Lost in the shadows of Devin Booker not cracking the All-Star reserve list due to win-loss records mattering more than individual numbers, the infamous streak of All-Star-less seasons is continuing for Phoenix.
The previous era of Suns basketball led by Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, and the rest of the 7 Seconds or Less squad was renowned for consistent team success. With that brought more individual honors on top of yearly playoff appearances.
However, that feeling has started to vanish out of thin air recently in the Valley. No player in a Suns uniform has earned an All-Star nod since Nash, which in other words was a long time ago. Spreading it out even further, the last duo from Phoenix to earn this achievement was Nash and Stoudemire in the 2009-10 season.
Will that be changing here soon with Devin Booker entering his max extension while Deandre Ayton, the Suns’ first No. 1 pick in franchise history, continues to get more comfortable on this level? It’s certainly possible, and for this rebuild attempt to end up a success, it has to be a formality at this point.
With the pure talent stored up between these two, there’s no denying Booker and Ayton could be playing in the game on Sunday instead of other weekend festivities starting next year in Chicago.
Capping off Suns-related All-Star events, Ayton had 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists in 22 minutes of the USA vs. World Rising Stars Challenge while Booker scored 23 first round points but was unable to defend his 3-Point Contest crown as his first round exit led to Brooklyn’s Joe Harris winning it for the first time.
However, we shouldn’t be seeing Booker or Ayton relegated to these pre-Sunday All-Star events moving forward. If the Suns’ front office is able to properly construct a consistent contender around their inside-out combo of Booker and Ayton, there’s no reason why both shouldn’t be in the true headlining event in some capacity throughout the 2020s.
Even though both are still well ahead of hitting their primes, Booker (22) and Ayton (20) have already been established as the new hope of Phoenix.
Booker is joined only by James Harden and LeBron James for players averaging 24 points and 6.5 assists this season. That’s some impressive company with two former MVP winners and well-known ambassadors of the game.
Meanwhile, Ayton is the third rookie this millennium to average at least 16.5 points and 10.5 rebounds alongside Blake Griffin and Karl-Anthony Towns. And if we want to zoom out over the last 25 years, those three impressive bigs followed similar production from Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Dikembe Mutombo, Larry Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Tim Duncan.
The foundation has been fortified for Phoenix to finally rise out from the proverbial ashes of irrelevancy led by these two young up-and-coming stars, but the on-court product will have to flip from 11-48 at the All-Star break to hovering right around .500 every season after this one.
Who knows, maybe the Suns will need that third future All-Star for the latter two to be recognized even further (*cough Zion Williamson cough*), but it’s hard to deny the train is finally heading in the right direction even with another season of constant losing already in motion.
Building a winner can be tough, but with the 22-year-old Booker and 20-year-old Ayton playing side-by-side, it’s time to pounce on the opportunity these two players have provided with a future window to compete within.