How Devin Booker’s 3-Point Shooting Growth Made the Suns Unbeatable

Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Last season, Devin Booker carried almost all the offensive tools imaginable around on his work belt. With a slippery mid-range pull up that transcended modern analytics, strong dribble-drive moves, an underrated post-up game, as well as the athleticism and wit to create for himself and others, he badgered opposing defenses night after night for the Phoenix Suns.

But every now and then, more so on the rarest occasions, he came up short, needing to tighten one more bolt to secure a win, but missing the right wrench to do so.

Unfortunately, last year’s NBA Finals best exemplified this issue for Booker. Even though he put up fantastic numbers for the series, averaging 28.2 points, 4.0 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game, one glaring component within his game fell off during Phoenix’s losses.

Booker missed that vacant tool, which of course, was an efficient 3-point shot.

During Phoenix’s first two NBA Finals contests, which the Suns won, Booker shot a combined 42.0 percent from beyond the arc. His long range missile system, fully intact for the time being, destroyed the Milwaukee Bucks, dropping timely buckets while spacing the floor for his teammates.

But during the next four games, which the team lost, Booker shot an abysmal 13.6 percent from deep. The Suns fell behind as Giannis Antetokounmpo and company bullied Phoenix inside, frankly unable to keep up with all the easy points coming at the floor’s other end.

Even outside the postseason, the Suns put up an astute 21-7 record during games when Booker shot above 35.0 percent from range. But during games when he shot under 25.0 percent, the Suns went a less impressive 12-8.

With this alignment between Booker’s 3-point shooting and Phoenix’s success, he entered this past offseason with one clear goal: to fix his long range shot—to go down to Home Depot and buy that last tool.

Thankfully, it appears that he did so.

How has Devin Booker’s Improved 3-Point Shooting Helped the Phoenix Suns?

This year, things look different for Booker. He finds himself shooting a career-high 42.0 percent from deep so far, even showing no signs of a drop off following his hamstring injury. That has translated into his team’s success, with the Suns boasting a league-best 25-5 record.

But even beyond what the standings show you, Booker’s more consistent 3-point shot has made a difference for nearly all his teammates out on the court.

Starting with fellow young gun Deandre Ayton, Booker’s 3-point shooting gave way to arguably Ayton’s best game so far this season, occurring just two nights ago.

During Phoenix’s rout of the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, Booker nailed six 3-pointers, going down as a season high for him. With Booker threatening from deep, he drew defenders away from the paint, resulting in a 19-point game for Ayton where he shot a season high 81.9 percent from the field.

High scoring, matched with efficient numbers remains the name of the game for big men these days, and Booker helped Ayton deliver in that department. Especially with him doing it against the Lakers, the game felt like one from Phoenix’s playoff run last year, where Ayton even put himself into Bill Russell territory from a statistical standpoint.

Moving onto Booker’s backcourt partner, Chris Paul also finds himself benefitting as a facilitator from Booker’s long range mastery. With Booker again drawing so much attention along the arc, he makes dropping dimes and protecting the rock that much easier for the Point God.

So far this year, Booker has included six games where he made at least four triples and shot at least 50.0 percent while doing so. Three of those games have also been top six assist to turnover ratio outings for Paul, illustrating another positive correlation between Book’s shooting and a teammate’s success.

With the Suns offense built around a pick-and-roll based offense, this phenomenon makes sense, as Booker’s scoring outside the paint takes pressure off Paul being another ball handler and someone who stretches the opponent’s defense. Doing that opens up space for Booker and others to score off slick feeds from Paul, and less difficult for defenders to crowd Paul at the top of the key and force turnovers.

A solid 3-point shooting night for Booker typically bodes well for Jae Crowder at the same time. Being a long range specialist, Crowder’s percentages better tell his story each night rather than just makes, and when Booker starts knocking them down, Crowder’s efficiency rises.

When making perimeter defenders sweat, Booker just opens more doors for Crowder to shoot via his floor spacing. To illustrate this, once again look no further than the numbers. Crowder’s top two 3-point shooting percentage games this year are uncoincidentally both games in which Booker hit at least four shots from deep.

At the same time, whenever Booker fails to threaten from outside, things become difficult for Crowder. This year, Booker has only played five games where he attempted less than four triples, and two of them include games where Crowder missed all his 3-pointers—something done by him only three times this whole year.

These two snipers clearly play off each other, and when Booker starts to make it rain, Crowder makes sure it stays pouring.

Where do Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns go From Here?

With so much stemming from Booker’s new and improved deep shot, just keeping up the onslaught from range needs to remain his primary concern. If he does that though, he owns a solid chance to not only keep the Suns winning, but also begin adding to his legacy as an individual.

Comparing Booker to Kobe Bryant often feels forced at this point, and rightfully so. For all Bryant did, there will never be another like him. But when looking purely at his numbers and that of a few other legendary shooting guards, one cannot help but point out more similarities working in accordance with Booker’s 3-point shot.

Between his sixth and seventh season, Bryant experienced a massive bump in his 3-point percentage, carving out at +13.3 percent difference. Future Hall of Fame two guard Vince Carter also experienced a sudden increase at +2.3 percent, as did Reggie Miller at +2.2 percent.

With this year being Booker’s seventh, his 3-point shooting reflects a +8.0 percent increase from the year prior. Now, other intangibles certainly helped Bryant, Carter, and Miller increase their long range shooting during those seasons, but the timeliness of their upticks matching with Booker’s cannot be completely ignored.

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All those players went on to experience Hall of Fame careers, so with Booker more or less keeping stride with them, he finds himself on track to reach basketball immortality all the same, while again pushing his team to new heights this year.