The Phoenix Suns are an incomplete team, but what they have is a star player in Devin Booker who can score like an all-time great. When he doesn’t score though, the team cannot win.
Devin Booker needs help. That there is no doubt. He is the only true scorer on the roster, and his hopeful running mate, Deandre Ayton, has missed all but two games this season for the Phoenix Suns, putting even more pressure on Book to carry the load.
The problem though is that when Booker isn’t able to do so – or isn’t up to the task – then the team suffers considerably.
So, Devin Booker must score in order for the Phoenix Suns to win.
The NBA is a star-based league. Teams now-a-days attempt to acquire two stars, then build the roster with a bunch of role-players letting the stars dominate and carry the rest.
Fans and franchise management alike have long believed that Devin Booker is the first star player, the kind of freak of nature who can carry a team – and he should perform like it every, single, game.
For the first four years of his career, he has played on a roster that was continually built to lose meaning that no matter how good Booker could be on any individual night, the rest of the roster was so poor that literally no star in the league could have taken the roster to many victories.
However this season his running mates are far better top-to-bottom, and yet Booker has not consistently stepped up to carry the load.
When he does, they win more often than not.
When he doesn’t, they literally do not win.
While single-game scoring numbers should not be the end-all be-all for the evaluation of a team, when a team has a single star, there is a general correlation to winning and losing.
In this case, the difference is stark:
In games when Devin Booker scores 30 or more points, the Phoenix Suns are 4-3.
In games when Devin Booker scores 25-29 points, the Phoenix Suns are 3-1.
In games when Devin Booker scores 20-24 points, the Phoenix Suns are 3-4.
In games when Devin Booker scores 0-19 points, the Phoenix Suns are 0-9.
In other words: when Devin Booker carries the team offensively, the roster is actually good enough to hang with him to help pull out a victory.
When Devin Booker does not carry the team offensively, the roster is nowhere near good enough to make up for the slack that his offensive malaise has created.
We can debate all the live-long day why Devin Booker might not score 20 points, whether it is because he is having an off night, the defense is double or triple-teaming him consistently, or he has literally given up on the offense.
There is also the possibility that Monty Williiams’ offensive- system is set up so that Booker can not carry the team by himself, especially with Ricky Rubio now the primary ball-handler which has inherently taken certain offensive possessions out of Book’s hands (the fact that Rubio cannot hit a 3 to save his – or the team’s – life is actually a tremendous detriment to Booker’s game because the Rubio’s defender can actually focus on Booker more than his own man out on the perimeter, keeping the ball in Rubio’s hands longer because he is such not an outside threat).
The problem is, that Booker knows that he needs to score for the team to win, and he wants to have un-godly numbers. And yet he doesn’t score as much as they need, as often as they need to remain competitive.
Granted, of late, he has been suffering from a shooting hand injury that was injured during the Memphis Grizzlies game on December 11, but in the last four games that he has played (including Memphis), he has failed to score at least 20 points and he is shooting just 37.5% from the field including a scary-bad 7.1% from 3 (by contrast, he had been shooting career-highs with 51.4% from the field and 41.5% from beyond the arc prior to the injury).
Injury or not, though, Booker has not taken it upon himself to take over a game offensively when he is most needed, and that even includes playing a style closer to Russell Westbrook or James Harden (which he can do very well), in which he simply takes the ball to the hole a number of times, drawing contact, and shooting free throws – which has does exceptionally well.
Even with his injury, Booker is still shooting an exceptional 90.9% from the free throw line over those four games, which is right on par with his already career-high of 90.8%.
However, his free throw attempts haven’t gone up any (5.5 per game from 5.7 prior) meaning that he hasn’t really changed his style at all to make up for the hand injury.
If he at least drew contact and got to the free throw line a bit more, then he could both slow the game down some – which would work in Phoenix’s favor – while also shooting the highest-percentage shot in his arsenal, something that he is literally doing at a Steve Nash-like rate (MVSteve shot 90.7% in his Phoenix Suns career).
It is time for Devin Booker to take over some games and help pull out more wins. His teammates are absolutely good enough to share that load, they are just nowhere near good enough to carry the load for him.
He must be the star the Phoenix Suns know he can be, and be that star consistently. Obviously we all hope that James Jones can pull out a miracle and acquire a star soon to finally give Book the help he so desperately needs. However, until then, injury or not: Devin Booker needs to score more.