The newly constructed Phoenix Suns will take the court as a whole team for the first time in a long time this season, and the debut of star forward Kevin Durant is much anticipated since the deal was done before the All-Star break.
Durant will make his first start as a member of the Suns tonight on the road against the Charlotte Hornets and should be a good practice test of getting KD acclimated with his new teammates.
All the hype around the new-look Suns is warranted, but if there is one thing that could stunt the growth of this team and interrupt a grand run to the Finals is that elephant in the room that has stomped on many teams who were predicted to win it all.
The dreaded Injury bug.
The Valley is holding its collective breath for the continued health of all four of their potential “Big Four” going into this final stretch before the playoffs.
Let’s face it, the Suns have star players that have had a history of particular injuries that can potentially rare their ugly heads at the wrong time during the stretch run.
The truth of the matter is that anyone can get hurt at any time because that is the nature of sports and competition.
Then there are injury-prone guys that you simply have to keep your fingers crossed that they can stay healthy, no one more than Lakers Center Anthony Davis where it’s almost inedible an injury will end his team’s playoff hopes.
In that same conversation, the Suns have their own guys.
Chris Paul has been hurt in several playoff runs that have strapped his teams down and cost them opportunities to complete the deal, and a healthy Paul all the way through the playoff run has been highly unlikely.
There will be nagging injuries on all players still playing after the regular season, the only question is how long will these injuries hold Chris out this playoff run and which round.
The team made no move as of yet to get an insurance policy for Chris, but this year they may have enough to complete the deal with a hobbled Paul with backups along with stars Booker, Durant, and Ayton.
But Devin Booker and his Hamstrings will probably have something to say about that, he plays the game at one speed and has a history of hamstring injuries, let’s face it, which can pop up (no pun intended) at any given time.
We saw this in the last two post season’s for Booker, as the competition gets stiffer in the playoffs, Booker goes harder and harder and may overload the workload on his legs with the extended minutes during the postseason.
This time of year does not yield the luxury of holding guys out on minute restrictions or load management, and a guy like Booker will not have that on his mind.
Then there is Kevin Durant, leg injuries are no stranger to him, as we have seen him go down to knee injuries and season-ending ankle injuries in the past.
A combination of Durant’s height and shooting style make him excusable for a lower leg injury, he tends to almost kick forward after his shot, and it’s very scary as to where he will land from every contested jump shot.
A slim seven-foot versatile player will always have to worry about lower body injuries, but like Booker, Durant’s mindset is never focused on getting hurt, but as he gets older these nagging style injuries are almost inevitable.
In this year’s playoffs for the Suns, Durant is the focal point and he will be the key that gets them over the hump, and without him of course, there is no chance.
Finally, the ankles of DeAndre Ayton. Although Ayton has been more durable than his teammates, he does tweak his ankles every so often by landing wrong or stepping on someone’s foot, which can happen to anyone, but if you have a history of the same injury it usually makes it easier to have that same injury again.
DeAndre Ayton may be the “X” factor for the playoff success of the Suns, his ability to switch out and guard on the perimeter and then race back to cover the boards will be paramount and a nagging ankle injury would slow down that ability.
The NBA Playoffs will be very exciting to watch this season, the thing that will be most watched for is which team can stay predominantly the healthiest while making that run to the Finals?
Can this Suns team stay healthy enough in these 20 last games is a question that everyone has to have in the back of their minds. One good thing the Suns may have going for themselves is that they have already had enough injuries to fill a full season, and maybe now will have the final stretch as one of the healthiest teams.
The Suns Superstars haven’t been beat-up through an entire regular season, and have gotten rest at some point that can pay great dividends later in the final rounds of the playoffs.
Superstars and key players being out injured make the difference in a team’s Title hopes, and back in history, we have seen these key injuries always fort the plans of a contender that has had the expectations of going all the way with their stars healthy.
2015 – Cavaliers lost Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving during a playoff run, Love missed most of the postseason after he dislocated his left shoulder in the first round. A fractured left kneecap knocked Irving out just a game into the NBA Finals. The Cavs could not beat the Warriors as they lost in six games.
2013 – Thunder lost Russell Westbrook after making it to the NBA Finals in 2012, OKC seemed poised to get back that year and won 60 games as the number one seed in the West. Westbrook tore the meniscus in his right knee in the second game of the postseason. The Thunder exited the playoffs in the second round to Memphis.
2012 – Bulls lose Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls at the time, and finished the 2011-12 season as the No. 1 seed in the East. However, late in Game 1 of their opening-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers, Rose tore his ACL and was ruled out for the playoffs losing that series in six.
2009 – Boston Celtics lost Kevin Garnett coming off winning the title in 2008, Garnett missed the entire postseason with a knee injury. Boston went on to eventually fall to the Magic in seven games in the conference semifinals.
Of course, we all remember the Houston Rockets having the Warriors on the ropes, and Chris Paul’s hamstring pull forted their hopes.
No matter what happens in this year’s playoffs, you almost expect the opponent (the injury) to rare its ugly head for one or more playoff teams, it’s just a matter of time and whom.
This newly constructed Suns team is in a good position to win the Title this year, staying healthy is the only real opponent that can actually stop them.