Contrary to what some national media members want to tell you, Devin Booker cares more about wins than his point totals. He is currently in a situation where all of the offense runs through him now at overdrive, but it doesn’t matter when opposing teams can’t guard him and ends up going for 40-50 points along the way.
This week, down four key contributors then also losing Deandre Ayton for the 16th and final quarter of action, Booker was marvelous. He averaged 52.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists on a 73.1 true shooting percentage.
Nope, that wasn’t Booker picking up his Xbox controller and playing as himself in NBA 2K, but actual real life production where nobody on the Jazz, Wizards and Grizzlies were capable of containing him.
And putting this virtuoso three-game performance into another perspective, Booker’s combined points and assists directly contributed to 61.6 percent of their offense (202/328 total points). That’s an astronomically high rate of having to produce everything for an offense.
However, some want to continue to place the blame on Booker for some reason.
At only 22 years old, the Suns’ star is taking the level up to superstar post-All-Star break posting nearly identical numbers to MVP candidate James Harden over that span.
“How about go for a win? How about go for one stop at any point of your career,” said Washington Post’s national NBA writer Ben Golliver on SI’s Open Floor podcast after Booker’s second 50-point explosion.
Detractors are running out of things to say about Booker.
The old that narratives continue to be thrown Booker’s way are asinine and nonsensical nowadays. The “empty stats/bad team player” label still gets thrown out there from time to time from people who don’t pay attention to the Phoenix Suns — with how the last four years have gone in the Valley, trust me, I don’t blame you — but it goes to show you who actually is paying attention to the growth process currently ongoing.
Gone are the days of comparing Booker to J.R. Smith and Monta Ellis, but some want to continue to hold onto old feelings.
Good friend Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer has always been on the smarter side of the fence with his Booker takes, and his point hits the nail on the head really.
It’s time to stop the “Devin Booker is a good stats/bad team player” nonsense. It’s an asinine take. Booker is playing an absurd role by necessity and still excelling as a versatile scorer while making immense progress as a playmaker. It just so happens he’s on a bad, young team. https://t.co/VIxlg9juK5— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) March 31, 2019
What some won’t tell you is that Booker blitzed the Grizzlies Saturday to the tune of 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting at the end of the first quarter. They also won’t tell you that the Suns were actually leading by 15 when Booker was doing his most damage.
Booker has always had to carry a well below-average team on his back since his quick ascension to the franchise player, but this current iteration with injuries ravaging them is the wrong time to take unnecessary jabs.
In the last three games where Booker has totaled 157 points, the on/off splits when he’s not out there are terrifying. But, like Suns fans already know far too well by now, that image will be twisted into asking the question whether Booker’s statistics contribute to winning or not.
OffRtg with Booker this week: 114.9 points per 100 possessions
OffRtg without Booker this week: 64.8 points per 100 possessions
So, Booker has to literally go for 50 on most nights right now for the Suns to even stay competitive when the lineups surrounding him are rookies plus Dragan Bender and Jamal Crawford. Seriously, Phoenix was 50.1 points worse when Booker had to take a breather versus Utah, Washington and Memphis.
Burying those “stat chasing” narratives once and for all on Saturday, Booker wasn’t gunning for 50 for a third consecutive game. Nope, he instead tried to make the smart reads to wide-open shooters trying to spark a late comeback. In the final 2:30 of regulation, Booker attempted just one shot, which he made to get to 48 points. The rest of those possessions were him spreading the wealth around to the likes of Josh Jackson, Mikal Bridges and Bender, which ended up backfiring.
Yes, Booker could’ve been selfish and tried his hardest to push for 50 in the final moments but he restrained himself. That showed me something I already knew, but maybe what others around the league didn’t: Booker’s sole priority is winning. He could care less whether he scores 15 or 50.
Booker is at the stage of his career where he’s said on multiple occasions he doesn’t care about personal accolades. The Suns’ star would sacrifice those marks to make drastic team improvements moving forward.
Let's end this "empty stats/bad team player" national debate related to Devin Booker once and for all. Over the last 2:30 of last night's game, Booker attempted one shot when he was sitting at 46 points as he was going for the win. pic.twitter.com/Il4GVkAZql— Evan Sidery (@esidery) March 31, 2019
On a night where Booker scored or assisted on 75 of the Suns’ 115 points in a close loss, he helped further cement why some of these takes you see around the internet are blasphemous.
The World Wide Web might be running out of proverbial bullets to shoot, though, because Booker continues to easily break through limits set on him. Since the All-Star break, the 22-year-old is averaging 32.6 points and 7 assists on a 73.1 (!!) true shooting percentage.
Very soon, some pundits are going to be begin to look foolish as the Suns construct a winning roster around Booker’s strengths. Right now, they have the foundation set with Deandre Ayton, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Bridges, but there’s still plenty of work to do from a team building perspective, which makes the 2019 offseason one of upmost importance.
Ironically enough, back in the 2014-15 season, there were takes arguing whether Harden was a future MVP or just throwing up inflated stats with super high usage. Four years later, Harden is on a quest to go for back-to-back MVP awards while averaging 36.4 points and 7.5 assists.
Don’t worry, I have the receipts of takes spanning back from after Booker’s 70-point game in Boston two years ago. In due time, Booker will help collect them and pay some big dividends to those who have actually paid attention throughout his career.