Given all that transpired prior to the 2021-2022 season, Devin Booker would have wanted a better start to his seventh season.
Fresh off an NBA Finals appearance and an Olympic gold medal, Booker eclipsed 20 points per game in his first four contests, but he barely shot over 40 percent from the field and the Phoenix Suns lost three of those first four games. Since then, however, the Suns have won 33 of their next 39 games, with an 18-game winning streak helping propel them to the best record in the NBA.
Meanwhile, Booker has needed more time to get his footing. He’s had 12 30-point games so far this season, but his 24.6 points per game is his lowest scoring average since his sophomore year. His 44.7 shooting percentage from the field through 36 games is higher than only his first three years in the league and it seems the 25-year old gets fazed by anything prehistoric in nature.
Nevertheless, it seems as if things are starting to click for the two-time All-Star.
Booker erupted for 48 points in the 121-107 win over the San Antonio Spurs, easily eclisiping his previous season-high of 38 points, which he did twice this season. He scored Phoenix’s first 10 points and finished 18 in the first quarter, but his consistent offensive presence throughout helped the Suns overcome a four-point deficit entering the fourth quarter.
The shots falling in bunches were definitely a welcome sight for both Booker and Phoenix, who are trying to solidify their grip on the top seed in the Western Conference. In fact, over the last three games, the former Kentucky Wildcat has been averaging 37.7 points on 52.6/38.7/80.8 shooting splits. Beyond the percentages, it’s how he’s been getting his shots that’s been markedly better.
Booker has slowed things down and become more patient when he gets the ball in his sweet spots. The economy of movement with which he gets space certainly was greatly inspired by his idol, the late great Kobe Bryant, and it has helped the second-generation NBA player especially as defenses focused their attention on him. Having Chris Paul as a teammate certainly helps as Paul knows how to run sets to get teammates open while also finding them at the right spots at the right time.
Naturally Booker operating from midrange can at times slow things from a pace perspective, but 2018 NBA Three Point Contest Champion has been able to take things outside as his 2.7 3-pointers per game this season are also a career-high. Most of his shots inside still come from within 10 to 16 feet and once he establishes his back-to-the-basket game, he can still turn on the jets for quicker plays.
His offensive game is well-documented, but how Booker uses these all and mixes them up are what make him a tougher cover. Of course, this mainly comes from how he reads the defense, but considering he plays with the likes of Deandre Ayton, who thrives in the paint, and Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder, both of whom can create and wait in the corners for an open 3-pointer, the midrange is his to exploit along with Paul.
Paul, of course, is focused on getting everyone involved offensively and so technically, the midrange will be open for Booker especially when the shots of the rest of his team are falling. Certainly when he’s got it going like earlier today, the Suns will ride the hot hand.
The next few games should see even bigger performances from Booker as aside from the Indiana Pacers and the Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix will face the Dallas Mavericks and the Utah Jazz, the latter of whom they will take on twice. Those two games against the Jazz take on more importance especially since Utah still has an outside shot at the top seed in the West.
If there’s a silver lining to Devin Booker’s slow start, it’s that he is likely in for another strong finish to the regular season, one that will help build up to what could be a long postseason run. The points will continue to come for him, and with a more deliberate approach in hand, it will happen even more consistently. After all, there is a certain quality to quantity.