Kevin Durant Trade Caused Concerning Issue for Suns’ Playoff Hopes: Analyst

Suns stars Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Deandre Ayton and Josh Okogie

Getty Suns stars Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Deandre Ayton and Josh Okogie

The Phoenix Suns went 8-0 with Kevin Durant in the lineup during the regular season. They are the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoffs and FanDuel has them as the favorite to win the West.

However, Mo Dakhil of Bleacher Report believes the Suns’ top-heavy roster could hurt them in the playoffs.

“The Phoenix Suns made the biggest splash at the trade deadline by acquiring Kevin Durant,” Dakhil wrote on April 11. “To no one’s surprise, it came at a cost. That cost? Two major pieces of the rotation. And it turned the Suns into a top-heavy team. Finding Phoenix’s postseason Achilles’ heel might be as simple as asking: Who will join the core when it matters most? Durant, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul are the obvious starters and crunch-time players. Who is the fifth? Monty Williams has to cobble together a rotation with the pieces who are left over: Landry Shamet, Torrey Craig, Josh Okogie, T.J. Warren, Terrence Ross and Cameron Payne. There is an open competition for that spot.

“It will come down to who can keep the court spread with their shooting and not be a defensive liability. So far, Okogie has started alongside the core four. The Suns have played only eight games with this starting lineup, though, and that might not have been enough to develop the needed chemistry. If the Suns fail to come out of the West (they are favored by FanDuel), it will be because they could not adequately fill the fifth spot in their key lineups.”

The Suns are taking on the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the 2023 postseason. They have home-court advantage in the series and may not have to deal with Clippers All-Star small forward Paul George, who is still out with a leg injury.

Russell Westbrook Is Excited to Face Kevin Durant

After the Clippers beat the Suns on April 9 to clinch the fifth seed in the West, Russell Westbrook told Andrew Grief of The Los Angeles Times and Law Murray of The Athletic that he’s excited to face Durant in the first round. Westbrook and Durant were teammates on the Oklahoma City Thunder for eight years.

“For me honestly getting back into the playoffs is more important,” Westbrook said. “Matchup and all that, I’ll figure out in the next couple days, but excited just with the matchup and just play and compete at a high level, which we haven’t probably played a series against each other. It’s probably the first I think? I don’t remember. So yeah, it’ll be good. Exciting.”

Durant has a record of 5-6 versus Westbrook in his career. The two future Hall of Famers will be under the spotlight during the Suns-Clippers series given their history together.

Kevin Durant Needs Chris Paul to Be Aggressive on Offense

After the Suns defeated the Denver Nuggets on April 6 at home, Durant told reporters that it’s “very important” for Chris Paul to be assertive on offense. CP3 scored 25 points versus the Nuggets while drilling a career-high seven 3-pointers.

“It’s very important,” Durant said. “We just need CP to read the game like he always been reading it since he was in college, high school. So whatever the game tells him to do, he gonna go out there and do it. Tonight, makes seven 3s, only two assists. We so used to him gettin’ close to double-digit assists every game, but it’s good when you’re unpredictable.”

One of the best point guards in NBA history, Paul averaged a career-low 13.9 points in 2022-23. However, the 37-year-old finished the season strong by averaging 21.0 points over his final three games.