NBA

Are Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns for Real?

After many years of ineffectiveness and drafting in the lottery with no sense of direction, the Phoenix Suns now have a great thing going on. They kicked off this season with a 124-95 defeat of the Sacramento Kings. However, they lost to the Denver Nuggets in a soul-crushing fashion in their second game, but Devin Booker and crew later picked up wins against the Clippers, 76ers, and Nets in the first two weeks of the season. The results beg the question — after years of mediocrity, are Booker and the Suns for real now?

Devin Booker is a bona fide star

For a team that needed veteran leadership, Ricky Rubio and Aron Baynes were the perfect acquisitions. Both of them are good defenders who minimize mistakes on the court. And Devin Booker is a star player, as he always has been. Booker, however, has never been in a stable system in the NBA. He could always score; now, he can focus on defense more than ever. That is proof that the Suns are doing well so far with their new coach, Monty Williams. He has had the Suns perform like a first-class defensive team, which seemed impossible in the past year. 

Is the hot start sustainable? One thing is for sure — Baynes and Booker aren’t going to shoot approximately 50% for the entire season. However, their defense is solid, and it might help the Suns reach the playoffs.

The Suns’ hot start is proving they aren’t a fluke

Devin Booker, Ricky Rubio, and the Suns seem to be real contenders in 2019-20.
Devin Booker (left) and Ricky Rubio. | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

We know that the Suns will soon regress, but we don’t know precisely when. Five players in their rotation, including Booker, Tyler Johnson, Jevon Carter, Baynes, and Rubio, can shoot at least 40% on three-pointers.

If Booker continues to perform well, plus being the identity of the team and overall strong play maintains, then the Suns are going to be one team that everyone will want to watch.

What could derail the Suns’ season?

Yes, Phoenix is off to a great start, but a couple of factors might undo that progress. 

  • The suspension of DeAndre Ayton was a big blow to the Suns, as he is more athletic and a better scorer than the other big men on the roster. 
  • Many have always doubted Rubio’s shooting, and opposing defenders will likely dare him to shoot from range knowing he won’t make it, which would, in turn, hurt the spacing of the other four players. If the opposing teams play Rubio off the floor to make the offense less fluid, then Booker will have to put so much effort into his gameplay.
  • Injuries are always a concern in the NBA. The Suns are one Devin Booker or Kelly Oubre ailment away from sliding down the Western Conference standings and out of the playoff picture.

The influence Aron Baynes and Ricky Rubio have on Booker

Aron Baynes and Ricky Rubio have changed Devin Booker’s basketball life. Having Monty Williams on the sideline and them in the starting lineup, the Suns are playing with a sense of accountability that they have missed through Booker’s entire career to date.

Rubio’s presence eases Booker’s playmaking burden. Booker doesn’t have to chase pick-and-rolls against defenses or bail out possessions with isolation plays late in the shot clock. 

Baynes frees up Booker with excellent screens. He has unlocked a dribble-handoff two-man game that seemed hard to defend since the center made 50% of his 3-pointers. All of them have toughened the Suns’ defense system and added the unpredictability element to its offense. That allows Booker to focus on defending opposing wings and reach the buckets easily.

We can’t say for sure if Phoenix is a playoff contender in the Western Conference, but one thing is certain. After several years of horrible basketball, Devin Booker, the Suns, and their die-hard fans finally have a reason to dream about the postseason.