In what can only be described as one of the most grievous offenses against basketball journalism this offseason, Sports Illustrated, yes that Sports Illustrated, is calling Devin Booker of your Phoenix Suns the 50th best player in the NBA.
Here is what the once-proud publication had to say about the absolutely, unquestioned, without-a-doubt surefire future Hall of Famer:
The Suns have thrown every conceivable monkey wrench at Booker (24.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 4.7 APG) during his three seasons: changing coaches, trading away veterans, tanking for months, and whiffing on high draft picks. The 21-year-old shooting guard has responded in admirable fashion, improving his overall efficiency and becoming one of the highest-scoring young prospects in recent memory. Indeed, only four active players averaged more points than Booker during their age-21 seasons: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Karl-Anthony Towns. By forking over a five-year, $158 million extension this summer, Phoenix is betting that Booker can follow in that group’s All-Star footsteps and lift his team’s 30th-ranked offense to far greater potency.
The Kentucky product still needs to prove he’s worthy of his Drake namecheck on “Sicko Mode,” largely because he plays with pick-up game intensity on the defensive end. Phoenix has had a worse defensive rating with Booker on the court than with him off the court in each of his three seasons, and he ranked outside the NBA’s top 200 players by Real Plus-Minus in 2017-18. If he played one-on-one against himself, the game would continue for hours because he would never get a stop. If he played for a better team, he would be hunted mercilessly in the playoffs. With Deandre Ayton and Trevor Ariza arriving to help stabilize and legitimize the Suns, it’s time for Booker to fully commit to leading a downtrodden franchise back to respectability. While Booker reportedly underwent hand surgery this week, the injury did not impact his Top 100 ranking because he’s not expected to miss a significant portion of the regular season.
Wow. Were it not for that last line we might be able to forgive SI for ranking Book so low because of the right hand injury that’s been lingering since March.
If you don’t click on this article, which you should, here’s some info to compare Book’s ranking against. Derrick Favors of the Utah Jazz is No. 51. Eric Gordon of the Houston Rockets is No. 49. And here are the players who came in at No. 50 in previous years:
2017 - Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
2016 - CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
2015 - Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs
2014 - Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans
2013- Nikola Pekovic, Minnesota Timberwolves
To be fair, SI is moving Booker up its list. Heading into last season, they had him at 64. The year before he was No. 100. But No. 50 for a guy who is absolutely, positively, without question going to be named an All-Star more often than not for the next two decades and probably lead the Suns to, I don’t know, five championships (!) is just absurd. Smarten up. Here’s the full list again.
I don’t have the patience to discuss Donovan Mitchell.