Winning bias is damaging Booker's ranking among league’s best

Despite recent success of other stars, Devin Booker deserves more credit for all he had done for the Phoenix Suns since they drafted him.
Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns - Game Four
Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns - Game Four / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

He lost four games straight in an NBA Finals, was blown out in a Game 7 on his homecourt as the championship favourites in the second round of the 2022 playoffs, and was swept by the Minnesota Timberwolves this year.

We get it. There’s a lot to pick out from Devin Booker’s career. But propelling Jayson Tatum, Anthony Edwards, and others over him as if Booker isn’t in the conversation is unfair. I use these two players (Tatum and Edwards) as examples due to their recent success due to the winning and recency bias behind them.

Booker was just 24 years old when he made the NBA Final and hasn’t returned since. Does this mean he got worse? No. He’s better.

After the Milwaukee Bucks snatched the souls of Phoenix Suns fans, I wrote that offseason what Booker could improve upon. I listed his 3-point shooting, as he made just 26.8 percent of his 3-point attempts in that final, including shooting 0-7 from distance in Game 6. 

Booker improved his 3-point shooting from 34 to 38.3 percent the following season, shooting 0.5 more attempts per game. Since then, he’s shot over 35 percent on at least one more attempt per game each season.

I also listed that his playmaking needed to improve, and it has every season. In the 2020-21 season, the shooting guard averaged 4.3 assists and 3.1 turnovers per game. He just came off a season averaging 6.9 assists and 2.6 turnovers per game, and it's visibly noticeable with his decision-making (the Suns still need a point guard, though).

I added that he needed to get stronger, which he visibly has, helping him around the rim and creating separation. 

Booker is now one of the most well-rounded scorers in the league. He scores from the perimeter, can create his own shot with very little and gets to the line. He’s averaged over 27 points per game in the last two seasons as one of the league’s premiere scorers. 

What I’m trying to get at is Booker has improved at everything he possibly can, and it feels like he's only been met with criticism since due to winning bias.  

The Michigan native made the final as the lead scorer, improved, and isn't discussed in the same breath by fans and the media as a player who has achieved less (such as Edwards and Jalen Brunson of late).

Edwards has been phenomenal, but in the midst of his run to his first conference final, many were ready to crown him as the new face of the league. Some even began discussing it after Edwards won his first career playoff series.

Yes, Booker got swept by Edwards’ team. But can you imagine Booker with a team around him with the league’s best defense as the offensive engine? Will we forget Booker dropped back-to-back 40-point games on basketball’s greatest stage? Will we forget he led the Suns to 64 wins in the 2021-22 season?

Do we forget he averaged 33.7 points and 7.2 assists on 58.5/50.8/86.6 shooting splits last playoffs? Despite the loss, the guard also averaged 27.5 points per game on 49.2 percent shooting against the Timberwolves in Round 1 this year. Would you rather have Booker or Edwards leading your team? That's up to you to decide, but it's a tough decision.

Yes, Tatum just won his first championship. However, he’s on the most talented team since the Warriors’ dynasty and heavily underperformed early in the series. He deserves a lot of credit as the team’s best player and playmaker, along with his defense and rebounding, but there was a reason why the Finals MVP was up for grabs.

Next. This underrated prospect could be the Suns next draft steal. This underrated prospect could be the Suns next draft steal. dark

Should his ring automatically propel him over Booker? Depends on what you value. I won’t be mad at it either way. The point is that they're in the same class, and Booker and his resume deserve to be discussed with Tatum and Edwards.

A lot of it has to do with the supporting cast of these stars. If Booker had a deep supporting cast like Tatum, Edwards, and Brunson, he’d be a threat to make the final each year. When you win, you're the topic of discussion.

While these players are talented, they’re not in the same tier as Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, or Joel Embiid. After those names, it's fair game. Even though Booker and others aren’t regarded as top five players in the world, these are all still players who, if they are in the right situation and have a great supporting cast, can lead their teams to victory.