I began writing this piece this morning, trying to figure out what is wrong with Devin Booker. By the end, news was released that he is going to be day-to-day with left hamstring tightness.
The Phoenix Suns have been in a slump. The team has lost four of their last five games and currently find themselves the third overall seed in the Western Conference. That’s the good news…they find themselves in the upper echelon of the West.
The bad news? Something is wrong with Devin Booker.
The reigning Western Conference player of the Month has been struggling since the calendar flipped to December. He is the catalyst for Phoenix, setting the tone each game with his ability to score and setting his teammates up. That hasn’t occurred thus far this month, and the Suns struggles are magnified given the level of the competition they’ve played.
Simply look at his splits between November and December:
- November: 15 games, 28.9 points, 47.4 FG%, 38.4 3PT%, 6.1 rebounds, 5.9 assists, +78
- December: 5 games, 20.6 points, 42 FG%, 36 3PT%, 2.6 rebounds, 6.2 assists, -42
His percentages aren’t significantly different, although his point and rebound totals are.
The team as a whole has been off, as defensively they have been shredded by their opponents in December. They’re actually scoring more points-per-game (116) in December than they did in November (114.6). On the defensive side, however, they gave up 109.2 points in November. That has ballooned to 120 in December.
What is concerning is how cold Devin has been to start games, on both ends of the court. His first quarter production hasn’t significantly changed:
- November: 8.2 points, 44.6 FG%, 33.3 3PT%, 2.5 rebounds, 2 assists, +18
- December: 8.0 points, 37.8 FG%, 37.5 3PT%, 1.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, -13
No big deal, right? Now take away his 18 point performance in the loss against the Houston Rockets on December 2:
- December (minus HOU game): 5.5 points, 25 FG%, 16.7 3PT%, 1.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, -22
Hello concern, how are you doing?
It’s clear that Devon something is bothering Booker. Most signs point to the Dallas Mavericks game. In the third-quarter, down twenty points in the third quarter, he tweaked his ankle. He did so in a fashion that would cripple most normal human beings.
He walked it off, played through the assumed pain, and didn’t take any time off entering the next game.
It’s understandable to assume that his decrease in production is a direct result of an ankle injury. Someone like Booker, who relies heavily on his ability to put the word “jump” into “jump shot”, – how have you seen how high this dude jumps? – would be compromised if he had a turned ankle.
His struggles began before the turned ankle. To that point in the game, Booker had 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting. That’s the stat line he’d end with. The tweak has not only extrapolated the slump, it’s given us a specific time and place to reference as to when something changed.
You can see it in his jumper. He’s compensating for something. He’s guiding his shot towards the basket rather than allowing it to free flow towards the cylinder.
He’s rushing, he’s short-arming, and he’s missing.
It is causing his mind to be elsewhere, being cognizant of how his body feels rather than focusing on the tough NBA competition the team is facing.
Look at the end of the game against the New Orleans Pelicans. A simple entry pass to Deandre Ayton was intercepted by Zion Williamson and taken the other way in true pick-six fashion.
You can’t blame his poor decision making on a twisted ankle two games ago, can you? When you’re pressing, when you’re pushing, the room for error increases and mistakes occur. While it isn’t a direct result – we’ve seen Booker make bad entry passes to DA for half a decade now – it could be the result of injury compensation.
What is more concerning is that he appeared to be favoring his hamstring as he went up the court, and we don’t know if that is due to it being injured, or preventative maintenance.
If you watch the tape you could see Booker wasn't right all night. He wasn't even on the bench in the 4th quarter & was in the locker room. He literally ran back out straight to the scorers table to check in at the 6:27 mark in the 4th. That was before the Zion steal in the 4th.— FLEX From Jersey (@FlexFromJersey) December 10, 2022
There’s been plenty of pressure placed upon the shoulders of Devin Booker this season. Cameron Johnson, who was inserted into the starting lineup much to the chagrin of Jae. Crowder was going to add some offensive firepower to support Devin. Chris Paul, who had 14.7 points and a league-leading 10.8 assists last season, missed 14 games in the 2022-23 campaign. And while Deandre Ayton has seen an increase in volume and productivity, it hasn’t been enough to take the pressure off Booker.
It appears that he’s been carrying the team so much that it’s hurting him. As the schedule gets tougher, being without Booker could be highly detrimental to their standing in the West.
As I’m writing this, the news has come through. Booker is day-to-day.
There you go. An ankle. A hamstring. A tough road ahead for the Suns.
Doh! A deer. A female deer. Happy holidays.