A list of the top 100 NBA players entering the 2017-18 season is among the top 100 ideas for offseason content. A list compiling those lists might not crack the aforementioned list, though.
The Crossover, brought you by Sports Illustrated, had two members of the Phoenix Suns on their list. Try and guess one of them before you scroll down. Think real hard. You have a large monitor so you can already see the picture, can’t you?
That’s right. Devin Armani Booker at #64. Sez SI:
In just his second season, Booker (22.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.4 APG) proved that he has already mastered the art of volume scoring, becoming the first age-20 player to average 22 points since Kyrie Irving in 2013 and dumping in an absurd 70-point performance against the Celtics that stands as the highest total scored by any active player. However, the rest of Booker’s portfolio—scoring efficiency, playmaking for others, defense, winning—still needs considerable work. Phoenix’s rising shooting guard finished outside the top 100 in PER and outside the top 200 in three other major advanced statistical categories (Win Shares, Real Plus-Minus and WARP).
Booker, much like Andrew Wiggins at this time last year, is far better and more tantalizing in theory than in practice. While he’s clearly talented, fresh and exciting, his shiny scoring exploits are dimmed by his ultra-green light and by the fact that he’s yet to play in a meaningful game because his team is so bad. Once Booker evolves into a more complete player and transforms Phoenix into a respectable team, he will be fully worthy of the hype many have already bestowed upon him.
Too high? Too low? The five players in front of Booker:
- George Hill, Sacramento Kings
- Trevor Ariza, Houston Rockets
- Ricky Rubio, Utah Jazz
- Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans
- J.J. Redick, Philadelphia 76ers
Cracking the top-40 at number 38 was Eric Bledsoe of “dunk on your wife challenge” fame.
When evaluating Bledsoe’s résumé, it’s important to remember that his time with the Suns has done him no favors. Phoenix has yet to put the right kinds of complementary talent around their lead guard. Many of his most notable teammates of late have been far too young, merely of age to figure out the league while Bledsoe is trying to win. Others have been useful, albeit past their prime. The best have played the same position, forcing Bledsoe and other point guards to split roles and responsibilities—sometimes awkwardly. Bledsoe took those inopportune circumstances and churned out regularly terrific numbers (21.1 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 6.3 APG) in spite of them, bringing one to wonder what he might be capable of in a more functional environment.
What we know is that Bledsoe is forceful enough to produce but limited enough to need help. One can understand some of what the Suns were going for when they attempted to pair Bledsoe with another point guard, given that Bledsoe isn’t quite equipped to be a ball-dominant playmaker. Supplementary creators—like, for example, Devin Booker—would only help. Pare down some of Bledsoe’s responsibilities and the rest of his game turns razor sharp. His drives are even tougher to stop against a tilted defense. His pull-up game works that much more effectively when there are other threats on the floor. And the less that Bledsoe has to do offensively, the more he can hurl himself headlong into challenging defensive matchups, the kind which a nimble guard with a power forward build is uniquely equipped to handle.
The five players in front of Bled:
- Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
- Demar Derozan, Toronto Raptors
- Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
- Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat
- Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks
Get to arguing.
Here's ESPN's NBARank for Nos. 51-75 with an explanation on the process to determine rankings: https://t.co/5AltXDVKb0— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) September 12, 2017
Sergio Dipp’s employer was a little higher on Book. Sez ESPN:
Only four players in NBA history -- LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Shaquille O'Neal and Kyrie Irving -- averaged more points as a 20-year-old than Booker did last season as he pumped in 22.1 points per game. Despite the historic scoring for a player his age, Booker actually slipped 14 spots in our rankings. If you're wondering why, defense is a good place to start. Booker ranked near the bottom among shooting guards in Defensive Real Plus-Minus last season.
The five players ESPN has in front of Booker:
- Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs
- Harrison Barnes, Dallas Mavericks
- Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
- Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee Bucks
- Robert Covington, Philadelphia 76ers
Jemele Hill’s employer was also higher on Bledsoe, ranking the forgotten Sun at number 37.
In four seasons in Phoenix, Bledsoe has averaged more than 18 points, six assists and four rebounds, making him one of nine players to reach those marks over that span. Bledsoe is the only one of that group who has not made an All-Star team. He's coming off a season in which he set career highs in PPG, RPG, APG, player efficiency rating and usage rate while also posting the lowest turnover rate of his career.
This last one happened a couple of weeks ago, but just in case you missed it, here’s the assessment from NBA2K18 on the top ten shooting guards in the Association.
I’m unsure of how good an “85” is and where that would place Booker among the rest of the NBA. If you know, share. The offseason should be for learning.
Don’t worry, Phoenix training camp is nearly here. The Suns will be in Flagstaff starting Tuesday, September 26th. Camp will run through Friday, September 29th. Preseason play tips on October 3rd, and the regular season begins October 18th. Hang in there.