Do not blame any of this Phoenix Suns season on Devin Booker

The Phoenix Suns have failed to hits the heights many expected them to this season, but none of the blame lies with Devin Booker.

Phoenix Suns v Milwaukee Bucks
Phoenix Suns v Milwaukee Bucks / Patrick McDermott/GettyImages
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The Phoenix Suns are running out of time to save their season, and the play-in tournament may end up being the route they have to take to make it to the playoffs proper. With the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors and suddenly surging Houston Rockets lying in wait in that win or go home format, this is not a road the team want to go down if they can help it.

Should they come through that process and make the postseason, they will likely then have to face one of the Minnesota Timberwolves or Denver Nuggets in a seven game series. Although given that the Suns have now beaten the defending champion Nuggets twice in recent times, perhaps they should have a degree of confidence going into that matchup.

Before the knives come out for this group when they come up short we need to get ahead of it all by pointing out the obvious, which is that none of this is Devin Booker's fault.

When you're the franchise player, any shortcomings ultimately land on your doorstep. Only Booker himself hasn't had much of those at all this season, in what has quietly been a career year for him. Perhaps not in the traditional sense, but he has adapted to playing alongside Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal - while also changing his role with that trio - extremely well.

Booker has and always will be an elite scorer, and the 27.2 points he managed per game is only slightly below his career high from last season, which was 27.8. That average also puts Booker at seventh in the league in scoring so far - and given that the Suns will need him to be at his best to tackle the toughest remaining schedule in the league - that number could well increase.

Really though the reason Booker deserves no hate despite the underwhelming, up-and-down nature of the campaign is because he willingly became the de-facto point guard for the group when out on the court. His 6.9 assists per game is obviously a career high, while the 19.5 shots he's hoisting up per night is plenty, but the fewest he has attempted in three seasons.

It is clear good things happen for the Suns when Beal is running the show more. It allows Booker to slide into the primary scoring role where he has excelled in the past. Only Beal has missed plenty of time this season, leaving Booker without a backcourt partner to share the ball-handling duties with, even if Grayson Allen has had a career season himself.

Which has meant Booker has had to do his best Chris Paul impression, and facilitate for others. If there is one area where Booker - and everybody else on this roster - is going to get fair criticism however, it is with the turnovers issues this group has had.

They cough up the ball 14.9 points per game - the sixth worst mark in the league - and to watch them play is to see a level of carelessness with the ball that must drive head coach Frank Vogel insane. Booker as the guy who handles the ball more than others has to accept some of the blame for these shortcomings.

Really though the roster construction by the front office just shows the limitations of building a roster around three max players, with the dropoff from those guys massive. Yet the irony here is that Booker doesn't deserve any blame for this season because of his co-star and one of the best to ever do it, in Durant.

Owner Mat Ishbia wanted to make a splash by getting Durant, and there's no doubt he raises the team's ceiling. He was also the best, most consistent and least injured star the franchise had through the first half of the season. Yet there have been games where he appears to coast early, before then looking for the ball late in a game to kill it off.

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If you'd rather have Durant take the last shot over Booker, that's understandable. It's probably also the correct choice. But how frustrating must it be for Booker - the franchise player by the way - to try and set his teammates up all game, while also looking for his when he sees it, only to defer to Durant once it gets to crunch time?

To willingly do that, while also not have Beal half the time, is exactly why Booker should be celebrated for this season. Not hated on when the Suns come up short. Which they will, but it wasn't for the want of trying from Booker. He's taken on a new role, will gladly give up the ball to a more decorated teammate and is trying to reach his own prime as a scorer as well. This season is not his fault.