Devin Booker’s teammates were asked what they thought of his 35-point performance in Friday’s win at San Antonio. Their answers were the same.
Devin Booker is in a win-win situation regardless of how the Suns play.
The team’s management will draw more blame than him if Phoenix continues to lose.
After all, the Suns drafted Dragan Bender in 2016, didn’t draft now all-stars Luka Doncic or Trae Young to address the point guard issue in 2018, and have had five head coaches in Booker’s five years with the team.
If Phoenix becomes a playoff team, Booker will get a great deal of the credit for leading the Suns back to the postseason after the franchise crashed with the league’s worst record in 2017-18 at 21-61 and were even worse the next season at 19-63.
That’s my initial take on ESPN’s “First Take” posing the question Tuesday of whether Booker is wasting his best years in Phoenix.
The Suns (26-39) will enter the 2019-20 NBA season resumption a long shot to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.They’re six games out of the eighth and final playoff spot with eight “seeding” games to play.
Their best chance to make it is to get within four games of the eighth-place team as the ninth-place team to force a play-in tournament and then go 2-0 against that team.
That all seems like a tall order, especially with Kelly Oubre Jr. reportedly opting out with an injury following knee surgery on March 3. So Booker is going to have play lights out in Orlando for Phoenix to even have a chance to make the playoffs this season.
If the Suns somehow do, Booker will receive gobs of credit. If they don’t, the odds were against them anyway, right?
Booker’s season is already a successful one. He became a first-time all-star in averaging 26.1 points on 48.7% shooting and 6.6 assists.
A look back at Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker being part of an historic NBA all-star weekend that celebrate the life of his idol, the late great Kobe Bryant.
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He has led Phoenix to more wins this season than they’ve had in his first four seasons with the team and been healthy for the most part this season.
So think about it. If Phoenix’s losing ways were Booker’s fault, ESPN wouldn’t be asking if he was wasting his best years with the team.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith opened his comments Tuesday by saying he “doesn’t trust management” i.e., team owner Robert Sarver.
“I’m not sold,” Smith said.
Smith later said, “If your owner is such a huge, huge question mark, that’s a problem.”
Smith is impressed with the hiring of Monty Williams, who I’ve been saying was Phoenix’s best move last offseason. He likes Oubre Jr.’s upside and gave kudos to Deandre Ayton, the Suns’ top pick in the 2018 draft that included Doncic and Young.
“The knock against (Ayton) is he’s not Luka Doncic or Trae Young,” Smith said.
Critics have been calling for Ayton to live up to being the top pick in the draft. Averaging a double-double (19 ppg., 12 rpg.) for a second straight season is more than solid, but the talk is Ayton needs to raise his level in order for Phoenix to reach the next level.
The narrative is Booker’s doing more than enough. Everyone else needs to play better.
Booker is in the first year of his five-year, $158-million max deal after Phoenix took him with the 13th overall pick in the 2015 draft. Players drafted outside of the top 10 aren’t expected to become a franchise player.
Booker has become one for a franchise that has fallen from being one of the league’s elite. He’s not to blame for Phoenix’s fall, he’s received credit for the team’s improvement this season, but the Suns are on the hook to put together a roster around Booker that can reach the playoffs.
Booker will still be in his 20s when he’s due to become an unrestricted free agent in 2024. Smith is already calling for his hometown NBA team, the New York Knicks, to trade for Booker; their team president, Leon Rose, has been Booker’s agent.
If Phoenix keeps losing, he’ll have reason to walk and won’t take the brunt of the criticism because the Suns will be viewed as failing to build a playoff team.
In turn, Booker will get a lions’ share of the credit if the Suns become championship contenders once again with him leading the franchise.
Either way, it’s a win-win for Booker.
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