At the end of last season, Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker told media that this would the last time he doesn’t make the playoffs. Even back then, that claim felt tough to back up just because of the competition in the Western Conference and how much of an unfinished product the Suns were.
Fast forward to last Monday and Booker lit up the Utah Jazz for 59 points, only for the team to lose by 33. Last Wednesday the Suns lost by three points to Wizards with Booker showing up once again, scoring 50.
Imagine you have one of your best performances at your job but the situation around you drags your amazing performance into the dirt. Anyone would be rightfully upset in that situation. Now, after both games, Booker did all the right things and said all the right words as the leader of the team to the media. However, as I was on Twitter scouting out new Avengers Endgame theories, I saw ESPN First Take post a video with the question being should Booker demand a trade. That got me thinking about the chances Booker does do exactly that.
Now, I believe Booker genuinely loves Phoenix, not loves as in I love the city while I play here but actually cares for Phoenix. Booker was taken with the 13th overall pick and he was the sixth man on a stacked Kentucky team. Each year, Booker improves and keeps raising the bar on how great he can be, a shock since no one really thought he’d be this good, this quick. In October of 2017, before he signed his contract, Booker told AzCentral Sports that he loves this city and that he’s been treated right since he’s been drafted.
“The city of Phoenix took me in with open arms and made me a part of their family,” Booker said. “I’ve learned the history and traditions of the team. I know how much the city cares about the franchise and that means a lot to me, playing somewhere where people actually care about the franchise. I love it here, I bought a house here and I intend to be here for a long time.”
While Devin has exploded into a star, the Suns have failed to get out of the NBA cellar. This year being no different with the Suns nearing the bottom of the standings. While the injuries and lack of decent point guard play can only justify so much, there’s no excuse for the Suns to have another bad season next year. Booker is entering the prime of his career and he has to capitalize on it but the Suns have failed to do so.
From ineffective coaching to bad draft / personnel decisions, Booker has been stuck on an island that many top players have been forced onto. This failure by teams to provide their stars with the talent necessary to win isn’t new, we just recently saw Anthony Davis demand a trade because of this. Some stars decide to ride it out and show loyalty to the team that drafted them and more recently, some choose to leave that island for greener pastures.
With how poorly the Suns have been since drafting Booker, can you blame him if he had questions of winning here? Can Suns fans blame him if he decided to want out of Phoenix in order to win?
Booker is a great player that feels like he’s on the verge of superstardom, he can definitely win a title as the star of a team. It’s just tough to trust the Suns organization to build that team around him. This is a team that had three starting-caliber point guards on one team in 2014 and by 2017 they were all traded and hasn’t had a winning record since 2014.
Though losing has been the recent trend in Phoenix, it feels like that might change soon. The team has shown life at times this season to be a consistent competitor and have a solid core to build around. Combo guard Tyler Johnson and forward Kelly Oubre Jr. gave a dose of veteran leadership and accountability to a team that desperately needed it. With a new general manager (maybe) coming soon and if the team could get lucky in the lottery, the Suns could perhaps turn this whole ship around.
Do I think Booker would demand a trade if the Suns played poorly next season? It’s tough to say honestly. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does with the reason being he’s trying to win championships and become an all-time great player. Back in 2018, Booker said to Cronkite News that he’s trying to build his own legacy and be the best. But Devin also seems extremely loyal to Phoenix, he’s never talked about leaving the city or has demanded a trade. He also just signed a five year extension with the team worth about $158 million. He doesn’t have to make that decision now and wait to see how this core turns out.
I think with the Suns are heading the right direction and they can make big strides this season if luck is on their side. With a high draft pick, the Suns could potentially end with either Zion Williamson or Ja Morant, both players who could make an immediate impact. However, if the team continues to play like it did against the Jazz, leaving might be his best option.