In case you've been living under a rock over the past week, Devin Booker has been scoring at a high rate lately. Like, a rate we've never seen from someone his age. He dropped 59 on the Jazz on Monday night, then proceeded to drop another slight 50 on the Wizards two nights later. He's not doing this at by chucking up shots either, he is scoring at an extremely efficient rate as well. Let's take a look into his game log over the past two games:
Monday against Utah: 41 minutes, 19-34 FG (56%), 5-8 3PT FG (62%), 16-17 FT (94%), 4 REB, 4 AST, 59 PTS
Wednesday against Washington: 37 minutes, 19-29 FG (65.5%) 3-9 3PT FG (33%), 9-10 FT (90%), 10 REB, 4 AST, 50 PTS
If you watched both of the games, it's not like these are all just easy layups or open shots. Many of the shots that Booker hit were moving or contested perimeter shots, and he finished through contact and made tough drives around the paint for countless scores as well. Booker is truly proving himself as one of the best scorers in the game, and the rest of the league should really start to take notice.
Unfortunately for him, the Suns did lose both of these games, by 33 against Utah and 3 against Washington. The rest of the team played terrible against Utah, shooting 12-42 and combining for a measly 33 points aside from Booker. The team effort was much better against Washington, but they lacked defensive energy and let players like Bradley Beal, Jabari Parker, and Thomas Bryant have big games.
Many people are looking at both of these games and the outcomes and saying that Booker should request a trade because of the Suns' struggles. And personally, trying to be as unbiased as possible, that idea sounds absurd to even think of.
First of all, Booker just signed a long-term extension over the summer to stay in Phoenix, so the desire to stick it out and win here has been shown. Second, four key players that have played key roles this year; Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Tyler Johnson; have all been injured for an extended period of time, including the last two games. Because of this, the Suns have players like Troy Daniels, Dragan Bender, Jimmer Fredette, and Jamal Crawford all receiving hefty amounts of minutes. Crawford and Daniels aren't bad players but shouldn't be playing 20-30 minutes a game, Dragan Bender is only getting minutes because of others being injured, and Jimmer is unfortunately showing people why he shouldn't be in the NBA after an atrocious performance against Utah.
People who watch the Suns know that this team has the capability to compete with anyone in the league even with their inexperienced roster. They've had home wins this year against teams like Denver, Milwaukee, and San Antonio and road wins against powerhouses like Golden State, Milwaukee, and Boston. They've had plenty of close games as well, but that's usually due to starting out slow and picking things up later on in the game. While rookie coach Igor Kokoskov has faced plenty of criticism this year, he is still learning to manage his rotation and timeouts better, and has improved significantly throughout the year.
But the improvement doesn't stop with the coach; it trickles down to the players as well. Devin Booker has significantly increased his court vision and has become much more efficient offensively. Deandre Ayton has shown flashes of excellence against some of the best centers in the league and has proven he can use an arsenal of post moves to score. Mikal Bridges might not fill up the stat sheet, but he is one of the best players on the Suns, as he uses his basketball IQ to make smart decisions on offense while playing incredible defense on the other end; he does all the little things for Phoenix. The biggest improvement might be from Kelly Oubre Jr., as he has evolved into a 20 PPG scorer while in Phoenix and looks like a completely different player in the desert. Tyler Johnson has given the Suns another adept ball-handler next to Booker, Richaun Holmes provides a big spark off the bench, and although they aren't the most consistent wings, T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson are both still important to the team and have the potential to be great players. And that's just a summary.
The Suns might be in last place in the West, but it does set up them up for an important offseason, as they will have another high pick where they can hopefully draft a player like Zion Williamson or Ja Morant. If they can add a couple more veterans in free agency and make sure to re-sign Kelly Oubre Jr. to a long-term extension, the Suns' record could look much different next year. Will they make the playoffs? Probably not, but we could see their win total doubled, from maybe 17 to 35. With all of these pieces already in place, I don't see the need to press the panic button and trade away your budding superstar (who is only 22). Let the kids develop, and everything will be fine.
The future is bright in Phoenix. It's time that the NBA takes notice.