It’s hard to get excited about basketball in Phoenix. The Suns are one of the NBA’s worst teams, and are set for another lengthy rebuild.
Although, that might not necessarily be the worst thing for the team, as it is giving Devin Booker time to mature into a dominant NBA shooting guard.
It’s easy to forget that Booker is only 19-years-old. One of the youngest players in the 2015 NBA Draft, the Kentucky product has thrived for an atrocious Phoenix Suns team that hasn’t had a fully healthy backcourt since December.
When Eric Bledsoe suffered a torn meniscus to his left knee, the Suns turned to Booker to fill some of the void left by Bledsoe. Of course, it’s not easy for anyone, let alone a rookie, to make up for the 20.4 points and 6.1 assists Bledsoe contributed on a nightly basis, but Booker has been able to turn some heads in his absence.
Over the last month of the season, Booker has averaged 18.5 points and 4 assists. In addition, he recorded consecutive 30 point efforts during games played on March 9th and 10th.
One of Booker’s most prominent statistics is his three-point shooting. It has been a major part of his offensive skill-set since his time at Kentucky, where he averaged 3.1 shots from deep per game.
Booker’s NBA numbers from three have remained relatively consistent with his college stats. He sits third amongst all rookies with 3.1 three pointers attempted per game. Most importantly, his .385 percentage from beyond the arc is tops amongst all first-year players who take more than one three pointer a contest.
It seems Booker has caught the attention of one of the league’s best players.
Miami Heat guard, Dwayne Wade, had some encouraging words about the rookie. ESPN’s Michael Wallace wrote about the All-Star, who gave his opinion on Booker.
“If he continues taking steps, he’s going to be very, very good,” Wade said. “I like him. I like him a lot.”
With the blessing of such a high profile NBA superstar such as Wade, it seems Booker has a bright future ahead of him. However, with Bledsoe returning to full health next season, there will undoubtedly be questions regarding Booker’s role on the team.
While Bledsoe will take time away from Booker, Phoenix needs to focus its attention on transitioning Booker to their full-time starting shooting guard. It would be asinine to not feature him heavily in the rotation, as he has proven himself to be a potential cornerstone for the Suns future plans.
In the event Phoenix sticks with Booker in the starting role, it becomes entirely plausible the Suns tries to deal Bledsoe during the offseason. He is viewed as one of the most dynamic players in the game, but is owed $43 million over the next three years.
Booker is still on a rookie deal that features team options in both 2017 and 2018. This makes him a much more affordable option than Bledsoe, who, unlike fellow backcourt mate, Brandon Knight, plays predominantly as the teams shooting guard, Booker’s current position.
The Suns need to look towards the future. While Bledsoe is young, and plays at an All-Star level, he is also an injury prone guard with a massive cap hit. It’s certainly not in the teams best interest to keep him over the younger, and more cap-friendly Booker.
Phoenix will likely have a new coach going into next season, and with it a new direction. Giving an emerging talent like Devon Booker a starting job on a team that features an established point guard in Knight, is a very wise move for the Suns, and Booker’s, growth and development.
Follow Daniel James Gentile on twitter @dgentleman9288