Some were already touting 20-year old Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker as a future All-Star. However, it wasn’t until he scored 70 points in a single game that he splashed into mainstream attention. Sure, his Suns may have dropped that game 120-130 to the Boston Celtics. But individual performance stood out, such that people will be talking about his scoring long after the losses of this season are forgotten.
Does Devin Booker have the makings of a genuine franchise player? Will he one day join the ranks of Charles Barkley and Steve Nash as the greatest Suns?
He Joins Rare Company
The 70-point outing makes him only the 6th player all time to score at that many in one game. The others on that list? Wilt Chamberlain, David Robinson, David Thompson, Elgin Baylor, and Kobe Bryant. Those are people either in the Hall of Fame, or headed for it. Also, no player at his age has ever scored even 60 points.
Given that Booker is only in his second year in the league, it’s tough to project exactly the type of player he will be as time goes on. Players don’t usually evolve into the type of player they’ll be for their career, until a few years into it.
And yet, Suns fans have to be hopeful about what they’ve seen: someone who can be a dynamic scorer, and a high-volume shooter, from anywhere on the court. In his 70-point game, he did it all. He drove, he hit elbow jumpers, floaters, and three-point shots. And very tellingly, he excelled both off-ball and in iso-play.
His scoring average this season as leapt from 13.8 to 21.6 points, and as the Suns decide to build around him for the next decade or so, that number should only go-up. He’ll need to work a little on his efficiency (only 42.3% on fields goals right now). But the Suns will have a high draft pick this year (they’re 22-52m 14th in the West) and could give him the support he needs to open the floor for him.
Holes In His Game
The single biggest point of improvement for Booker at the moment? His defense needs to be shored up. Across his games, Booker has exhibited the tendency to be lazy on defense – watching a shot without boxing out, being noncommittal to good footwork against driving players, and forgetting his man. In that respect, he might draw comparisons to high-offensive, bad-defense players like James Harden. However, defense is something can be learned.
And the other weakness of Booker: taking care of the rock when it’s in his hands. As of now, Booker averages 3.2 assists against 3.0 turnovers per game – nearly a 1-to-1 ratio that should be unacceptable for a point guard.
If he can cover those weaknesses, and manages to continue scoring at an impressive rate, then his ceiling is only as high as he wants it to go.