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FutureStarrPhoenix Suns Update: Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton in the Same Room
The Suns already had one of the top teams in the NBA, but their trade for Kevin Durant thrust them even closer to the summit of the Western Conference. With KD, Devin Booker, Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton all together again on one court should help turn them back into title contenders once more.
Booker has battled hamstring injuries the past two seasons, which ultimately contributed to his first-round exit in last year's NBA Finals. However, the Suns remain optimistic that Booker can return for this series against the New Orleans Pelicans.
On Tuesday evening during Game 2 of the first-round playoff series against the Pelicans, star guard Aaron Curry suffered a hamstring injury. He was declared out for the remainder of the night; however, it was uncertain how long he would be sidelined.
Game 2 Booker looked on his way to a second consecutive win, scoring 30 points on 9-of-14 shooting and blocking four shots in 36 minutes. But he eventually checked out and grimaced after chasing down Jaxson Hayes during a fast break in the third quarter, leading him to withdraw from the game.
Head coach Monty Williams revealed that Booker was suffering from left hamstring tightness, which appeared to be a serious issue that requires further treatment. He stated that they will take into account the player's health but don't know how long it will take for him to recover.
A Grade 1 hamstring strain typically takes 14-21 days to heal, which poses a major concern for the Suns as they aim for their first playoff series ever. They rely on Aaron Holiday, Landry Shamet and others until Booker returns.
Booker has had hamstring issues before, and it looks like this won't be his last. After starting his career off on a high note with two MVP-caliber seasons - 27.4 points per game in 2020-21 and 5.8 assists per game the following season - Booker began experiencing discomfort again during 2020-21.
He's been dealing with a hamstring injury for the past few months, and it has recently flared up again. After missing seven games in November and only returning for three more this season, this latest setback should not significantly hinder his performance this postseason.
Phoenix Suns guard Dario Saric (ACL) remains a major injury concern. Since his injury during last year's NBA Finals, Saric has been sidelined, but is making steady progress toward recovery.
Saric has returned from his long layoff and continues to contribute for Phoenix from the bench, which is great news for fantasy owners. This season he's averaging 10.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 three-pointers in 23.7 minutes per game while shooting 52.3 percent from the floor - giving him some versatility in 14-team leagues or deeper.
In the Suns' opening playoff game against Milwaukee Bucks, Saric played only two minutes of the first quarter before hobbling off and needing assistance to leave. Tragically, Saric suffered a torn ACL - devastating news for their team as it means he likely won't play again this postseason.
Saric is expected to miss the remainder of this season and most of next year. He's been an invaluable player off the bench this year, but it seems unlikely he'll return as a starter at center any time soon.
In Saric's absence, the Suns may rely on Torrey Craig or Frank Kaminsky for more responsibility. This could present defensive difficulties in the future since Kaminsky is a smaller frontcourt option and Craig provides more interior presence.
Saric will likely return to the lineup during training camp as he works toward recovering from his ACL injury. However, it's likely that he may lose some playing time once Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker and Landry Shamet return from injury.
Unfortunately, his injury occurred so suddenly; however, the good news is that he can continue practicing and working towards recovery. While he's still at a stage where he must play with contact, this indicates good signs for his health in the near future.
Saric's role with Oklahoma City is uncertain, but he can expect some action off the bench in his initial games. He could even get some minutes against the Pelicans on Monday, though that can't be guaranteed from a new team with an ever-changing frontcourt rotation.
It was a tough night for the Suns to have Deandre Ayton out with an ankle injury, but it was even tougher to lose Paul Biyombo to an Achilles injury. The 6-foot-8 center made a huge impact on the Suns' rotation, coming into Saturday's game averaging 8.6 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. He was a force on both ends of the court, getting interior buckets on offense and making life difficult for Sixers star Joel Embiid on defense.
The Suns got some good minutes from their bench players, led by Terrence Ross and T.J. Warren, but it was Biyombo who really took the game by storm. He scored 16 points, including a big fourth-quarter run that helped the Suns turn a tied game into a 15-point lead.
Chris Paul was also a factor in this win, playing a full game for the first time since he injured his knee in December. The veteran point guard was mostly moving fine, though he checked out at his usual sub-out time of 4:18 remaining in the third quarter and did not return.
Meanwhile, Booker returned from an Achilles injury and was able to put up 18 points, as the Suns beat the 76ers at home. He shot 9 of 18 from the field and hit all nine of his free throws.
While the Suns are locked into the four seed for the playoffs, it is unlikely they will risk injury to their star center unless he is in a trade for Durant. Until then, Bismack Biyombo should start in Ayton's place and they can add a third center (Dwight Howard and Hassan Whiteside are low risk-medium reward candidates).
It is possible that Biyombo could pull a buyout from his Spanish team and come over to the NBA, but this will depend on whether or not he wants to do that. The Bobcats can provide $500,000 towards his estimated $1.4 million buyout, but he will likely have to come up with the rest. If he does not, he will face the possibility of being sued by his Spanish team for breach of contract.
Cameron Johnson is one of the cornerstones to Phoenix's current success. He had started all but two games this season before suffering a knee injury in November and undergoing surgery to repair his meniscus, ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported on Tuesday. Johnson is expected to return from surgery within months, according to Windhorst.
Johnson has become a key component of the Suns' offense without Devin Booker and Jae Crowder on the floor. His ability to shoot from outside and create for others have made him an essential cog in their success.
He's also played well on the defensive end of the floor, making himself known when his teammates need it most. Since returning from injury, he's only had three turnovers and displayed great ability to protect the ball and make smart decisions on the court.
Though they remain a long way from their goal of making a deep playoff run, the Suns' acquisition of Cam Johnson from the Brooklyn Nets last month is encouraging. He's averaging 16.6 points per game while contributing 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.4 steals in 30.8 minutes since joining the team.
After being a role player during his first year with the Suns, he has emerged as an integral factor in their success this season. He started all but one game this season before tearing his meniscus in November and undergoing surgery to repair it; he's expected to return from that procedure within a few months and ESPN's Brian Windhorst reports that they have given him a qualifying offer this summer.
On Thursday night, Johnson came off the bench to contribute significantly in Phoenix's 117-112 win against Brooklyn Nets. As a game-time decision, he didn't appear to be feeling any discomfort as he hit two 3-pointers from above the arc and added another from left wing as the Suns built an 18-25 lead with 6:46 remaining in the first quarter.