With Devin Booker’s second season in the books for the Phoenix Suns, he is ready to have his best season in 2017-2018. Scoring 13.8 points in his first season, that averaged jumped up to 22.1 at age 20. Now he didn’t do it at the most efficient clip shooting 42.3 percent, but the offense mainly ran through him and a lot of his shots coming from mid-range. In an offense that doesn’t have the most play makers, adding the correct pieces that compliment Booker’s game should be the number one priority for the organization going forward.
Booker has shown the ability to take over whenever he wants. All in this past season, he led the NBA with six 20 point quarters and two 27 point quarters. He led the league in both categories. When he gets hot, he is one of the toughest players to guard.
Speaking of the human blow torch, Booker had the most impressive individual outing of 2016-17, late in the season, putting up 70 points in Boston on an efficient 21-40 shooting and 24-26 from the free throw line. Not only did he put up 51 in the second half of the game (Suns franchise record), 14 of his points came in the last two minutes of the game. Hitting crazy threes, mid-range shots, and posting up, he was on another stratosphere. Tom Chamber’s record of 60 points was surpassed, along with 28 coming in the final quarter, another Phoenix Suns record. Even the Celtics crowd was rooting him on as they all witnessed history, the highest scoring game since Kobe scored 81 on Toronto in 2006. There are only 11 performances in NBA history of 70 point games.
Proving Scouts Wrong
Kyle Ratke, a web editor for the Minnesota Timberwolves, had this to say about Devin Booker: “Booker can shoot. And the good news for him is that his role in the NBA shouldn’t change from what it was at Kentucky. He’ll be used as a shooter. He can’t really create his own shot (something NBA teams have asked him about), but he has the ability to spot up and shoot or come off screens.”
His game has elevated to being an all around player on offense. Booker is not the best athlete but he makes up for it by being able to slide into the paint for post ups, floaters, fade-aways and knocking down shots off the glass. That is a part of his game he has improved on a lot, a trend I expect to see Booker exploit more in the 2017-2018 season in order to create more pressure on the defense and raise his field goal percentage.
One of Booker’s best traits is making big shots when the game is on the line. He led the league with two buzzer beaters on the season, both coming on the road (Sacramento, Dallas). When the game is up for grabs, you know he is going to get the ball. According to FanRag, “the league defines clutch situations as five-point games (trailing or tied) with five minutes to go. There, Booker is tied with C.J. McCollum for fourth in total points (90) behind DeMarcus Cousins, Russell Westbrook and Eric Bledsoe.” Every time he has the ball in his hands in late game situations, you know he is going to hit the shot because he is fearless.
Steadily, Booker has improved as a passer as the season went on and it’s an area of his game he will continue to build on. In March and April he dished out 4.8 assists a game compared to 2.9 during the previous five months of the season. Along with that, his numbers should continue to go up with more development of their young players on the roster. Earl Watson gave him more freedom towards the end of the season to run the offense.
A part of Booker’s game that needs to progress is his defense. Having the ability to affect the game in another way is the difference from good and great players. In the simplest of assignments he will get locked in on another guy and forget about his own man. One example is backdoor cuts, which has a lot to do with awareness and spacing. He posted one of the worst defensive efficiency ratings in the league with 110, good for 404th in the NBA. With small adjustments he will become a better and smarter defender.
Booker did have a good amount of chase down blocks during this past season so there is light at the end of the tunnel. Some of them coming after bad turnovers like in this clip against the Pelicans.
There have been comparisons between Devin Booker and Kobe Bryant because of their work ethic to want to be the best. He said he learned from Kobe to “never set a limit for himself,” and how that always sticks in his head, this is exactly what you want from a young player. Booker was the youngest player ever to record 16 straight 20 point performances and is one of the five players in NBA history to average at least 21 points per game at the age of 20 (according to Basketball Reference).
Now, nobody is saying Devin Booker is Kobe Bryant because that is just ludicrous in its own right, but it for sure has influenced the game for Booker. Its good for the NBA that he is trying to model his career after Kobe.
Overall, Devin Booker is a good player on a rebuilding team. He is in a good spot considering it will take him a couple more years to shape his game before Phoenix could contend. With more experience, his numbers will go up and with that, he will be a more consistent player. It’s a lot to ask a 20 year old to be the best player on the team, but he looks like a franchise player that can lead this Suns team to something special in the future.