Devin Booker: The Ball is in your Court

Devin Booker was not projected to be this good, this fast. John Calipari mostly hid him at Kentucky, playing him on the bench while the highly-touted Harrison twins garnered a majority of the minutes at the guard positions. D-Book was not the star he has manifested into today for the Phoenix Suns.

The majestic shooting guard is a reincarnation of Ray Allen. He comes off screens with the fierceness to step back if a defender sags off him and ready to beat his unsuspected defender off the dribble with his deceptive quickness.

Shooting guards around him are evolving; Oladipo, Donovan Mitchell, and DeRozan have all led their teams to a substantial zenith. Where does Booker fit in the realm of today’s top shooting guards? It is practically surmised that D-Book is going to be a top-5 player in the league at the epitome of his career and a top 20 player currently. Alas, advanced stats have demonstrated otherwise. His defensive rating ranked 470th in the NBA and he often looked dazed and confused on defense.

Nonetheless, Booker has untapped prospective defensively. His wingspan is not necessarily demeaning, measuring 6’8’’¼  at the combine. With good players surrounding Devin, there’s reason to believe he can thrive. Just look at his Kentucky team, where Booker had a 92.1 defensive rating around Towns and crew. With the addition of Ayton and next year’s first-round pick (probably in the lottery again), Booker will make long strides in his defensive fortitude.

Hopefully, Russian tactician and new Suns coach, Igor Kokoskov, can extract Devin Booker’s defensive potential. A Quin Snyder disciple with the Utah Jazz, you can see his workings through the team’s defensive prosperity.

Devin Booker has not captured the essence of the label ‘winner’ thus far in his career. His plus/minus per 100 possessions his rookie year were not completely indicative of his character as a player. He seemingly showcased his ability to take over games and win them for the Suns. They went 24-58 in 2016-17 followed by a disappointing 21-61 record in 2017-18. Booker did more for his statistics than for the team. His on-court plus-minus per 100 possessions went from -4.7 to a whopping -10. The team was 3.9 points per 100 possession better with Booker on the court in 2016-17. This same statistic fell to -0.7. Fundamentally, Booker chose statistics over wins and it harmed the Suns’ rebuild. This could prove a detriment to Phoenix’s future. Booker has to develop that killer instinct you see in the top players.

We should not kick Booker’s potential to the curb. He has enriched his weaknesses extensionally. He can create his own shot with augmented handles, shaking and baking his defenders like he is a snake weaving in and out to avoid predators. He is just learning to play in the pick and roll but already looks like a master. His three-point percentage has improved by 2 percent every year, bolstering an already discernible forte.

How can he get better from here? He averaged 24.9 ppg, 4.7 assists, and 4.5 rebounds coupled with a 31.7% usage rate. These are acutely profound numbers for a guy a year elder than myself. His third-year statistics are strikingly monumental for a third-year shooting guard.

Compared to James Harden In his third season who produced 19.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per 36 minutes on a stacked Thunder team coupled with a usage rate of 21.6%. He already is better than ‘The Beard’ was in his third season, but will be leading Phoenix to the Western Conference Finals like Harden has with Houston?

Similarly, Demar DeRozan averaged 17.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per 36 minutes in his third season with his usage rate being 25%. Demar DeRozan often is in the circle of the discussion for the top shooting guard in the league. He was a late bloomer but by his third year, Toronto started featuring him. I predict Booker will outpace DeRozan by next season and jump into the circle of discussion.

Even the Black Mamba averaged 18.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per 36 minutes as the bona fide second option on a Lakers team. His usage rate was 25.3%. Aside from air-balling three-pointers in the playoffs, number 8 Kobe was a bonafide killer for those early-2000’s Lakers team. Booker rocks Kobe’s shoes in games, will he start defending and dunking like the 9-time defensive first-teamer?

Devin Booker is undeniably ahead of his age. He has certain areas of his game to work on, especially defensively and it will be intriguing if Igor Kokoskov can get more out of D-Book on both sides of the ball.

Booker’s future with the Suns is heavily dependent on who they pick in the draft, considering they have the second most ping-pong balls in the spinner. Booker desperately needs an outstanding secondary player for this team to flourish. Imagine him tossing alley-oops to physically imposing Deandre Ayton. How about Luka Doncic kicking the ball to Booker in the corner as defenders collapse onto the Euro point guard.

Even with an exceptional sidekick, Booker’s deficiencies are his own wrongdoing and only he can embed them.

Devin Booker’s can improve, and the ball bounces in his court.

 

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