In Devin Booker’s seventh season, all with the Phoenix Suns, he’s making yet another substantial leap, becoming a top 10 player in the league.
Just beginning to enter his prime, Booker is a lock to make his third All-Star appearance and is building a case to make his first appearance on an All-NBA team while creeping into the MVP conversation.
Between exceptional improvements in the defensive and distribution departments, Booker’s best skill remains his bucket-getting potency. So what makes him such a great scorer?
Booker’s shot chart continues to be one of the most diverse among scorers.
In an era that’s seeing most players focusing on narrowing shot selection down to three-pointers and rim attempts, he continues to thrive in the mid-range.
Booker attempts the fourth-most shots in the mid-range per game at 6.2 (behind DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, and Brandon Ingram) and shoots 47.6% from there, which ranks 3rd among players who attempt at least 5 per game (behind DeRozan and Durant).
He’s no slouch from deep either, where he’s shooting a career-best 39.4% on 6.8 attempts per game (second-most attempts per game of career).
As for the missing third level, Booker’s also incredibly efficient at the rim, shooting 58.7% on 2.5 rim attempts per game, many of which come in transition. BBall-Index gives Booker a rim shot quality rating of 85.2, so he’s found open looks there quite often.
Maybe my fave thing about this 4 game Booker stretch is he has 19 assists to just 5 turnovers.— David (@theIVpointplay) January 21, 2022
The lethal scoring gravity also unlocks him as a playmaker for others.
There are three key points to what makes Booker so lethal in the mid-range and he shows them off each time down: dribble scarcity, sound footwork, and a high release.
There are usually three sources for his mid-range attempts, and I have examples for each.
First up: in motion. These are plays in which Booker attacks right after a catch and oftentimes its part of a secondary break or curl action to help him get momentum.
Another source of his mid-range attempts are out of screen actions. Most often these come out of pick-and-rolls and make good use of roll gravity the Suns bigs offer. They can tend to look a little like Chris Paul pick-and-roll actions, aesthetically speaking.
And finally, we all know about Booker’s inevitability in isolation. He shows off a scary stepback here.
With Booker seemingly solving his three-point efficiency “issues” he’s had (34% on 5.9 attempts over the previous three seasons), I just wanted to take a second to appreciate how kind that area of the floor has been to him this season.
Here’s a transition trailer that he knocks down from well behind the line:
He’s also proven to be too dangerous for teams to play him low coming off of screens, and he makes the Spurs pay for doing so here:
As well as the ability to sprinkle in stepbacks to create extra separation:
Asserting Rim Pressure
Maybe most impressive of all has been Booker’s development in drives to the rim. Craftiness is one of my favorite traits in a driver, and he’s one of the craftiest, whether using his body or alternative dribble paths to create lanes for himself.
Here’s an example in transition where he goes left-to-right to use his body as a shield for his shot:
Again in transition, Booker uses a eurostep to get room over two defenders:
Turning defense to offense, Booker’s deceleration allows him to completely neutralize Devin Vassell’s otherwise sound defense:
Though sometimes it feels like Booker’s been around long enough to be nearing retirement, he’s only just beginning to reach his prime, and now that he’s playing in an excellent team construct, that only raises the ceiling higher for what he can become.
One of the next steps in that development could come along the lines of increased volume, which is sure to happen when Paul retires at the latest. As things currently stand, Booker barely gets more touches per game (53.5) than guys like Cam Payne (47.9) or Jae Crowder (46.0). That number has every right to rise even a little closer to Paul’s 73.4, and if it ever does, we could be looking at a consistent 30 points-per-night scorer.
The accolades will come for Booker over the course of the season in the form of more Player of the Week awards – he already has two on the season – as well as All-Star and All-NBA. He could be on a pathway to multiple MVPs or Finals MVPs as he moves further along in his career as well. I just wonder if he’ll ever get a new career-high.