As All-Star reserves were announced Thursday evening, Devin Booker had no real shot at achieving his first appearance even amidst his best statistical season yet. Booker, who was sixth by players and media voting but tenth by fans for Western Conference guards, still hasn’t reached one of the summits of personal accolades yet after back-to-back legitimate arguments to be made.
What the trump card is for All-Star berths revolves around team success. Rarely does a bottom feeder produce All-Stars, and that’s just a proven fact. You could make an argument Orlando (Nikola Vucevic), Washington (Bradley Beal), Minnesota (Karl-Anthony Towns), and Detroit (Blake Griffin) qualify but they are still in the thick of their respective playoff races. With Phoenix, they’ve been out of the playoff race since sometime Halloween and Thanksgiving.
And sadly enough, no player on the Suns’ roster has even reached an All-Star game since Steve Nash in 2011-12. That Nash era ended almost a decade ago, which speaks to how far this once proud franchise has fallen off during this excruciatingly long rebuild attempt. In Year 4 of Booker’s career, he’s on pace to finish below 20 wins and have every year of his career so far feature Phoenix not winning at least 25.
Simply put, the Suns’ organization hasn’t been relevant since a blip in 2014 and haven’t been close so far in Booker’s career to no fault of his own. Booker has now had more teammates than Anthony Davis did during his four seasons in New Orleans after recently signing Emanuel Terry to a 10-day contract, which was an absurdly high number of 54.
Right now, the Suns’ record of 11-42 has them tied atop the reverse standings with Cleveland. Not the direction many were expecting after adding in young talent like Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges with two top-10 selections.
Eleven wins is one of the main factors, likely the only one needed, as to why Booker wasn’t really seriously considered as an All-Star. That overshadows the fact Booker is one of only three players averaging at least 24 points and 6.5 assists this season. Those other two are James Harden and LeBron James, so pretty good company.
If Booker had more competitive win-now talent around him to compete right now, or if Phoenix was moved to the Eastern Conference, he would’ve cracked the reserves list this year. When comparing Booker’s traditional and advanced metrics to Beal, another combo guard who’s potent from all three levels scoring, they are nearly identical. By the way, Beal is almost two and a half years older than Booker.
Devin Booker: 24.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 6.7 assists; 57.2 TS%, 18.9 PER, 34 AST%, 32.2 USG%, 3.3 OBPM
Bradley Beal: 24.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.1 assists; 57 TS%, 19.6 PER, 22.7 AST%, 28.3 USG%, 3 OBPM
As you can see, you really wouldn’t be able to tell if they were instead labeled Player A and Player B. Really, the only tangible difference here is that Beal is helping carry a John Wall-less Wizards squad to being 2.5 games out of the 8th seed while Booker is on one of the worst teams in the league with 11 wins.
If the Suns were competitive, this wouldn’t be an issue for Booker. Moving forward into his $158 million max extension, it’s on the Suns to further develop all of this young talent surrounding Booker while also adding more pieces that can help them win right away.
Booker is an All-Star talent putting up undeniable All-Star numbers, but Phoenix has been unable to flip the switch to competing for the playoffs.
The only players in NBA history to average at least 24 points and 6.5 assists in their first four seasons since 2000 are Dwyane Wade (3x), LeBron James (2x), Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard, and Booker if he maintains his current production. Outside of Booker, everyone else was an All-Star but also consistently put on the pedestal of All-NBA lists.
Instead of making $3.3 million next season, Booker’s salary will rise up to $27.3 million and continue escalating through 2023-24. It’s time for the Suns to take advantage of Booker’s star potential and finally flip the script in the Valley to competing for playoff seeding.
Winning changes everything, and someone of Booker’s caliber shouldn’t continue to miss out on personal accolades due to organizational failings around him.