Before this season began, a lot of narratives were being thrown around the NBA community about Devin Booker. We have seen labels much along the lines of inefficient shot-chucker and having the audacity to compare him to names such as Donovan Mitchell on Twitter, who just entered the league with Utah.
From my point of view, I never understood it.
Before this season, I wasn’t around the team as much as I am now, but the burden of the offensive workload a 20-year-old had to carry was steep, but he flashed all-around potential in small doses that got the Phoenix fanbase excited. He obviously has management bought-in, too, because he’s well on his way to inking a max contract extension this summer after trading Eric Bledsoe freed up more room to do such a move.
With the likely face of the franchise in place, general manager Ryan McDonough now needs to construct a roster built around the strengths of Booker.
They hope Josh Jackson and Dragan Bender become long, rangy guys that could switch on and off wings while Marquese Chriss could be an explosive rim protector, the potential of that happening is there but that’s long ways down the line to have around possibly an elite, generational scoring talent at shooting guard. First, McDonough will finally need to cash in his hoard of assets this summer or around February’s trade deadline for one of those final pieces towards long-term contention.
Heading into his third season, when names that become known league-wide usually take the big step in their developments, Booker knew he had to work on his all-around craft. As he has mentioned to the media this season, he spent some days in the summer focusing solely on defense when he entered the facility and it’s showing in the first 15 games.
For example, in likely Phoenix’s best win on Saturday against Minnesota when Booker and T.J. Warren combined for 70 points, he was assigned to Jimmy Butler a fair amount holding his own. Butler still finished above 20 points, but most of it came at the foul line.
Booker is taking on the all-around challenge and has seemingly lived up to the expectations of someone who just turned 21 a few weeks ago with this workload, especially now without a legitimate starting point guard.
And the numbers are backing up that Booker is in the process of taking his jump toward elite status sooner than many expect.
When putting his current stat line and efficiency into perspective, only a 20 and 21-year-old Kevin Durant put up similar numbers through an entire 82-game ringer at this young of an age.
Over his last 12 games under interim head coach Jay Triano and being the lead guard with Bledsoe now in Milwaukee after he was sent packing a few weeks prior, Booker has been putting up some eye-popping numbers when ran through the NBA stats database. Even when you include the first three, Booker still is all by his lonesome in terms of age and who he is surrounded by in the category.
I put in a threshold of 22 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists while carrying a 45-35-85 shooting split and the results caught me by surprise, to say the least. Alongside Booker, only Golden State’s potent superstar duo of Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant joined him.
Devin Booker, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant are the only players currently averaging above 22-4-4 with a minimum 45-35-85 shooting split. Safe to say we're seeing Booker take that jump to becoming an elite offensive player.— Evan Sidery (@esidery) November 14, 2017
That is certainly some elite and rather lonely company to be around already with Booker only in his third year as a pro. This shows the massive potential that Phoenix has with an offense centered around their young, dynamic scoring dynamo of a 2-guard.
For this pattern’s sake, without Booker having a ball-dominant point alongside him at the moment, let's say he continues his current trend in a Triano-led offense. With that being said, we could be in for a historic year if these numbers are maintained.
Post-Bledsoe: 24.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.9 apg, 46.8-39.5-91.4 (47-40-91 rounded) shooting splits, plus-minus +0.1, 59.9 TS%, 53.7 efg%
For someone this young to be putting up these types of numbers is bonkers, and the only names to put up a similar line over the past decade are as follows: Kobe Bryant (1x), Kawhi Leonard (1x), James Harden (1x), Curry (2x), Durant (6x).
Even if Booker maintains his current 15-game averages of 23-4-4 and shoots 44% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc, he would be the youngest ever to do so.
Names over past 20 years to do it multiple seasons: Curry (5x), Durant (5x), Harden (3x), LeBron James (3x), Kobe Bryant (2x), Ray Allen (2x), Tracy McGrady (2x)
If Devin Booker maintains his averages of 22-4-4 and shoot 44% FG + 36% 3PT he would be the youngest ever to do so.— Evan Sidery (@esidery) November 13, 2017
Names over past 20 years to do it multiple seasons: Curry (5x), Durant (5x), Harden (3x), LeBron (3x), Kobe (2x), Allen (2x), McGrady (2x)
All of those players, sans Booker, are already or on the way to first-ballot Hall of Fame status, and a 21-year-old is already placing himself alongside them. I would say this is a rather special offensive talent that the Suns have stumbled upon in the 2015 draft at No. 13 overall.
These numbers aren’t just box score filler either for Phoenix’s top scoring option since the second half of his rookie season. He’s doing it not only efficiently now, but in the clutch, it maintains itself there as well.
Booker is currently alongside Anthony Davis, Kristaps Porzingis, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and, ironically, his teammate Warren for players with TS% 58>, EFG% 54>, and a player impact estimate (PIE) 13> age 24-and-under. Booker and Warren also have the best offensive ratings out of the five others mentioned in clutch-time scenarios each eclipsing 130.0.
Again, some top-notch talent Booker is already putting himself next to already but yet this has been totally swept under the rug nationally. Unless the Suns surprise this season, it will likely be a Phoenix-only thing, but it shouldn’t be.
The jump is happening in front of our very eyes with Booker, and it’s a promising development that he’s making this type of mark already in the NBA.
Compare his third year to his previous two and you see that the efficiency is starting to come around for Booker while working on adding more to his all-around arsenal on both ends.
I think it’s safe to say that Booker might not be overrated, but he just might be vastly underrated now at the moment.
Note: league-wide stats are included from 10/17-11/14