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Jay Triano’s late-game decision to go Point Booker paid dividends

The Suns might have just found their go-to closing lineup since Devin Booker’s return. Putting your best player around shooters usually ends well historically, too.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

During Friday night’s contested win out in Sacramento, Jay Triano made a decision that swung the game back in the Suns’ favor once T.J. Warren went cold after carrying the offense through three quarters. Devin Booker at one point had only 11 points midway through the fourth quarter but still finished with 26.

Simply put, that’s just what great scorers do.

However, Booker was aided by the inclusion of Troy Daniels, who filled in his role admirably over a 9-game stretch in his absence averaging 14.3 points on 44.3-percent shooting from deep. After doing so once again Friday, Booker has now scored 25 or more 13 times in his 27 appearances so far this season, which continues to show the jump the 21-year-old guard has taken in his third year as an elite three level scorer.

Speaking of which, Booker is right alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in terms of guards in the entire league shooting as efficiently as he is from all three levels of the floor (restricted area, mid-range, 3-point).

That usually goes on to some consistent not only All-Star but All-NBA level of production consistently. The only players over the past 15 seasons to put up similar numbers multiple times are LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Dwyane Wade. Those names are in some rare air indeed and shows the rapid trajectory Booker’s offense, plus a feather in his NBA cap as a possible franchise carrier, is heading towards.

What gives James, Durant, and Harden room to succeed is the space provided to them on the floor. As currently constructed, Phoenix has no one consistent who can provide 20-30 minutes every game other than Daniels. Sliding Booker into a point guard role late in games allows him the ball in his hands, which would happen on almost every possession anyway in crunch time.

The first step toward this possible long-term idea down the line was taken against the Kings as the Booker-Daniels combo absolutely thrived late. In their five minutes together, the advanced numbers are staggering.

2-man lineup of Booker-Daniels: OffRtg = 154.2, DefRtg = 45.7, NetRtg = 108.5

If this combo is able to provide consistent man defense moving forward — as both have shown flashes of improvement there over the past month — a lineup involving them needs to be seen more often outside of late-game situations. Either way, Triano now has his go-to unit when the game is on the line or if he needs the lead to be ballooned into double digits against an inferior team.either way, Triano now has his go-to unit when the game is on the line or if he needs the lead to be ballooned into double digits against an inferior team.

What gives this lineup involving Booker and Daniels even more intrigue might not be explored for another few weeks, though. Davon Reed, who was assigned to the NAZ Suns for his rehab and eventual return from meniscus surgery, could provide Booker, even more, room to cut to the rim or dice up slow-footed defenders in one-on-one situations consistently.

In Summer League, Reed averaged 13 points and while at Miami (FL) for his 4-year stint, he shot nearly 40-percent from behind the arc while providing unique measurables to become a consistent 3-and-D contributor immediately on a roster. As general manager Ryan McDonough said recently, Reed, if all goes well, could be back after the NAZ Suns’ road trip, which would slate his debut around mid-January.

Moving forward, adding more pieces like Daniels should be explored by McDonough and Co. this offseason via all avenues this upcoming offseason. Booker’s game would expand even more with having more lanes to create not only for himself but others.

That is what allowed Harden’s offense to blossom upon his arrival in Houston because Daryl Morey orchestrated a roster filled to the brim with plus shooters from the perimeter. Furthermore, it was safe for the former Arizona State Sun Devil to get his shot from anywhere on the floor even easier while carrying the offense.

Once the roster looked like a possible one-piece-away-from-a-title sort of team, Chris Paul was intrigued to the point of chasing rings there. This new-age idea with the pace-and-space era is also a surefire of constructing a championship contending roster anyways if done correctly, as Golden State has shown to use multiple times already during their reign.

As Booker continues to display so far in Year 3 and will continue to moving forward, he is an elite offensive weapon already in this league at 21-years-old. Experimenting with him in a similar Harden role before more help comes in 2018 from somewhere seems like a logical option, as he has proven to handle his high-end usage flawlessly thus far.

Phoenix will continue to move forward, boasting a 10-4 record in games decided by 10 points or less when Devin Booker plays under Jay Triano (what a flip from prior, right?), the arrows are pointing up as a January schedule featuring matchups against the Spurs, Thunder, Rockets, and Pacers will prove a mighty test for these young Suns led by Booker and the resurgent Daniels, a duo that would not have happened without Reed going down before training camp in the first place.

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