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Devin Booker might need to hustle a bit more to shake his reputation

Booker ranks last in hustle stats minus turnovers among all NBA players last year.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Forget the very bad double-team debate.

The biggest knocks against Devin Booker being your best player is that he embodies a limited approach to the game of basketball on a big picture scale. Booker’s contributions to a basketball game are either incredibly excellent or non-existent.

Booker has clear and obvious strengths. He scores the ball and sets up teammates among the best in the entire league. Those contributions earned him a maximum contract extension worth at least $158 million over the next five years as the 22-year old approaches his prime.

But he’s not perfect.

According to some crack research by NBA fan and good Suns twitter follow Dom Tesoriero, who culled together some stats straight off into a handy dandy spreadsheet with net per-100-possessions impact calculation, Booker provides the worst “net possessions gained” ratio in a league of 363 players who played at least 500 minutes last season.

Formula used: (loose balls recovered + blocks + steals + charges drawn + offensive rebounds) — turnovers = net possessions gained.

Of course this calculation is a bit muddy when it comes to Booker. Playmakers like Booker are much more likely to commit turnovers — especially in Booker’s first year as a primary playmaker — and least likely of all to block shots, nab offensive rebounds or draw charges.

This analysis leans heavily to big men. Of the top 40 players in this possessions gained/lost stat, a whopping 36 of them are centers (though about 10 of those are only part-time small-ball centers).

The Suns’ own Deandre Ayton ranks 39th in the entire league with a plus-7 on this stat, but still comes in 34th among those listed by as centers. Knicks rookie center Mitchell Robinson ranks highest in the whole league with a plus-14, followed closely by Nerlens Noel with a plus-12.5.

So, sure, Booker’s going to be way down the list. But how far?

How about 363rd out of 363 (takes 500 minutes of playing time to qualify).

This stat won’t impact your opinion of Devin Booker as an NBA star. If you were skeptical of Booker, this only confirms that skepticism. If you’re a Devin Booker fan, there’s a million easy reasons to discount this analysis.

The very bottom of this list consists almost entirely of guards. Of the bottom 20, we see MVP candidates Kevin Durant and James Harden, Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams and point guard phenoms D’Angelo Russell and Trae Young plus other major rotation pieces with fresh big-money deals in their pockets. But none come close to Devin Booker in last place.

Still, you need to process this information with some context.

Only looking at guards

Among guards, the top of the list consists mostly of scrappy deep-bench guys while the bottom has most of the full-time starters. Guards don’t usually focus on offensive boards, blocks and drawing charges unless that’s their only way to stay on the court.

Look at who tops the list among guards — Shaquille Harrison, Delon Wright, Shawn Livingston, Hamidou Diallo, Pat Connaughton, and David Nwaba. Of those players, only Delon Wright has guaranteed money beyond this coming season, only Wright makes more than league minimum, and three of the six were let go by their team. None is a bona fide NBA starter.

Still, it’s good to have guys like this on your team. Many of these higher ranking guys are fan favorites, sometimes in the form of outsized pining after they’ve left for the back end of another team’s bench.

How do the Suns fare?

Let’s look at how the 2018-19 and 2019-20 Suns ranked on this list (those no longer with the team are crossed out):

  • Richaun Holmes — 19th overall
  • Aron Baynes — 31st
  • Cheick Diallo — 54th
  • Tyson Chandler — 66th
  • Deandre Ayton — 39th
  • Mikal Bridges — 105th
  • Kelly Oubre Jr. — 129th
  • Jevon Carter — 145th
  • De’Anthony Melton — 148th
  • T.J. Warren — 152nd
  • Tyler Johnson — 155th
  • Dario Saric — 156th
  • Dragan Bender — 194th
  • Trevor Ariza — 210th
  • Frank Kaminsky — 215th
  • Josh Jackson — 253rd
  • Isaiah Canaan — 310th
  • Ricky Rubio — 302nd
  • Elie Okobo — 336th
  • Jamal Crawford — 361st
  • Devin Booker — 363rd

Here’s how some former Suns faired last year for their new teams...

  • Derrick Jones Jr. — 21st overall
  • P.J. Tucker — 55th
  • Shaquille Harrison — 77th
  • Alex Len — 81st
  • Robin Lopez — 88th
  • Marcin Gortat — 92nd
  • Markieff Morris - 135th
  • Eric Bledsoe — 180th
  • Marcus Morris — 187th
  • Jared Dudley — 188th
  • Danuel House — 230th
  • Gerald Green — 232nd
  • Ish Smith — 260th
  • Brandon Knight — 300th
  • Goran Dragic — 315th

Others of note: Donovan Mitchell (293), LeBron James (309), Luka Doncic (324), Joe Ingles (337), Kevin Durant (345), James Harden (348).

Reported point guard targets of the Suns this past summer included Cory Joseph (141) and Terry Rozier (178) who rank higher on this list than most point guards, indicating James Jones was interested in pairing Booker with hustle guys.

Take from this what you will. I just thought it was interesting. Big thanks to Dom for doing all the work.

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