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Stephen’s Study: “Always complainin’ bout the double”

Devin Booker is attracting as much attention on the floor these days, as he did off it — on social media — for his voiced disliking of double teams in open gym runs.

Golden State Warriors v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

To whom much is given, much is tested.

Devin Booker, one of the most complete and gifted three-level scorers in the league, also has one of the most dynamic playmaking catalogs across the league. That given talent and general offensive prowess — making for a never-ending threat to compromise a defense — tests him with multiple contexts of extra attention from the opposition.

Traps 90 feet from the basket, traps at half-court, doubles off a pick, gap help-galore, box-and-one — you name it, he’s seen it, in abundance.

Over the last three games (prior to Friday night), he’s seen a multitude of extra defensive attention, where defenses are committing more than the primary defender to him. In that, it’s a reminder that he is one of the threatening all-around, walking advantages, in the league.

Across the league, 45 players have compiled 100+ possessions where they’ve garnered extra attention in pick-and-roll instances, per Synergy. Devin Booker ranks 1st in points per possession, in this offensive context, with a mark of 1.243. This includes passes that lead to baskets from him here, in addition to when he can work into a scoring position for himself.

In addition to his league-best PPP mark, he’s also 2nd in points per shot (PPS) generated in these scenarios, at 1.36. The effective field goal percentage stemming from him in these instances also ranks 2nd, at 68.0%

The percentage of time the Suns score in these contexts when Booker gets a defense to commit tanks third, at 49.3%.

He ranks 15 in points created here, which is in correlation to the volume of games he’s played (or missed) relative to those in this crop of 45 players who have played most if not all of their teams games this season. He’s in a space of feel in manipulation that gives the Suns an ever-present advantage and is making plays at a highly efficient and effective rate.

For players over the last three games that have spent north of 30 minutes on the floor per game — the higher usage players — his assist percentage ranks 5th (37.1%), per

Let’s dive into some of his playmaking reps in this stretch of games against a myriad of defenses conceding extra attention to him.

Three possessions came to mind in the second half in a recent game against Sacramento.

The first of which, saw a box-and-one imposed against him.

Fox sees no one in his zone initially, as the Suns overload the second side, so he fires on Booker to bring two to the ball.

This is the best half-court advantage a perimeter player can generate, and the Suns execute within it.

An astute nail flash from Gordon, as well as an even more astute and automatic burn cut from Metu, both engage and pull the defense in — leaving Eubanks open for a high percentage attempt in the paint in a 3v2 underneath.

They’re in it again here, this time extended, and the Suns evolution in the process against it is on display. Booker uses the double screen — at half-court — as they attempt to counter and stretch the defense, forcing them to cover every inch of real estate in the half-court.

Booker attacks the leverage of Monk, and peaks to confirm if a “hit” is coming after the switch or not. After the confirmation of momentary single coverage, he attacks the middle and attracts the attention of three.

This is where you want to commend the Suns spacing, and shooting within that — as they have their best non-Booker shooters in this lineup both a pass away to compromise the defense.

Gordon, up top, and Watanabe, above the break on the opposite wing.

Instances like here are why the Suns generate one of the better shot qualities in the league when Booker is on the floor and shoots 39.9% collectively on catch-and-shoot attempts from deep since he returned November 15th, 7th best in this window.

They have Gordon initiate here to get a more advantageous start point of their offense within the shot clock.

Swings to Booker and it’s an immediate hit, as Mike Brown and the Kings repeatedly say “anybody but Book” as the Suns were without Durant, Beal, and Allen in this one.

Next, is where things got fun and more drastic, against Golden State.

Notice how far away he’s double-teamed here.

He does just enough to engage defense, then enable teammates to play in advantage.

A good middle flash cut from Nurkic is aided by a 0.5 decision from Watanabe off the spray pass, to then kick it to the corner, burning the rotations with quick-hitting ball movement.

Solid advantage play tempo.

Booker ultimately nets a triangle of defense around him as he uses the screen, and sees the nail defender jump across the helpline, to ensure he gives up the rock.

The quick kick to Metu (50.0% on 3.3 catch-and-shoot three-point attempts the last three games) nets a high shot quality for one of their hotter shooters of late — who’s nailed plenty of other margins for the Suns in this stretch, in addition to his shooting.

The gambit in ultra-green shot quality stemming from the extra attention garnered from Booker in these plays, emphasizes why the context around him (and Durant) had to change.

Defenses conceding wide-open shots to others, for multiple stretches of games, is a risky proposition — but one that’s less risky than betting on consistently investing in Booker being stopped in single coverage.

He has to continue taking care of the ball in these scenarios, and not holding on to it too long as well — both of which arise as snags in the process at time — but factoring in that there is an inevitable nature of turnovers to come from this context matters, especially on the volume at which he's seen in these instances.

That advantage receives a multiplier of three when seeing that both Durant and Beal can also do so in contexts respective to their styles of play.

The Suns offense can become one of the most unique Rubik’s cube-esque problems to solve for the opposition should their pieces sustain on-court time together.

At the head of it all, is their point guard, “Point Book,” evolving from “always complaining about the double,” to accepting the double, and manipulating it — even more.

Film Session

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