Devin Booker was voted number 11 on our list of the best players in the upcoming 2022-2023 season. Booker seemed disillusioned after spending four seasons wandering the Phoenix desert for awful and aimless teams. Monty Williams helped spearhead a franchise resurgence after being hired as head coach in 2019. The 2020 trade for Chris Paul cemented the Phoenix Suns as a Western Conference power. Booker was finally able to show his importance to a championship contender.
It’s not always sunny in Phoenix, however. They’re coming off a shocking collapse at home against the Dallas Mavericks after getting steamrolled 123-90 in Game 7. Robert Sarver is selling the team after the NBA determined he engaged in racist and sexist behavior. Deandre Ayton is back after Phoenix matched the contract he signed with the Indiana Pacers, but he has unsettled issues with Williams. GM James Jones is currently trying to honor Jae Crowder’s trade request. Can Booker continue to thrive amidst turmoil now that the “Valley Boyz” vibes are ending?
Top NBA Players 2022-23: #11 Devin Booker
Devin Booker’s 2022-2023 Season
Booker is squarely in the middle of his prime as he turns 26 later this month. The consistent, and consistently lethal, scorer has averaged at least 22 points per game in each of his past six seasons. He can score efficiently from everywhere on the floor, and Phoenix’s system has weaponized him at the elbow and in the mid-post. Booker will curl off a screen and fire from midrange. He can use the triple-threat position to get his defender off balance and glide past for a layup. Booker can post up smaller defenders or rise and fire when handling the ball in pick-and-roll.
Booker shot 38.3% from three last season which is tied for the best mark of his career. He shot 34% and 35.4% from three in the previous two seasons, and consistently shooting around 38% is a way Booker can be even more effective. He shoots 87% from the free throw line for his career and has the capacity to improve his three-point marks.
Booker’s efficiency is built on strong shooting percentages and is boosted by his low turnover rate. Of the 50 highest-usage players last season, only DeMar DeRozan had a lower turnover rate (9.2%). Booker’s rate of 9.3 giveaways per 100 possessions gives him a huge advantage over contemporaries like James Harden (18.8%), Trae Young (14.5%), and Jaylen Brown (11.6%).
Devin Booker’s Areas of Improvement
Booker’s circumstances have reverted back to when he first joined Phoenix. The stability that has marked Williams’ tenure has given way to dysfunction. Paul is still present but he’s aging in clearly evident ways. Paul’s usage rate dipped below 20% for the first time in his career last season, and Booker will need to take on some of the playmaking burden.
Paul’s presence allowed Booker to focus more on scoring than setting up others, but Paul’s diminishing play means he no longer has that luxury. Booker actually averaged 6.5 assists in 2019-20, but that dipped to 4.8 last year with Paul around. Getting Ayton more shots could help the big man stay engaged and content throughout the season.
Paul’s age and the potential trade of Crowder could lead to increased defensive responsibilities for Booker as well. Mikal Bridges will again defend the opponent’s primary offensive threat, but Phoenix’s defensive responsibilities after that are unclear. Paul is intelligent and still has quick hands, but the Dallas series showed that he’s a liability as a primary defender. Cam Johnson will start in place of Crowder, but he doesn’t possess Crowder’s experience, tenacity, or strength. Booker may need to provide more as a primary and switch defender depending on the matchups. The Suns will miss Crowder boxing out too. Phoenix was just an average defensive rebounding team last season, and Booker will need to up his activity as a rebounder to help the team.
The Last Word on Devin Booker
Booker is in an unenviable position to start next season. He’s often been compared to Donovan Mitchell, and like Mitchell last year, Booker’s team is coming off a traumatic playoff defeat. The way the team lost makes outsiders question whether or not the team should stay together, much like with Utah last season. Unlike Utah, Phoenix seems to acknowledge changes are needed if they want to win a championship. The promotion of Johnson to the starting lineup feels like an admission of that fact.
In many ways, it’s unfair. Booker endured chaos in Phoenix for four seasons until the organization was able to find the combination for sustained success. That’s been snatched from him right as he enters his prime years. Questions about Paul’s age, Crowder’s status on the roster, Ayton’s happiness, and the team’s ownership will swirl throughout 2022-23. Booker seems primed to answer these questions with one response: buckets.