Devin Booker has always been the guy who lit up the score board, made the highlight reel, and then forgotten about 15 seconds later. His play-style is electric, he’s clutch, and respects the legends of the game. What is there not to like about Booker?
Well the knock on the 23-year old has been : “Does he help you win?”
For the longest time it was a fair question to ask. The Suns have consistently been bottom feeders since Booker was drafted in 2015, and have yet to ascend into relevancy. But in the year that is 2020, the Suns and Booker feel more relevant than ever.
His buzzer-beating, game-winning jumper over the outstretched arms of both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on Tuesday felt like a narrative changer.
BOOKER. CALLED. GAME. pic.twitter.com/50QtNzJU0O
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 4, 2020
“I was in the corner watching and probably watched it like 10 times in the room,” Ricky Rubio said. “The footwork is amazing. Just got goosebumps. It reminds me of Kobe Bryant, really, the footwork. That happened because he put a lot of work in. You can tell. Happy for him. He deserves it.”
Following their 117-115 win over the Los Angeles Clippers, the Phoenix Suns’ chances of making the playoffs went from 1 percent to 2 percent.
How is that a narrative changer? Well in the immediate, no so much.
The Suns had the worst odds of making it out of the bubble seeding games as a playoff team. But they have been defying the odds while in Disney, as they remain the only undefeated team left in the bubble.
Regardless of whether they overcome those seemingly overwhelming odds, the Suns’ performance during their seeding games is a good reminder of the potential that Booker and company have.
After dropping 35 on the Clippers, who are widely seen as title contenders, Booker is averaging 30.7 points since play resumed in July.
His season-long averages of 26.3 points, 6.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds puts him in an exclusive 7 man group of 23-year olds to put up those numbers.
Individual numbers have never been the problem for the Kentucky product, though. His team’s record has.
Following Tuesday’s win, Phoenix is up to a .293 winning percentage over the course of his career. That’s the worst mark in the league over that span.
However, that should be seen more as evidence of organizational issues than Booker’s shortcomings.
The Suns’ net points per 100 possessions has been better with the 23-year-old on the floor in each of the last four seasons. They’ve scored at least nine more points per 100 possessions with him on the floor compared to when he’s on the bench in three of those four seasons.
Now that the front office has started to surround him with intriguing talent, it feels like Phoenix is on the right track after wasting 4-years of Booker’s career.
DeAndre Ayton, while not being the best player from his loaded draft, appears to be a very good young player to pair with Booker. Ayton is averaging 18.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks on the year, despite his 25 game suspension.
The addition of veteran PG Ricky Rubio proved to be helpful to the young core. This season, when Booker and Ayton share the floor with steady veteran point guard Ricky Rubio, the Suns are plus-7.6 points per 100 possessions.
If the Suns bolster their supporting cast beyond Mikal Bridges, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cameron Johnson, the Suns should be primed for their first playoff appearance since the Steve Nash days.
For now the Suns continue to shock the world. On Sunday afternoon the Suns defeated the Miami Heat 119-112 behind Booker’s 35 points. That victory gave the Suns a perfect 5-0 record in the bubble. The odds remain extreme, but the Suns great play has them within 2 games of the 8 seed Memphis Grizzlies.
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