The Rising Sun – Can Devin Booker Elevate Phoenix?

Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns has established himself as one the NBA young stars is considered a superstar by some. With his growing stock comes questions about his leadership and ability to make those around him better. One would be remiss to say he hasn’t made progress for the Phoenix franchise in his five year tenure, but has he made that same progress for his teammates?

You can’t speak about improving teammates without mentioning the individual’s stats, right?

Well, prior to this last season’s four month layoff, Booker was lighting the league up. These numbers would make anyone say “there goes a superstar:”

  • 2nd in Total Minutes
  • 4th in Free Throws Made (9th in Attempts)
  • 13th in Assists
  • 11th in Assist Percentage
  • 14th in Offensive Win Shares

That’s top 15 in some major offensive categories, but it doesn’t stop there. Despite his 119th  defensive ranking amongst eligible shooting guards, Booker improved his mentality on defense as evidenced by Coach Monty Williams who said:” I also think you see Devin just going after guys defensively. He doesn’t back away from matchups.”

If you need more convincing that he has improved his team’s defensive mentality this is another quote from Williams about his young star guard: ”I think Devin’s mentality to guard his position every night is a leadership quality our team can follow.”

They rode that mentality to a 19th overall defensive ranking which was an improvement over their league worst (30th) ranking in 2018-19. So although Booker’s personal defense may be lacking, when a star player has the mentality Williams described, it can trickle through the whole roster.

Booker also improves players by upping their impact on the scorecard. 2019-20 saw the Suns post a +7.6 (+/-) per 100 possessions when he shared the floor with Ricky Rubio and DeAndre Ayton. When Booker sat they were -1  with the formerly mentioned players on the floor. This means that not only is the team out scoring their opponents by almost eight points but also that Booker is the reason.

Of course, this can be attributed to his elite scoring ability but he has become a more than serviceable passer. He averaged 6.3 assists last year and lowered his turnovers to 3.8. This furthers the point of Booker being a solid facilitator for his teammates along with being a great scorer.

Hopefully this young star can continue to elevate not only his own play but also the players around him. Now with the recent addition of veteran Point Guard Chris Paul, Booker should see an even bigger leap in his progression as a leader and player.

 

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