The NBA’s bubble-restart last summer offered Phoenix Suns fans a brief, yet still gratifying moment to envision Devin Booker‘s playoff potential, as the six-year guard formerly from Kentucky undoubtedly etched his name onto the league’s unofficial “superstar” list with ferocity and precision. Booker lead the Suns to an 8-0 record, contributing with 30.5 points, 6.0 assists, and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Although the Suns barely missed the playoffs following this extraordinary performance, it managed to attract some long overdue appreciation for Booker, and brew some excitement for the years still to come. Roughly 10 months later though, Booker has already begun his encore performance, and it seems likely to go down as one for the ages.
Starting out hot, Booker began his playoff crusade by dropping 34 points on the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers last week, hitting his shots at an efficient 50.0 percent from the field. It came as the most points ever scored by a Sun during their playoff debut, and tied for the seventh most across the entire NBA.
Booker kept pace the next game, adding 31 points while hitting 17-17 free throw attempts. The Suns lost the game 102-109, but surely not at Booker’s fault.
Cooling down a bit, Booker scored 19 and then 17 points during his next two games, while shooting a collective 33.0 percent from the field. He rebounded from those tough outings though, scoring 30 points during Game 5, and then a whopping 47 points the next to send the Lakers packing and move onto the Western Conference Semifinals.
During Booker’s 47-point outburst, he drained 8-10 3-pointers, tied for the fifth most all-time during a playoff game. His scoring total at halftime stood at 33 points, just six behind Eric Floyd’s 39-point record for points during a half.
Opening up against the Denver Nuggets, Booker worked to involve his teammates a bit more, dishing out eight assists while still scoring 21 points himself, going a highly efficient 8-12 from the field. From a collective standpoint, Booker currently averages 28.4 points per game while shooting 50.4 percent on field goals, and 41.0 percent from beyond the arc. For now, we know not when Booker might erupt next, causing these stats to surge dramatically, but at this point, his numbers already surpass many past figures already deemed NBA greats.
As perhaps the most notable NBA Champion over the last decade outside LeBron James, Steph Curry remains not only a sure-fire Hall of Famer, but arguably the greatest point guard to ever play the game. So far during these playoffs though, Booker averages more points per game than Curry ever managed during any of his playoff runs, including the one following his unanimous MVP season. Although deemed the greatest shooter of all time by most, Curry never put up a field goal percentage better than Booker’s marks this postseason as well.
Booker’s points and percentages also surpass that of Derrick Rose during his 2011 playoff run which came after his illustrious MVP season with the Chicago Bulls. It was the last time we saw the transcendent, vintage DRose under the postseason’s bright lights, but Booker’s performance thus far still stands above it.
Superstars from the early 2000s fall before Booker as well, including Vince Carter, Dwyane Wade, and even the late great Kobe Bryant. During a 2001 playoff run for the Toronto Raptors, Carter averaged just over a point under Booker’s current average, while shooting 6.8 field goal percentage points less than him as well. For comparison, Carter was 24-years old during his 2001 run, the same age as Booker today.
Wade scored at a lower percentage and scored fewer points than Booker during his 2006 playoff excursion, which culminated into his first ever NBA Championship, with an NBA Finals MVP to go alongside it. During Bryant’s 2002 playoff campaign, he not only scored fewer points than Booker has, but also shot less efficiently from the field and 3-point territory. Still, Bryant finished out his playoffs with a third-straight Larry O’Brien trophy in his hands.
Comparing one player to another and then predicting their future based off it can become dangerous, but even with the accomplishments of those outperformed by Booker thrown out the window, his correlation to their names alone remains impressive nonetheless.
However, if Booker manages to follow in their footsteps and indeed capture an NBA Championship, Finals MVP, or establish strong Hall of Fame bid for himself…don’t say we didn’t warn you.