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Walking Down Memory Lane: The best of Devin Booker’s Suns teammates

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When naming “best of” teammates, tongue must be firmly implanted in cheek.

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NBA: Toronto Raptors at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This week, Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker was simultaneously complimented and indirectly insulted by renowned and respected NBA writer David Aldridge.

After naming Kyle Lowry to the team for the reason that Lowry’s play leads to team success, Aldridge included Booker and Bradley Beal among his All-Star reserves because “guys on bad teams can still have great seasons”.

This is absolutely true, of course, and Suns fans surely agree that Booker should not be held accountable for the terrible team around him. Once derided as a “looter in a riot” for racking up stats on a bad team, Booker is setting career highs on a much better team; one with a point differential (14th at -0.2 net rating) that would put them among playoff teams if they could have just won some more of their close games.

But Booker’s Suns will casually be called a “bad team” for a long time, at least until they make the playoffs again, because they have certainly been one of the worst-run franchises in the league for past decade.

We just can’t hold that against Booker. He’s been surrounded by players that have... how shall I put this... been put in positions larger than they could handle. And sometimes, given “veteran mentors” who checked out mentally even before the season began.

Today, let’s take a stroll down memory lane to check on some of my favorite former teammates of Booker, what they were expected to do in Phoenix, and what they’ve done since leaving.

Sure, Booker has had a sprinkle of solid, starting caliber NBA talent around him since he was drafted prior to the 2015-16 season. T.J. Warren (4 seasons) is starting for the 31-17 Indiana Pacers. Eric Bledsoe (2 seasons with Booker) is starting for Finals contender Milwaukee Bucks. P.J. Tucker (1.5 seasons) is starting for perennial playoff Houston Rockets.

For those counting, that’s three players over four seasons of Booker’s career that are worthy of starting in an NBA playoff game. None are All Stars. In fact, none better than a team’s 5th-best starter, but they are solid players nonetheless.

Unfortunately, it takes 10 players to fill out a single-game rotation and the for every TJ/Bled/Tucker there were 5-10 guys who just didn’t belong in an NBA rotation at all.

Here are a few former Suns rotation players that had a direct negative impact on Booker’s NBA career.


Marcus Morris

  • Role the Suns gave him: Key starter/sixth man, chemistry glue guy
  • Role on other teams since: key bench player, chemistry chrusher on bad team
  • Next to Booker... he never played with Booker (was traded two weeks after Booker was drafted) but ruined Booker’s rookie season anyway

He and his brother Markieff mostly pre-dated Booker as young core pieces of the first real rebuild post-Nash. That 48-win team had Goran Dragic (27 years old) leading a brigade of youngsters like Eric Bledsoe, Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris (all 24), as well as kiddos Alex Len (21) and Archie Goodwin (20).

The 2013-16 Suns were defined by the Morrii. They signed a dual rookie extension ($52 million total for the two of them over 4 years) and acted like the future of the franchise was in their hands. But then they architected the Timeline of Destruction that poisoned the team and the Suns have not recovered since.

Marcus never played with Booker but his actions, and the Suns reactions, marred Booker’s entire Suns experience.

What’s Marcus doing now? This past summer, he agreed and then reneged on a contract with the Spurs (for which they dumped players to make room) in order to take more money from the Knicks.

And then last night, in a lost season for the Knicks as they suffered another 20-point loss, he showed his true colors again. Marcus did not like that Memphis’ Jae Crowder attempted a three-pointer in the final minute of the game and here’s what he had to say about it.

And guess what? He was saying that IN FRONT OF A FEMALE REPORTER. This dude is such a piece of trash when he’s in a bad situation like the Suns years ago and the Knicks this year.

No apologies on his part can take away that moments like these show a man’s true colors. F-u, Marcus Morris. I guess you’re not a #girldad are you?


Markieff Morris

  • Role the Suns gave him: Key starter/sixth man, chemistry glue guy
  • Role on other teams since: bench player
  • Next to Booker for half a season he tanked and got his coach fired before being traded

While Marcus never played with Booker, his brother Markieff certainly did. You remember Markieff right? He of the 30% shooting for three months, constant trade demands and ugly attitude, until finally being traded in FEBRUARY of Booker’s rookie season.

I’ll re-link the Timeline of Destruction for you.

What’s Markieff doing now? He signed a small contract with Detroit and is putting up his usual ho-hum numbers.

At least he hasn’t insulted a whole gender lately.


Brandon Knight

  • Role the Suns gave him: Starting point guard
  • Role on other teams since: 15th man, deep bench player
  • Next to Booker for three seasons, Knight was 3rd, 9th and DNP/knee

Ah man. The Suns invested a gob-load of money in Knight in 2015 and deemed him the future at point guard. With Knight, Eric Bledsoe and rookie Booker, the Suns were supposed to have one of the most dangerous back courts in the league for years to come.

But Knight was terrible, then injured with the Suns. And since being traded along with Chriss to Houston a year ago, he’s been barely NBA-level for Houston and Cleveland as he rides out his $14 million a year contract. The dude is a walking NBA corpse, a great mystery considering how dynamic he once was. Being traded to the Suns from the Bucks in 2015 apparently killed him.


Alex Len

  • Role the Suns gave him: Key starter, defensive anchor
  • Role on other teams since: bench rotation player
  • Next to Booker for three seasons, Len was 4th, 6th and 8th in minutes played.

The 5th overall pick in 2013 never has become a true starter in the NBA despite a wealth of physical talent. He just simply doesn’t have the mentality to bring it every night.

The 7’1” Len started more than half his games in Phoenix but never could beat out 92-year old Tyson Chandler for playing time. After five years with the Suns, Len joined the Atlanta Hawks last year on a two-year contract and after a bounce-up year... he now has the same, or lesser, role in Atlanta for the league’s other worst team.


Dragan Bender

  • Role the Suns gave him: Key starter, defensive anchor, modern big
  • Role on other teams since: 15th man/G-League
  • Next to Booker for three seasons, Bender was 13th, 2nd (!) and 12th in minutes played

The 4th overall pick in 2016 never has become a solid NBA player despite a wealth of physical talent. He just simply doesn’t have the mentality to bring it every night.

The 7’1” Bender languished in Earl Watson’s dog house as a rookie who lost playing time to Watson fave Marquese Chriss, then played the second-most minutes under interim coach Jay Triano when Chriss lost the minutes.

Since leaving the Suns, Bender signed with Milwaukee on a minimum deal and has played more in the G-League than the big club.


Marquese Chriss

  • Role the Suns gave him: Key starter, defensive anchor, stretch-four three point shooter
  • Role on other teams since: 15th man/unsigned/G-League
  • Next to Booker for two seasons, Chriss was 4th and 7th in minutes played

The 8th overall pick in 2016 never has become a solid NBA player despite a wealth of physical talent. He brings energy every night, but simply doesn’t have the basketball IQ to apply it properly.

He was a starter and major rotation player for two of Booker’s four seasons, but then was traded to Houston where he did not play, then league-worst Cleveland where he barely played. He got a supporter in Draymond Green in the preseason, and has had a rotation role for league-worst Golden State but was recently released from his NBA deal.

He is now signed to a two-way deal with Golden State Warriors, where he flops between Santa Cruz and Golden State.


Josh Jackson

  • Role the Suns gave him: Key starter, defensive anchor
  • Role on other teams since: G-League
  • Next to Booker for two seasons, Josh was 3rd and 4th in minutes played

The 4th overall pick in 2017 never has become a solid starter despite a wealth of physical talent. He brings energy every night, but simply doesn’t have the basketball IQ to apply it properly.

After mostly starting for two years in Phoenix, Josh was dumped on Memphis this past offseason (along with De’Anthony Melton and two second round picks for them to absorb Jackson’s $7 million contract). Considering his myriad off-court and behavioral issues, Memphis did not even invite him to training camp or preseason with the big club, telling him to stay home until the G-League season began in November.

He has spent the entire season with the G-League team until being called up this week to Memphis, who is dealing with small injuries to wing players. Hopefully, Jackson revives his career and at least becomes a rotation player in the NBA for years to come.


The Coaches

  • Role the Suns gave him: Head coach
  • Role on other teams since: Assistant coach or out of league
  • Next to Booker his first four seasons were coaches Jeff Hornacek (.5 seasons), Earl Watson (1.6), Jay Triano (.9), Igor Kokoskov (1)

Of Booker’s first four NBA coaches, only Triano had ever walked the sideline as a head coach at ANY level before, let alone in the NBA. And Triano’s stint was another interim job after his boss got fired. I suppose you could count Hornacek’s 2 seasons coaching the Suns before Booker arrived, but the dumpster was already smoking and Hornacek’s fire hose was dry as a bone.

Let’s just say Booker not only had poor continuity in his first four seasons, he also had completely inexperienced coaches.


Fast forward to now.

Booker now has an experienced coach in Monty Williams, an experienced staff hired by Monty, and more than a handful of proven NBA-level players in the rotation around him who will still actually be in the league several years from now.

And suddenly, the Suns are relevant and Booker is being considered All-Star caliber.

Booker was never a looter in a riot. He was always better than his situation. And now the world is seeing him for who he is: an All-Star.

#Bookit