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Devin Booker is on his own tier of two-way superstar

It seems that not everyone understands yet just how impactful of a defender Booker is.

Golden State Warriors v Phoenix Suns Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

This post is built out of my own personal frustration.

Devin Booker doesn’t seem to be bothered by people who don’t take notice of his merits, but it definitely does still annoy me when I hear anyone try to say he’s not an elite-level defender.

The Phoenix Suns superstar has come such a long way from the ball-watching, lazy defender he once was, and failing to recognize that would be like holding up a neon sign saying “I don’t actually watch games.”

Plus, Chris Paul — playing largely as a traffic cone — received a vote for All-Defensive last season, which was just abhorrent. If any Suns guard (who finished the season with the team) should’ve received votes, it was Booker.

Most of the following stats only factor in Nov. 15 through Nov. 24.

Since Booker’s return on Nov. 15, he’s been a two-way superstar, totaling 174 points (second behind De’Aaron Fox) and 48 assists (fourth behind Fred VanVleet, Damian Lillard, and Nikola Jokic).

When combining both points and assists, 222 stands as the second-best mark in basketball, just one behind Lillard, who has done so in 10 more minutes and on worse shooting at all three levels.

His steals (six) + blocks (three) total of nine “stocks” is second among the top five total point scorers. He’s behind Fox there too, but Fox has played nearly 20 more minutes in that span and, like Lillard, is shooting less efficiently at all three levels.

Additionally, Booker (and Kevin Durant, though in one fewer game) is the only player in the top 11 in total scoring to go undefeated in that stretch. The biggest argument in favor of Booker’s MVP case continues to be the fact that the Suns are 7-1 (.875) with him and 3-5 (.375) without.

As Stephen PridGeon-Gardner pointed out in one of his excellent recent posts, the Suns have a 93.5 defensive rating in the half-court during their six-game win streak, good for eighth in the league. He also has a team-best individual defensive rating overall during that stretch, so the team is playing its best defense when he’s out there.

Per NBA.com/stats, his individual guarding numbers have been incredible. Defending 12.2 shots per game, Booker is holding opponents to just 38.4% from the field.

Here’s how Synergy breaks it down over the entire season on a more specific basis, holding opponents to...

  • 7-22 (31.8%) out of pick-and-rolls, 68th percentile
  • 3-10 (30%) on post-ups, 84th percentile
  • 7-20 (35%) on pull-ups, 66th percentile
  • 3-11 (27.3%) at the rim, 98th percentile
  • 29-80 (36.3%) on all shot attempts, 70th percentile

You could make the case that Booker’s defensive impact was most clear in their 21-point win over the Memphis Grizzlies, where he was especially motivated as the Suns’ only active star in a game Phoenix needed to win big to have a chance at advancing in the In-Season Tournament.

Booker finished with a team-high four steals, a team-high three deflections and one block to go with his first 40-point (on only 21 shots) performance of the season. He was +28 where the only other Suns in double-digits for that stat were Josh Okogie (+22), Jordan Goodwin (+19), and Jusuf Nurkic (+14).

Booker looks to continue his masterful two-way play in one of his favorite arenas, Madison Square Garden, as the Suns take on the New York Knicks on Sunday at 4 p.m.

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