suns in the short-term, which could very well affect their chances long-term.
The newest injury to Devin Booker could not have come at a worse time, not just because Durant is now back, as the Suns have an intense stretch of games upcoming. They play the defending champs, Denver Nuggets, on Friday followed by the Memphis Grizzlies on the second half of a back-to-back, and then the quarter final round of the in-season tournament in L.A. versus LeBron James and the Lakers on Tuesday.
So, how do the Suns solve their injury woes that have kept the starters from sharing time on the court together? The most obvious course of action may be to consider trading Bradley Beal for a player that can be on the court helping the team right now.
So far, it doesn’t seem the organization is considering that route as there is a lot of hope that Beal will be able to make a huge contribution to the team if he is able to recover from his back injury. Now, it is just a matter of how long the Suns are willing to wait before they are forced to make a decision one way or another.
Another option, which doesn’t sound fun, is the Suns decide to rest Durant while Booker is out in order to make sure they both are as healthy as possible for when they can play together. No one likes when teams rest their best players, hence the NBA enacted a new policy that went into effect for this season which states that teams may not rest more than one star player per game.
The Suns may drop a few games, and get knocked out of the controversial in-season tournament, but there is a huge upside. If the Suns are knocked out on Tuesday, their next game wouldn’t be until the following Tuesday, December 12th. With ample time for rest and recovery, we might get to see a much healthier Durant and Booker finally get some consistency together rather than playing injury hot-potato.
It is not a great situation to be in, but the Suns entered this season with the mindset of “finals or bust.” The organization has a lot to think about when it comes to what is going to finally push the team past the second round of the playoffs and into the contender conversation.
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