Phoenix Suns: How can Devin Booker become an all-time great player?

Devin Booker Damian Lillard Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Devin Booker Damian Lillard Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

How can Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker become an all-around great?

In a recent article, I ranked Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker among the top of his contemporaries in the NBA among his position group. Largely boosted by his shooting and scoring ability, a potentially more interesting ranking is taking a look at where Booker ranks among that position group as an all-around player.

As a Suns fan, do you want a great shooter or a great all-around player?

First, let’s define what I am talking about. Devin Booker and James Harden are elite shooting guards who should not be confused with Russell Westbrook who is an elite scoring guard. If Westbrook could shoot like either of these men, he’d be the best player since Michael Jordan at the guard position.

But let’s take it up a notch, let’s push Devin Booker hard to see if he can become one of the all-time NBA greats by the time he is ready to hang up his Nikes. Right now, Booker has the shooting part of his greatness down, I feel that he can hit any shot at any time from any place on the court under pressure.

That’s a very rare talent, but what else does Book do well?

For my “Shooting Guards” article, I set the following criteria;

  • Categories: Players must be listed in the shooting-guard category and be a ranked player in field goal attempts, field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, free-throws attempted, free-throws made, free-throw percentage, and points per game
  • Players need to play in at least 49 games*, average at least 29 minutes per game, and shoot on average at least 14 shots per game.

* The magic number of 49 games that the players must play is what is called for by the ESPN’s guidelines. As an example, Paul George was 7th in the league in scoring but wasn’t on the league-leaders list because he played in 48 games, not 49 games which are the NBA’s metrics.

Officially ESPN states; “To qualify a player must play 70% of his team’s games”.

My “Top 10” shooters were determined by the above criteria and then ranked by order of their finish in each category. As an example, Devin Booker ranked 7th in field goals attempted, 3rd in field goal percentage, 36th in 3-point shooting percentage, 4th in free-throws attempted, 1st in free-throws made, and 4th in scoring. All categories added together gave me a ranking score of 55 points for Devin.

Using the above formula I ranked Devin Booker as the best shooting guard in the league. But when you add 3-point field goals made, rebounds, assists, steals, and turnovers…Booker falls to a distant 7th in the all-around rankings of “shooting” guards with 205 “ranking” points, behind Fred VanVleet of the Raptors at 197 points.

Remember the lower the ranking points, the better the player is in the rankings.  So for context, Luka Doncic came in 4th at 174 ranking points, and James Harden, whose game I did not like at all but now have respect for, came in number one with 138 ranking points.

On a side note, if Paul George had played in a couple more games, he would have been the best shooting guard in my rankings, and he would have come in second in the all-around guard category.

So what areas does Devin Booker have to improve in to join the elite guards of today and yesteryear? The answer is pretty simple and obvious, defense.

According to ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus/Minus out of 138 eligible shooting guards, Booker came in at 119th. For comparison, Harden, whose defensive abilities are often maligned came in 12th. on that list. That in itself is something that Devin Booker and his fans should take a hard look at.

Keeping in mind that my ranking categories are more finite versus the ESPN Defensive Plus-Minus which is a deep dive, expansive list of analytics. With my rankings, Booker came in 14th for shooting guards in rebounding, and 39th in steals.

Those are definitely areas that should warrant Devin’s attention in his quest to become one of the best of all-time.