Can the Suns win a game without Devin Booker?

Phoenix Suns Devin Booker (Photo by Timothy Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Devin Booker (Photo by Timothy Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

Forget that Devin Booker is missing a single game or maybe just a weekend with a strained hamstring, what if he is out for an extended period of time? Would the Phoenix Suns win a single game?

There is no questioning that the heart and soul of the Phoenix Suns is Devin Booker. The Wunderkind is the only reason that the Suns even have a single victory, and 68 over the past three seasons.

If they don’t have Devin Booker from 2015-18, they probably at least one season with 70 or more losses over that stretch, and few if any fans remaining to watch those games that they do win.

Yet here we are, with Devin Booker, a growing star, and the first player since probably Charles Barkley who could actually carry the Suns to a victory by himself. This team is undoubtedly better when he is on the court.

It’s apples and oranges, but at least we’re comparing fruit here: this season the Phoenix Suns are not only dramatically different than they have been over the past few seasons, they are much  better – even if their early season play doesn’t resemble a team that is built to win, more than 21 games.

That said, they’re 1-3 over their first four games in 2018-19 with Booker (25.0%), and 7-26 over the past three seasons without him (21.2%).

While things were really bad the last three seasons (a 68-178 record over the stretch, 27.6%), they’re even worse this season. So far the worst defensive team this franchise has ever placed on the court, by Defensive Rating, and it’s not even close.

Even if the Suns are better than they have been in the past (which even though their record and defensive metric would state otherwise, there is no doubt that they are), the rest of the NBA is as well.

Can you say with any certainty that the Suns are better than the Sacramento Kings? How about the Atlanta Hawks? Are they guaranteed better than the Orlando Magic? The Oklahoma City Thunder are still winless, but could the Suns actually beat them?

Heck, put a healthy Dallas Mavericks team on the court on opening night, do the Suns still beat them? Can you guarantee it?

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns /

Phoenix Suns

I could, of course, go through the entire league one-by-one and question if the Suns are guaranteed better than each of them with or without Devin Booker, and I’m sure that fans could come to an agreement in at least a couple of them (*ahem* the New York Knicks minus Kristaps Porzingis).

But even if the Suns are “better” than those teams on paper, is there any guarantee in the world that they can beat any team on any given night this season?

Sure, this is a bit of an emotional perspective, but so far the Phoenix Suns have not looked like they can beat absolutely anybody with any guarantee. Even their “blowout” victory against the Dallas Mavericks on opening night played out like a better team that was short-handed against a lesser team on a crazy hot streak.

And so far, that has been the truth.

The Suns shot a crazy  55.9% from beyond the arc that night, but are 30-104 from 3 (28.8%) since. Obviously nobody expected them to continue to shoot 55+% the rest of the season, but nobody figured that a team that was built to shoot a lot of 3’s would ever be under 30% for any period of time either.

Then again, this is a team that began the year without a point guard – which probably got the general manager fired – spent the last three seasons as the youngest team in history, is filled with veterans and has become one of the strangest mis-mashes of young and old players, zero players in the heart of their prime, in recent memory.

Ryan McDonough tried to put together a team with veteran depth to offset the young and inexperienced talent, and on paper, outside of point guard, the team looks like it should have some. But the players just haven’t come together on any consistent level.

Breaking down the roster, it is easy to see that in each game they are essentially outmatched at every position: they don’t even have a legitimate point guard so I’ll just leave it at that.

When Booker is out, the Suns do have veteran Troy Daniels at shooting guard, but Daniels has been under-utilized this season as the Suns have been going with a bigger lineup coupling Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren together.

Trevor Ariza has played fine at small forward, although he hasn’t been lighting it up. He has been protected though by T.J. Warren who has been fantastic off the bench and has picked up the slack positional slack.

At power forward Ryan Anderson has been shooting as cold as ice and thus far has been a tremendously expensive bust. Sure he wasn’t all that special coming into Phoenix, but he is better than Marquese Chriss, so the hope was that his improvement over Chriss would make the Suns somewhat better.

The problem is that he’s been playing no better than Chriss and he doesn’t have a traditional power forward to back him up. The player that was expected to be a power forward of the future in Dragan Bender, has hardly seen any court time and may as well be cut at this point to make room for another prospect who might actually evolve into a productive player in the future.

Deandre Ayton has played fine so far, although nowhere near good enough to win a game for the Suns just yet. Offensively he is averaging a double-double, although it comes at a price: his defense has been almost non-existent. The Suns are absolutely better with him on the court, but at the same time, when he’s not with Booker, he is not yet able to take over so he is limited in how influential he can be.

Next. Is it already time for the Suns to trade either Josh Jackson or T.J. Warren?. dark

So can this team win a game without Devin Booker?

With how poorly they have played thus far, with how new this team is playing with one another, and with how little depth they actually have when players aren’t playing up to expectations, it seems very unlikely.

The Suns have played so poorly with  Devin Booker that with their lack of a point guard to run the offense that is predicated on movement, and a team that still has very little cohesion anyway even with their star, they aren’t likely to all suddenly get hot enough to carry themselves over the top of a better team and pull off a win.

At least for now, if Devin Booker misses any time (even if it’s only one game), do not expect any victories. The Suns just aren’t good enough.