The Suns Must help Devin Booker ASAP

Phoenix Suns Devin Booker (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Devin Booker (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

While at this point Suns fans have openly embraced the tank, and players understand what the long-term focus is, the constant losing and lack of competitiveness is obviously wearing thin on Devin Booker.

General Manager Ryan McDonough must do something about it this summer or the franchise’s greatest fears about losing their superstar shooting guard may very well be realized.

In other words, the Phoenix Suns are playing with fire.

There have been moments throughout this awful season in which Devin Booker has taken a play off here and there, lapsing a little bit on defense or taking a shot in traffic that he should have passed up on, moments that fans and coaches alike hate to see, but that are common place in a long season.

However, Booker has always made himself right, got back on the schneid, and worked twice as hard the next play. It would be impossible to question his effort over the course of an entire game and doubt his intentions on the court throughout the season.

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns /

Phoenix Suns

Recently, though, as the team’s losing has become more and more frequent than it even had been all year (Phoenix has lost 22 of it’s last 25 games), Booker has shown a few cracks in his armor, a sign that the weight of the losing and the lack of an offensive or defensive star next to him has begun to wear him down.

He has exhibited obvious frustration with his teammates, anger at a lack of ball movement, good shots, defensive intensity, any number of lapses on either end of the floor that makes winning impossible, even for a team built to lose.

To be fair, he has begun to take a more prominent role in the team’s leadership council, the obvious star of the roster, one who has had players like Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook offer leadership advice to help him along his path. A leader will get into the faces of players; he will help to coach them on the court; he’ll celebrate them when they have done something positive and reprimand them when they have hurt the team’s cause. How Booker is making himself into the team’s true and undisputed leader behind the scenes we may not know for some time, but on the court his growing persona as a figure of leadership is evident.

That being said, as a maturing player, although only 21-years-young, Booker is still a player who has never acted like a child on or off the court, rather a man who understands his position as the face of the franchise and has embraced it, a man who at his heart is the most competitive player on the court and who’s gut instinct is not just to win the game, but take the soul of his opponent as a spoil of victory.

Yet since the franchise drafted him, the Suns have a 28.5% winning percentage, with more losing under his belt in three years than he could have ever imagined possible, especially when coming from a Kentucky college basketball team that fell two victories short of the second undefeated season in NCAA Men’s Basketball history.

Devin Booker knows that the Suns are tanking and he understands why. If they can select a player like DeAndre Ayton at the front of the draft – and Ayton turns into the star center that many people believe he can be in the NBA – then Booker will have a running mate in Phoenix who can help win championships for many, many years to come. He is well aware that any trades at the deadline that McDonough could have made would not have been enough to propel the team into the playoffs and thus understands why he took the route that one more year of rebuilding would be necessary to lead them on their way to regular prominence.

Devin Booker gets it.

But it doesn’t mean that he likes it.

After this season the Suns are going to offer Booker a max extension and Booker is going to be wealthier beyond his wildest dreams. Phoenix will lock him down for another five years starting with the 2019-20 season and he will initially be the focus of the franchise’s future long-term.

I have no doubt that he’s going to sign that contract (he’ll make more in Phoenix than anywhere else) and I have no doubt that he’ll sit at the podium next to McDonough and Owner Robert Sarver with a huge smile and a spoken dedication to the franchise.

Yet, inside he could still be burning. He will  still be burning, ready to win.

Once a fire has been started, it needs only fuel to burn in perpetuity. But not all fired are the same. Some burn for warmth. They keep mankind warm in the cold. They burn underbrush and produce carbon that enriches the soil. They are life giving.

Other fires burn to destruction. They take out objects once loved. They burn down houses. In some cases they have been known to turn entire cities to rubble. Fire can be the bringer of death, the antithesis of all that is good.

The Suns have the power to control Booker’s inner fire. Through the decisions they make over this coming summer they can allow his fire to breath life back into the ailing franchise, or they can allow it to burn them to the ground.

McDonough has been planting his seeds for a quick successful turnaround for some time now, stating time and again that he is planning on making serious and significant moves this offseason. He has offered Booker a seat at the table, giving the young star the ability to discuss trade and free agency moves with McDnough and his staff. He has stated that he is looking to bring in more veterans, replacing some of the young depth with that of players who have years of experience in this league, preferably with positive results. He has stated that he is now willing to make a splash in free agency, seek out the best talent available and make them an offer they (hopefully) can not refuse.

He has also never shied away from the opportunity at trading for a star, arguing that he is willing to use his accumulated assets to pull off a move that would make Phoenix a better team now, rather than hopefully one sometime down the line potentially after his tenure with the Suns has come to an abrupt end.

Should he be able to follow through with this (and losing now to potentially give Phoenix the number one overall pick and the right to select DeAndre Ayton can help), it is possible that McDonough can shape the franchise this summer in a manner that will make them great for many years to come.

It must happen though, and it must happen this summer. Devin Booker can no longer be made to wait.

I do believe that sometime soon after this season ends we will all celebrate Devin Booker signing a long-term max contract extension. I do believe that he will have a giant smile and will say all the right things regarding his intention to remain with Phoenix for the duration of his career and win as many titles here as he can possibly muster.

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But I also believe that he needs help, and a top draft pick will not be enough to safety secure him to the bow of the Suns’ ship forever.

Ryan McDonough needs to help Devin Booker ASAP, before Booker burns the city to the ground, escaping to another franchise, leaving behind nothing but ashes from which even a mythical Phoenix can rise.