It is time for Phoenix Suns Star Devin Booker to take over

Devin Booker Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Devin Booker Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Phoenix Suns management is banking on the belief that already have two stars on the roster. But for the franchise to ever return to the playoffs, Devin Booker has to prove that he is a true number one.

When Devin Booker signed his max contract extension last season, one year earlier than Phoenix needed to (essentially costing the Suns $18 million in spending money this offseason should they have opted to have him play out his fifth year under his rookie contract then have the max extension kick in with the 2020-21 season), they put a giant weight on the shoulders of a 22-year-old.

Most Suns fans would agree that the contract was well worth it as Booker exudes star qualities like the rest of us exude passion for the team. He simply has that it  factor and is far too valuable – especially at his age – to let go to another franchise.

He is a building block.

He is expected to be that first piece in a triad of stars that can carry the franchise to the pinnacle of the NBA.

And yet for all of those expectation, he has yet to carry the Phoenix Suns, well, anywhere.

Not only is Devin Booker’s win percentage as a player a paltry 27.6% (his teams are 75-197 in games he has played), but Phoenix finished second to last in the Western Conference his rookie season, and last each of the past three seasons.

One can argue that that isn’t entirely his fault and that the team would be much worse off than if they hadn’t had Booker at all (and that may be entirely accurate: Earl Watson was the team’s head coach for a little over a year, and the roster has rarely been built completely, missing major pieces all over the place) yet even still, in the 60 games over four seasons that Booker has missed, the team’s win percentage dropped to only 20.0% (12-48).

While that might seem like a precipitous slip, and statistically it if the team was better a 7.6% drop would be far more detrimental, but when you extrapolate the two win percentages over just on 82 game season, the record drops from only 22.6-59.4 to 16.4-65.6 – 22ish wins a year is nothing to bank a career on.

Yes, the team as a whole has been terrible around him, however, one generally expects that a player of potential star to superstar quality will be able to do more with his team than just a six game improvement – and a 15-49 record in games played in 2018-19.

However, for all the flaws that the roster has had in it’s leadership and construction, come 2019-20, many of those flaws have been significantly rectified.

And thus, while there was little pressure on Booker to win over the past couple of seasons, that pressure will rise beginning this coming season (to put that statement into perspective, I do not mean “win” like win titles, but it is fair that the team will both be competitive night in and night out, and at least remain in the running for the playoffs throughout the season beginning this year).

For starters, the franchise has added of the most well-respected head coaches in the league in Monty Williams. While he doesn’t have a dramatic rate of success to speak of, what he was able to accomplish in New Orleans is undeniable, and he made the playoffs twice with far less talent overall than the Suns have now.

Phoenix also boasts the best true point guard the franchise has employed since Goran Dragic in Ricky Rubio, a player who both caters to shooters like Devin Booker but also centers like Deandre Ayton having been at the helm in Minnesota when both Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns had their best individual seasons and earned their respective max contracts.

But while many fans have long believed that if the roster only had a legitimate point guard the team would win a heckofa lot more games, Devin Booker too has to take that next step in his growth process as a player, and regardless of how much he is being paid, be the star that he has set out to become, physically carrying the franchise on his back if need be.

Even with these new pieces and a new enthusiasm for the future, the Phoenix Suns will only go as far as Devin Booker goes.

While Monty Williams can design a brand new scheme on both offense and defense, it is up to Devin Booker to lead his teammates on the court. It will be only by his strength of will and character that will lead Monty’s system to success.

More from Valley of the Suns

While Ricky Rubio might be one of the most-skilled pure point guards in the NBA, it will be Devin Booker’s drive and ultimately his leadership that will carry the team to wins. Even an eight-year pro like Rubio will concede leadership management to the soon-to-be 23-year-old, letting Booker ultimately have the last word with on-the-court direction.

And if the team finds success (whatever that means in the modern NBA and extraordinarily competitive Western Conference), if he continues to be statistically strong, he will reap the most rewards. His name will become more well-known and respected around the league, and he may even find a way to finally receive his first legitimate All-Star consideration.

With the additions of Monty and Rubio (along with Dario Saric – the first legitimate power forward to play alongside Booker in his career), if the team continues to not lose, it will become far more of a reflection on him than it has to date, and the fear of a future trade demand may wane as teams may not even want to take on his contract, regardless of the individual stats he puts up.

(While Russell Westbrook is a superior player as of now and on a supermax deal, his own inability to lead a team to the promised land has hampered the number of offers the Thunder are receiving right now for a player that should  be about as sought after as any player in the history of the league.)

The best player on the team is held accountable in every situation and if with the addition of these new and talented pieces, if Booker would be lauded for the team’s success, he will receive the brunt of the blame for the team’s failures as well.

Forget for a second the contract that is about to kick in for Devin Booker, the time for him to step up and carry a team (one that is much more talented than has been at any other point in his career) has come.

We have watched him score a ton of points in his short career, hit some amazing game-winning shots, and overall played very well on an individual level.

But the best players in the league make his teammates better and carry a franchise if need be.

Granted, he has not had much to work with to date, but now that he has the best talent he has ever had on an individual team, it is time for him to take over and become the true star that the Phoenix Suns, and their fans, believe he can be.

Next. How Ty Jerome and Cam Johnson's offensive games fit in with Devin Booker. dark

The Western Conference has become extremely difficult with stars flooding away from the East in unprecedented numbers. At the moment, the Phoenix Suns appear to be lost in the shuffle destined to remain near the bottom of the barrel.

Devin Booker has an opportunity now to prove that he is among the elite, and while that might not necessarily mean playoffs right away, it sure does mean taking a potential 30-win team without him, and making it much better.