Every franchise has sacred records that are revered internally. All-time scorer, all-time, rebounder, all-time assist-leader; these metrics reflect greatness and longevity by players who have donned the colors of the team. For the Phoenix Suns, there is one record that has held firm for 23 years.
Tom Chambers set the mark for most points-per-game in a season in the 1989-90 regular season. He scored 27.2 points-per-game that year, surpassing the previous record, held by himself from the 1988-89 season (25.5 points).
This year, Devin Booker broke that scoring average as he ended the 2022-23 regular season with 27.8 points-per-game. Scoring is up across the NBA, and it’s no surprise to see Devin Booker surpass the points-per-game mark set by Tom Chambers.
But does it count?
When Tom Chambers set the standard for Phoenix Suns scoring in a regular season, he did so by playing 81 games. That season 104 players played 80 or more games. Chambers totaled 2,201 points (only 72 of them came from beyond the arc). 2,201 is the most points ever scored in a season by a Phoenix Sun.
In the 2022-23 season, Devin Booker scored his 27.8 points in just 53 games played. This wasn’t due to the state of the league, rather, he was sidelined for 20 games mid-season with a groin injury. He did miss the final two games of the season as Monty Williams chose to sit all of his starters in an effort to rest them prior to the postseason run.
Booker scored a total of 1,471 points. That is 730 points shy of Chambers’ total.
Some say that the best ability is availability. The modern NBA is much different than the league we grew up watching. It’s drastically changed in the past 15 years with the load management philosophy. Add to the fact that many do not view the regular season as serious as they once did – it’s all about the playoffs now – and you are seeing fewer players play the full 82.
How many players played 82 games this season? Only 10 out of 450. Mikal Bridges, due to the timing of his trade from Phoenix to the Brooklyn Nets, played in 83. Only Bridges, the Sacramento Kings’ Harrison Barnes and the Chicago Bulls’ Nikola Vucevic started every game for their team this season.
15 seasons ago, in the 2007-08 season, that number was 43 players. 19 started every game.
It’s clear that this is something that’s important to the NBA’s top brass. As a new part of the CBA, there is a ‘games played’ clause as it pertains to regular season awards. 65 games is the minimum to be eligible for awards such as the MVP, which equates to playing in 79% of the regular season.
NBA and NBPA have agreed to a minimum number of games played – 65 games – for players to be eligible to win major individual league awards such as MVP in the new CBA, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 1, 2023
We are interested in the games played for a variety of reasons. If you bought a ticket to an NBA game and the central characters decide to sit out, it will remain in your memory. For the wrong reasons. Think about all of those fans who bought city tickets to see the Oklahoma City Thunder play the Suns when Kevin Durant was prepared to make his debut. They forked up a pretty penny, and they were pretty disappointed.
Obviously this was due to injury, not load management, but the same principle applies.
So again, does Booker’s scoring franchise-high scoring title count?
It counts as a quality season for Booker, especially on the ‘ole Basketball-Reference page. But in the sacred world where records are cherished and held dear, it doesn’t. 70% of the season needs to be played for statistics to count, per the NBA. That’s 58 games. If you were to look up statistics on ESPN, you would see that Devin Booker doesn’t even qualify.
It was an amazing season in which he set a personal high relative to points-per-game in a season, but doesn’t technically count towards any franchise records. And it shouldn’t. There’s a 730 point chasm between the two.
It doesn’t –and shouldn’t – diminish what Booker did this season. There’s no doubt that he’ll go down as the greatest Phoenix Sun of all time. The impact that he’s had on the Valley exceeds a points-per-game average, and I know many of you don’t even care about that. It’s the human behind it, what he does for this community, and how he reveres the franchise.