After a grand long wait, Devin Booker is an All-Star. He replaces Damian Lillard who had to pull out of Sunday’s game with a groin injury. A dejected Lillard was the first one who brought up Booker’s name as his replacement, which is how far Booker has come. He has earned respect. And rightly so. This season, Booker has quieted all the critics.
Devin Booker is having a season. He is taking fewer shots this season than last year but at a career high percentage, nearly 50%. He’s draining 92% of his free throws. He’s averaging the same amount of points this year as he did last year but it just feels different. Booker has the highest offensive rating of his career and nearly the best defensive rating (though his def rating is still way under par). He has a PER of 20.6 and his usage rate has dropped with the new offensive system.
In the 3rd quarter of games Devin Booker puts up more shots than any other quarter and he’s shooting 51% and 45% from three. The Suns are desperate for an efficient Booker. In the Suns 22 wins, Booker shot 53% and 41% from three. In the 30 losses, the opposite. 46% and 30% from three. It will always follow Booker: can he make player’s better?
Booker is an All-Star, something he has always coveted. Emotional, he likens being left off the roster to some conspiracy theory about the wretchedness of Phoenix owner Bob Sarver, and/or that NBA coaches don’t like him. But this year it was a numbers game. It came down to Booker or Chris Paul.
This season, Paul has gone old school point God and the Thunder have a winning record and are in playoff contention. It is one more thing that Booker bristles at, how important wins are. But the basketball Gods- perhaps the ghost of Kobe Bryant- gave Booker a shout out. Damian Lillard goes down. Booker gets his shot.
It is a bittersweet moment for the kid from Mississippi and Grand Rapids who idolized Kobe Bryant and was selected 13th like Kobe was selected 13th and plays the same position as Bryant. That Bryant doesn’t get to see Booker thrive is heartbreaking and one more reason for Booker to approach what is left of the season with a Bryant like intensity.
Monty Williams has been good for Booker’s development. But he still needs to improve on defense the way James Harden improved.
Despite the myth of Devin Booker as a ball hog, he only touches the ball 59.8 times per game which is less than James Harden (85.1), Bradley Beal (77.8) and Donovan Mitchell (67.7). It’s the one area Monty Williams has improved the Booker game. Less is more. Last season, Booker touched the ball 75.7 times per game. This new Booker is the improved Booker. Still, their have been skeptics who don’t approve of the All-Star choice, preferring Ja Morant or Paul George who are more deserving because they are on winning teams. But last I checked Trae Young wasn’t on a winning team.
It’s the kind of career Booker is having where he has to justify himself. But no one can argue the talent. Earlier this season, he scored 40 on Philly (78% fg), 44 on the Pelicans (45% 3-pt), 40 on Memphis (65% fg). Last season he scored 50 points twice, back to back, against Utah and Washington.
Booker is going to enter the 3-point contest. The next day the game will honor his idol in the 4th quarter with a new scoring system. Devin Booker will have something to say about who wins. Because he is an All Star. Finally.