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Stephen’s Study: Suns top the Warriors behind Point Book execution, plus more

Advantage creation out of the pick-and-roll, in all its nuances, continues to be a driving piece in the completion of Devin Booker’s overall skill. Where that goes may truly be as big of a piece determining the Suns ceiling in this renditon.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Golden State Warriors D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix opened the 2023-24 season without their most prized off-season acquisition in Bradley Beal, who was a somewhat late scratch due to a lingering back injury.

That didn’t put an entire pin in the balloons for the party, but his involvement is clearly a draw in entertainment, as well as all that the Suns are looking to establish early in identity and process.

There was still a handful to glean from what we saw, even in his absence. Offensively, the Suns had a 127.3 offensive rating in the fourth quarter. Zoom in even more, and you see that they had a rating of 125.0 the final 5:22 of the game, and were ultimately +4

Let’s dive into Devin Booker and Jusuf Nurkic’s tandemized advantage creation out of pick-and-roll.

Devin Booker has been an elite advantage creator and general playmaker in pick-and-roll.

Here, we see him do so for himself, but aided by a great screen from Nurkic (can’t be understated or overstated in assessing the effectiveness of this pick-and-roll tandem going forward).

The “jail” dribble aids in Booker’s eventual space creation, but it’s all exacerbated by the space enabled (and absence of help from others) due to the spacing, and the weapons spaced where in this action.

Enables a true 2v2 opportunity, and Booker navigates to a sweet spot of his.

Notice how well Booker garners, and then controls the pace of action here.

Following a smart angle flip and screen contact from Nurkic, as the Warriors funnel Booker to the sideline with “weak” coverage, Booker uses the screen, then keeps Kuminga at bay and on his hip.

While also slowing his pace into the advantage that drop coverage enables, in space near the free-throw4 line, he allows the play to develop, which allows Nurkic to then get into his roll and hold the attention of Looney.

Now, the IQ of Nurkic is on display too as, past the screen then tempo roll, watch how he finishes adding to the advantage, by optimizing leverage and giving Booker a bit of a “Gortat Screen,” enabling more advantageous access to the right side.

Nurkic nailing the margins and using his IQ in these scenarios is such a weapon and, both complementary and supplementary, dynamic.

This was a hat tip to the Mikal Bridges quick hitters, with “Pistol” action — an early offense action that I absolutely desire to see Booker/Beal/Durant/Gordon/Allen tap into with great frequency early in their possessions.

Limitless advantages to create from here, and an abundance of manners in which they can compromise a defense.

This rep was solid, but can be more dynamic if Okogie isn’t involved as the catch man.

Nonetheless, Booker gets the handbacks after the Pistol hit ahead creates pace on the “get.”

That’s well defended and the angle is stolen from the defense, as Okogie doesn’t get contact on the screen.

Booker then flows into “Logo” pick-and-roll, with the screen point below the free-throw line and where a logo would traditionally be on many courts.

That screen point is unique because Looney is still in drop, and Booker is immediately in range for maybe his favorite shot in the middy.

Again, the space would be different should the Pistol partner, who’s ultimately then one pass away, is Beal/Gordon/Durant/Allen, there’s no nail help conceded.

Okogie does a solid job beginning to dive cut, but he’ll need to be quicker processing how to remove the nail help with that cut before Booker comes off that screen moving forward.

Devin Booker’s screen rejects are a weapon given his first step, ability to wiggle to space and raise, and especially put pressure on the rim in the scenario.

Rejects put tons of pressure on the defense because, typically when teams are either trying to be directional defensively — sending the ball handler towards help or a specific area of the floor — or aggressive with activity at the point of the screen.

Countering and dictating in the scenario is a fruitful advantage in basketball, and Booker created at a .921 points per possession (PPP) mark, amassing 35 points last season there.

In the playoffs, where defenses look to dictate more with aggressive ball screen coverage, the possession percentage of 9.6% rose to 20.2%.

Here, we see how it compromised, and then stretched the defense.

It’s then aided by Booker’s final dribble to establish control, then hits Nurkic for a shot he has to knock down at a solid clip to execute in the advantage.

Booker now gets two to the ball, with Looney aggressive on the trap.

Booker gets off it quickly, Nurkic is on alert for the short-roll in the pocket, and that’s all finished with execution in the advantage by Okogie. Tandemized IQ and skill from Bookers quick processing, as well as Nurkic’s, plus his passing ability, and Okogie’s cut IQ in timing, as the defensive domino’s fell.

Great read and react play, a dynamic the Suns will be emphasizing all regular season.

The eye manipulation from Booker, to hold the single side tag here, is as next level as any dynamic here.

This is how Patrick Mahomes opens receivers for opportunity at more yards after catch in a reaction advantage, and Booker does the exact same here with his eyes.

The concerted discipline in looking off the roller here creates a dynamic two-way, long range, closeout. That gives Little as much time as he could ask for to line it up, lace it up, and knock it down.

This, as I mentioned earlier this season, is the area where I’m looking for Booker's growth this season. He can make every pass in the context, now comes the eye manipulation in tandem with his pace in the action, and accuracy, to complete his playmaking.

His growths have been abundant.

The ability to take it even a step further, with better screeners and weapons around in spacing and shot making, have him as well-equipped as ever.

Film Session


All of my Suns-related film sessions dating back to last season, can be found at the link below.

It’s attached to my YouTube channel!

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