My hope for this weekly space throughout the season is that I will be able to breakdown how and why a specific Suns player is doing what you’re already seeing by watching the games. I hope you’re seeing the same things as me in T.J. Warren, which I wrote about last week.
While Warren’s breakout has been nice (particularly his defensive improvements), Devin Booker made the process of choosing the newest Phoenix Suns Player of the Week quite easy. In four games this week, Devin Booker’s stats:
.474 FG/.360 3PT/.966 FT
Astounding, incredible, eye-popping, wonderful to watch. Right?
I’m not here to tell you any different, but I offer this: Does any of that matter? The numbers, I mean. Winning, losing, tying, whatever; this season was destined to be about more large-scale propositions than those. And in looking at the Suns’ 2-6 record from that vantage point, there are so many reasons to be excited. Devin Booker is Reason Number One (and yes I love that as a nickname as well. Print the jerseys.)
As Suns fans, we have been spoiled, hosting a two-time MVP and mind-bendingly gifted playmaker in our Valley for the better part of a decade. We all have more memories than we know what do with of Steve Nash stretching plays out with his forays under and around the basket, popping passes through legs and over heads, or pulling up from deep three-point range in transition. Yet I have always yearned for more.
Sure, it’s probably some psychological mechanism wherein my mind convinces itself that the grass is greener elsewhere, or something. Bah. I always wanted a traditional superstar. I think I’ve found him in Devin Booker.
Seeing the SSOL Suns teams break out amid an era of midrange bombing and post-ups a plenty was fun because those teams were basically the pride of the entire league outside of San Antonio and Los Angeles. They were also occasionally unfun in retrospect because they lacked the ingredient that generally trumps tactics or toughness: the traditional superstar.
The guy who immediately goes to work on mismatches; whose vision is unparalleled, release time immeasurable, passion unfiltered. The guy who wins games himself, but also supports the team on his way to victory. Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce. Devin Booker?
Now, I’m also not here to pretend that having a player who can add deep-shooting proficiency to that list isn’t more impactful, especially in today’s modern NBA. Devin Booker is not the same player as those midrange mavens of years gone by; he has a chance to be the focal point of an even more efficient offense, if he can get his struggles in check.
But when you can do this:
And also this:
At the shooting guard position, you give your team a nightly advantage.
Consecutively chopping up lower-tier teams is what great scorers do. However, Booker at this juncture also does a lot to the disadvantage of the Suns. It doesn’t take long to notice Booker’s weaknesses on the defensive end:
Even against a great screener like Timofey Mosgov, the young man has to be better at both alert movement and quick recovery. Learning defense at the NBA level is such a difficult task, but Booker does appear to have the athleticism and foot speed to time those movements correctly in the long-term.
He can stick with his man nicely in more simplified situations:
For now though, he sometimes cedes points as quickly as he scores them.
Again, it’s all about expectations, and they were low heading into the year for the Phoenix Suns. On an individual level, however, they were quite high for players like Devin Booker who were expected to make The Leap. After a fiery second week, it appears Reason Number One is well on his way to pole vaulting over the rest of the league and cementing himself as a modern version of the type of star Phoenix has never had.