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Devin Booker’s manipulation of defenses shows his total control

Book has looked like the best version of himself in his three games played.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Devin Booker is back, and he’s truly better than ever.

Not six months removed from his incredible playoff run with the Phoenix Suns, there seems to be a newfound aggression to his game coupled with a surgical approach that’s almost always precise despite rust.

Advantage creation is a term I’ve become closely familiar over my years of covering basketball and especially when evaluating draft prospects. It’s one of the biggest tells for a star because it shows an ability to mix intellectual approach with skill work.

Whether it’s efficiency of dribbles and movement or being one of the best live-dribble passers in the league, much of Booker’s advantage creation has already been here.

But now that advantage creation is taking a much more subtle step forward, leaning into different spots of the defense to take total control of the floor balance and using his developing bag of hesitation moves to bait players.

All of it was on display in his 31-point, five-assist night in the Suns’ blowout win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, who came in with the league’s top-ranked defense, on Wednesday.

Video Breakdown

By the Numbers

Booker’s half-court offense has been elite as he’s gotten more surgical. Per Synergy, he ranks in the 82nd percentile in the league on pick-and-rolls (incl. passes), earning 1.143 points per possession out of a play he runs nearly 60% of the time; and that’s without the luxury of game-to-game rhythm.

In transition, he ranks in the 80th percentile, generating 1.333 PPP, and that’s not even factoring in lookahead passes that put even more pressure on because they don’t let a defense get set. Booker made two of those passes in his first 5:25 stint vs. the Wolves, but made just one more the rest of the game.

There’s also the added element of Booker’s pull-up three-pointers, which are coming and hitting at a career rate. So far he’s made seven of his 16 attempts (43.8% on 5.3 3PA) where his previous best pull-up marks were 36.4% on 3.2 3PA in 2017-18.

It remains to be seen if Booker can play the requisite 65 games (he can only miss nine more) for awards consideration, but he certainly looks like one of the league’s best players bar none when he’s out there.

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