Booker is frustrated: The Suns need to do something about it

Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks.
Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks. /

If you have been watching the Suns over the past week you have certainly seen that Devin Booker has been under even more pressure than he had been throughout this early part of his career.

Suddenly teams seem to have found a way to shut him down offensively, consistently, and over the past three games he’s been frustrated, flustered, and even flummoxed.

Then Friday night against the New York Knicks, a team fighting for – though still fairly far out of – the Eastern Conference playoff race, Booker went to the hole on a layup, had his shot blocked by Enes Kantor, Kantor must have said something that Booker took significant offense to so he shoved Kantor away.

Booker immediately walked away, apparently said very little and never walked back to Kanter to continue the confrontation, even with the other Knicks players trying to get to Booker for the shove.

Of course, his shove, a move that in a past NBA lifetime, would have been nothing for a referee to truly bat an eye at, was an immediate technical foul, his second of the game, and an automatic ejection.

However, to that moment in time, Booker had once again been having a difficult time scoring, his third bad outing in a row, and was obviously frustrated by the way the Knicks were stopping him as it is, began to slouch a little and not challenge on defense the way he has been, and showing obvious exhaustion towards the cacophony of awful turnovers and bad shooting that has become the undisputed m.o. for this franchise for some time.

In short, Devin Booker is beginning to look tired. He too has begun to look defeated.

In his past three games, against Milwaukee, Indiana, and the Knicks, Book has averaged

15.0pts on 26.2% shooting from the field and 23.1% shooting from 3-point range. While still grabbing 4.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and recording 1.3 steals in those three games, his offensive mojo has been totally snuffed out by his defenders while his own defensive energy has waned.

To this I believe that the franchise and it’s fans should be concerned.

For those who believe that the All-Star Break is coming at the right time take note: the Phoenix Suns still have ten games and 22 days before the All-Star Game itself, plenty of time to continue lose and add frustration to the obviously burning fire.

If what fans are viewing in game is not just small little bouts of frustration in an otherwise positive mind, but a young player well aware of his powers as a scorer in the NBA, one desperate for league-wide recognition and an understanding that scoring consistently and winning is what will guide him to true stardom, then management and his teammates to work with him to continue to keep his head in games and not let the extraneous circumstances entirely out of his control take him out of his continued growth into a superstar.

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns /

Phoenix Suns

Booker though is no fool. He knows that the Suns are still rebuilding and that he is at the core of the next great Suns team. He knows that the plan is not to bring in any talent to get them to the playoffs today but to find pieces to fit the design of long-term success – hopefully beginning with next season. He knows that the best chance at adding a star next to him is by drafting in the top-5 of the draft this summer.

He also knows that the Suns want him for the long run, and even though he may be frustrated with the lack of star talent on the roster to take pressure from him, they’re looking out for the best interests of the franchise, even if that means losing today.

None of that should be of a surprise to either he or anyone reading this post. And yet, a great many of us right now are still worried that Booker’s body language and growing frustration are signs of a young player hitting a wall and potentially disconnecting himself from the said plan.

Who knows how much ownership and management talk to him and continue to coax and coach him through the doldrums of the season, but there must  be some. Management must  have learned from previous experiences involving Markieff Morris, Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, and Eric Bledsoe, each players who were apparently unaware of or not sold on the plan at every step of the way.

Granted General Manager Ryan McDonough has stated that Booker has growing insight and voice into certain aspects of the building of this roster, but this is not an inherent invitation to constant contact and conversation that hopefully keeps Booker confident in the process he is a part of.

Mere conversations might not be enough anyway. A move of some kind to show good faith in the desire to improve could also be made during the season,  providing all involved the extra desired glimmer of hope for what else is to come.

McDonough could make a move that does help take pressure off of Booker this season while still not totally tanking their chances at a top pick. I can’t begin to speculate who might be available, and when a trade should happen (in lieu of the impending trade deadline on February 8), but if it were possible to find a player that would definitely be a part of the rotation into the future, at least the Suns could go through the rest of this season with further cause for excitement that the ending of the dark night is giving way to the joyousness of the brilliant morning light.

Certainly a move would need to be done so strategically as to not topple any plans at a top pick this summer, nor one that dissolves the most tradable assets currently held should Phoenix need to trade up in the draft to be able to snag a player they covet most – all such restrictions that makes such a trade all the more difficult to predict, and actually come to fruition.

Regardless, something must be done. Devin Booker must be eminently aware that the plan the team is following is the right one. That he is along for the ride of a lifetime and not wasting away the earliest part of his prime in a losing situation with no assurance of improvement. It must be made known to him that his frustration will be short lived; that he need not be frustrated as he is only biding his time before finally reaching greatness, both individually as well as for his franchise.

Next: How the Suns can pull off a trade for a STAR

Whether easing Booker’s mind is just be a conversation away – or a continual series of regular conversations and pep talks – and/or a strategic move showing that management is looking for improvement and not for static placement at the bottom of the league, Devin Booker is showing a lot of frustration on the court, and the Phoenix Suns must do something about it.