The pregame show for the All-Star Game dropped an unexpected bomb from TNT’s Allie LaForce: Chris Paul has an avulsion fracture in his right thumb and will be “re-evaluated” in six-eight weeks.
This could throw the West into chaos, as the playoffs are scheduled to start on April 16th, approximately eight weeks from now.
The Phoenix Suns currently have a massive lead in the race for the one seed in the Western Conference, as they’re up 6.5 games over the second-place Golden State Warriors (still dealing with Draymond Green’s injury) and eight games over the Memphis Grizzlies. There are only 24 games left in the season for Phoenix, so it seems likely they’ll be able to hold onto a top-two seed, barring a total collapse.
Chris Paul injury changes everything for the Phoenix Suns
The question, though, is what happens if the playoffs start and Chris Paul isn’t available? The last time we saw this team without CP at the helm, Devin Booker was leading them to an 8-0 run in the bubble, and the team’s core has grown significantly since then. But the playoffs are a different beast.
The Suns’ backup point guard, Cam Payne, is still recovering from his own injury, so it’s likely that Devin Booker will take over some point guard duties. Elfriid Payton should see an increased role along with the recently-acquired Aaron Holiday (a trade that could end up being a godsend if Paul’s absence lingers).
This is the latest in a string of unfortunate injuries for Chris Paul, whose playoff injuries have led some of the NBA’s greatest “what-ifs.” Most famously, Paul injured his hamstring in the final seconds of Game 5 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals against the Durant-led Golden State Warriors, and the Houston Rockets couldn’t hold onto their 3-2 lead without him in the final two games.
Last year, Paul’s hand injury was clearly hampering him throughout the playoffs, and the full-court pressure of Bucks’ guard Jrue Holiday on a laboring Paul took an obvious toll. Paul’s uneven performance in the Finals was a shadow of the way he had commanded the team throughout the regular season.
Best-case scenario, Paul is able to return to the court and shake off some rust in a warm-up series in Round 1. Worst case, he could miss significant time and leave the Suns vulnerable to an early upset.
As good as Booker, Deandre Ayton, and Mikal Bridges are, it’s hard to imagine them beating a hungry Grizzlies or disrespected Utah Jazz squad in Round 2 without Paul’s steady presence.
Paul’s regular-season absence, if nothing else, punctures the air of invincibility Phoenix has had this season and gives hope to the other Western contenders. Only time will tell if this is just a blip or the latest occurrence in Paul’s star-crossed career.