Have the Suns flopped Devin Booker's career in The Valley?

The Phoenix Suns are stuck in mediocrity and they're in danger of losing Devin Booker because of it.
Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns - Game Three
Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns - Game Three / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

Phoenix Suns fans experienced some painful years of NBA irrelevance last decade. I’m sure Suns fans remember missing the playoffs 10 seasons in a row. When the Suns finally made the postseason in 2021, following a spectacular bubble showing in 2020, they made the NBA Finals, experiencing a heartbreaking loss after going up 2-0 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

However, this loss felt like the beginning of a new era—an era that wouldn’t be remembered by just one finals appearance. 

The following season, the Suns had the best record in the league with 64 wins and were heavy favorites to be NBA champions. It ended with one of the worst Game 7 performances in NBA history, losing by 33 points on home court against the Dallas Mavericks in the second round.

In the 2022-23 season, the Suns landed Kevin Durant in February, giving up core pieces and draft picks. The Suns went on to lose in six games in the second round to the Denver Nuggets, and that summer, Chris Paul was out the window for Bradley Beal. 

Fast forward to today, the Suns are stuck with Beal, who makes over $50 million until the summer of 2027 if he opts into the final year of his contract (unless he turns down $57 million). And after being swept out of the first round by the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Suns are stuck in mediocrity with Booker and Durant on the team. More pain for Suns fans.

For what felt like a resurgence for the Suns, a rebuild or retool is now on the horizon, with no championship in sight.

The Suns don’t own many of their picks for the foreseeable future, so they do not need to outright tank and can continue deploying a decent team on the floor. Regardless of whether the Suns can still be a somewhat competitive team in terms of making the playoffs, Booker and fans earned the right to be contending for titles, not to be left with a short but heartbreaking title contention stint.

And with the current roster, we must be honest; these are not title contenders. Combine that with the assets of the Suns; there is no real way to turn this into a title-contending team in the coming seasons.

What this means for Booker’s future as a Sun

Booker is coming off just his fourth playoffs with the Suns and still hasn’t come close to reaching another NBA Finals since his first postseason.

The 27-year-old guard was selected 13th overall by the Suns in the 2015 draft. In his nine-season career, he has two All-NBA and four All-Star selections. Averaging over 22 points per game since the age of 20, the Suns have yet to find stability around Booker, and it's time for Booker as one of the best offensive engines in the league to find it. He's coming off a season averaging 27.1 points and 6.9 assists per game on 61.1 percent true shooting.

You may think Booker has played with Paul, Mikal Bridges, Durant, and Beal. Is that not stability? But looking deeper into it, he’s had just two seasons it was realistic to reach a title: 2021 and 2022. 

The past two seasons with Durant have had shallow rosters, with few role players and defensive pieces; this was badly exposed in a deep Western Conference this season. Not to mention, the Suns recently hired Booker’s third head coach since the start of the 2023 season, Mike Budenholzer. Combining this with constant roster changes and a new owner, the stability around Booker, despite talented players, has been shaky. 

In a league where deep teams like the Minnesota Timberwolves, Boston Celtics, and Dallas Mavericks are all contenders for this year’s title (sorry, Indiana), two superstars, Beal, who has not been an All-Star since 2021, and role players who aren’t difference makers won’t cut it.

The aforementioned teams all have an identity and can defend. The Wolves and Celtics are elite deep defensive teams with top talent leading the way, and the Mavs have a top two player in the world alongside a locked-in Kyrie Irving. Surround those two with impactful role players who can shoot and defend; the Mavs have a formula to compete.

The Suns found an identity in the 2020-21 season through Monty Williams and Paul, bringing leadership and a standard of excellence. Add in key pieces like Bridges, who was a joyous teammate who played his ass off on both ends of the floor, Cameron Johnson, and more; the Suns had two excellent shot creators and the correct pieces around them, making for a deep, talented team. Booker is the only player left from the 2021 finals team. It helps to have continuity and not strip your roster of all assets for an aging superstar.

Many superstars dealing with inconsistent and unstable franchises usually ask for a trade. The Suns cannot afford this. However, it's not looking bright for the Suns. Beal’s no-trade clause and unwanted contract have a stranglehold on the Suns. So what do you do? Trade Durant? I guess, but that’s an awful look on a team that traded multiple draft picks, Bridges and Johnson, for KD. Plus, if you trade KD, what are you getting?

Draft picks? Taking a gamble on some young role players or downgrading in general? Would a backcourt of Booker and Beal be a legitimate playoff backcourt? If you keep KD, does he ask out of Phoenix in a year anyway? The Suns will be stuck in mediocrity with the current roster, and the only way to restock with draft picks is to trade Durant and/or Booker.

It seems probable the Suns will not turn this around, and Booker, who Suns have so far only experienced four postseasons with, could very well ask out of Phoenix by the 2025-26 season. This would be a failure, as the Suns should have been competing with Booker on their team for at least five more seasons.

5 biggest mistakes the Suns made in 2023-24. dark. Next. 5 biggest mistakes the Suns made in 2023-24

Perhaps they could have if Booker had a younger core with Bridges and Johnson, along with draft picks ready to flip to improve the roster. In addition, players like Booker do not come around every day, and it might just take another long and painful rebuild for the Suns to experience another deep playoff run.

Suns fans should understand whatever choice Booker makes. The talk of the league is currently around stars like Luka Doncic, Anthony Edwards, Jayson Tatum, and Tyrese Haliburton. Booker is as good or better than the players on this list and should be hungry to be discussed with the top teams and players in the league to get another shot at a title.