Phoenix Suns 12 Days of pre-Christmas Day 6: Devin Booker’s passing

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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The Phoenix Suns have a very effective passing point guard in Ricky Rubio, but Devin Booker is once again racking up the assists even now as a full-time shooting guard.

When James Jones signed Ricky Rubio, he was making a strong point that offense and passing were at the very top of his wish list of problems to fix for the seemingly ever-broken Phoenix Suns.

Rubio came to Phoenix with a career average of 7.7 assists, with a career-high of 9.1 and five seasons in which he averaged at least eight assists per game. In fact, only in his two seasons with the Utah Jazz did he average under seven assists per game.

Yet, while Rubio was the only point guard that Jones brought in this summer (much to my chagrin, to be sure, and to the team’s detriment), the expectation was that Devin Booker‘s personal assist average would take a big dip as his on-the-ball time would drop considerably from the previous two seasons in which he played significant minutes as the team’s point guard.

*At least, according to the eye test: Basketball-reference had Booker at point guard only 5% of the time in 2017-18 and 15% of the tine in 2018-19.

And yet, even now as an absolute shooting guard (basketball-reference has him at point guard 0% thus far this season), his assist average is only a hair below that of last season – 6.4 per game, down from 6.8.

A lot of this has to do with Monty Williams‘ new passing-based offense as the Phoenix Suns lead the league in assists per game (after not even breaking the top-20 since finishing 13th in 2012-13), but a lot has to do with Devin Booker: he is simply not a selfish, score-only player, and continues to develop his on-court vision to make plays for teammates at a very successful rate.

How successful?

There are only seven players in the entire NBA who currently (as of December 20) average at least 25 points and at least 6 assists.

The other six? – well, you could probably guess them: James Harden, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Bradley Beal, Damian Lillard, and LeBron James.

Just for fun, do you know how many of them are shooting at least 40% from 3 (Booker is at 40.6%)?

None.

The point of these stats?

Devin Booker is playing a very unselfish game.

Sure he is scoring a lot, but consider this little nugget: Charlie Scott (who is in the Hall of Fame), is the only other player in franchise-history to average at least 25 points and 6 assists in a game over the course of a single season, doing so in 1972-73 (the Suns finished 38-44 – although within three years Jerry Colangelo could not wait to trade him).

That said: for further clarity, several other players have finished with at least 25 points and 5 assists: Paul Westphal in 1977-78 (and he finished with 24.0 points and 6.5 assists the following year), Charles Barkley in 1992-93, Charlie Scott in 1973-74, and don’t forget Devin Booker himself in 2018-19 when he finished with 26.6 points and 6.8 assists per game.

Booker is playing at a historic offensive rate as well, sitting very  pretty with a 113.4 offensive rating (an estimate of the points that he has produced by scoring or assists per 100 possessions) as we speak, 17th in the league for players who have appeared in at least 24 games, and five points higher than even last season’s 108.2, which had been his career-high.

Next. Phoenix Suns 12 Days of pre-Christmas Day 5: Five returning players. dark

Unfortunately Devin Booker needs more help, but his offense has at least not taken a hit – and has even improved – this season with the new head coach and much improved (overall) roster.

As we get closer and closer to Christmas and go through these 12 Days of pre-Christmas, Phoenix Suns fans can be thankful that the franchise’s center piece is playing at the level that he is, among the stars of the league, and greats in franchise-history.