Is Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker poised to morph into Harden-like player?

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

While it’s difficult to envisage the Phoenix Suns transforming into a Houston Rockets style offense, there’s certainly a case for putting the ball in your best player’s hands more often.

In the seasons following 2015-16, Harden’s usage rate continued to grow before peaking at 39.6% in 2018-19. It’s hard to fathom Booker ever reaching that level, but an increase to 35% shouldn’t be out of the realms of possibility.

We were already given an appetiser as to what that may look like when Paul was injured towards the end of the regular season. In the 11 games he missed, Booker took greater control of the offense and subsequently produced 28 points and seven assists per game.

He posted greater field-goal and three-point percentages, while also getting to the free-throw line more often. His +9.3 plus-minus was well above his +6.9 throughout the course of the entire regular season.

Delving into Harden’s eighth season and while his shooting numbers remained steady at a high-level, his rebounding and assist numbers flew of the charts. He went from 6.1 to 8.1 rebounds per game, and went from averaging 7.5 to 11.2 assists.

Harden finished second behind Russell Westbrook in MVP voting. He won the award the following season before finishing second again to Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2018-19.

Can Booker follow a similar trend to Harden? While the major question may regard his elevation into a perennial MVP candidate, a more poignant one may concern whether he can transform into the Suns starting point-guard post-Paul?

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At present, Booker isn’t necessarily going to post true Harden-like numbers. But while the Suns wouldn’t necessarily want him to do that, at some point we may have to question whether Paul’s presence may actually be inhibiting Booker’s individual growth into an offensive force similar to what we saw with Harden.