Devin Booker is the best shooting guard in the world
And not because of his athleticism
BY DAVID THORPE
At some point in Game 4, I was sure Devin Booker had 500 points. I watched every single field goal again the next morning. What Booker’s doing is beyond senseless. I sent clips of Booker to all my players at every level. Why? Because Booker didn’t get those buckets by being the world’s best athlete. Rather, his extraordinary efficiency is the result of his scoring with a level of skill as high as any player on the planet.
Two years ago, Booker led the Suns to the NBA Finals. Last year, he was first team All-NBA. This season, he entered as an MVP candidate—and may have received consideration if not for frustrating injuries. There was also some drama: new ownership, an angsty Deandre Ayton, meshing with Kevin Durant for just eight games prior to the playoffs. Somehow, Booker washed out of all that drama as an afterthought—mostly because KD’s iconic stature sucks all the oxygen out of a room.
Booker’s ability to make tough shots is one thing, but in this series we have seen just how strategic he is. His aggressiveness in transition, for instance, was his best chance to make a play before any doubles came. And when the doubles did come, the Suns had the game’s greatest half-court weapon in Kevin Durant. Booker scored zero field goals in the fourth quarter of Game 4, but he notched four of his 12 assists. Yet, here’s what’s astounding: On a team with KD, the opponent is doubling someone else.
On one hand, it’s a nine-game sample. What Booker’s doing is amazing, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be able to maintain this ridiculous scoring pace with the same absurd efficiency. If these were the final nine games, culminating in a championship, they’d be worth far more. Nobody’s ever judged playoff success by the first nine games; if the Suns fail to reach the NBA Finals, perhaps this performance gets relegated to a substantial blip on the radar of Booker’s career.
On the other hand, Booker has bought into the idea that the Suns can’t get where they want to go unless he becomes a better basketball player and not just a scorer. Before his 47-point gem in Game 5 against the Clippers, I’d already been sending Booker clips to my players because there’s so much to learn from his shotmaking.
Booker takes over games with his mind. He’s always known the path, but now he knows how to walk it. That’s why we’re seeing record-threatening numbers. He’s reading the matrix. His mental capacity is operating at peak level; his skill game is stronger than ever; and the Nuggets have no answer for him. The closest thing they have to an elite defender is Aaron Gordon, and he’s got his hands full with KD. Booker is matched up beautifully, like a finely-tuned car on the perfect track.
Booker is intense, but also incredibly calm. It’s that intense calmness that allows him to make tough shots look routine. Booker is a legit superstar; he’s just not a KD-level superstar. Is that extra motivation for Booker? Maybe. He’s always been so competitive. Either way, I don’t think it matters. (Durant is gonna Durant.)
Booker is a monster of the playoffs. He is the Kawhi Leonard of guards. He’s a functional machine. You can’t disrupt him. For lack of a better description—and with apologies to Stephen Curry, who I’ve always considered a point guard—he’s the best shooting guard on the planet.
But how did he get here?
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