Welcome to our Phoenix Suns Season in Review series where we do individual PLAYER REVIEWS of every man who contributed to the 2021-22 season. We go through the list to analyze what went well for them and what they can do to improve for next season.
Check out all the players covered so far here: Phoenix Suns 2022 Player Reviewsincluding Cameron Johnson, JaVale McGee and Torrey Craig.
- Position: Shooting Guard
- Vitals: 6’5″ tall, 206 pounds, 25 years old
- Experience: 7th NBA season, 13th pick in the 2015 draft
- Stats: 26.8 points per game, 46.6% total shooting, 38.3% 3PT, 86.8% free throws, 5.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.1 steals
Regular season recap
While he didn’t necessarily set career highs in every area, it was definitely the best season of Booker’s young career, and his performances didn’t go unnoticed. Not only did he receive his first coaching selection as an NBA All-Star reserve this season (after being named an injury substitute in his final two seasons), he also received his first media selection in the 1st All-NBA team and finished fourth in MVP voting.
Booker led the Suns in points and threes made, making 183 threes for an average of 2.7 per game. He also led the team in free throws made and attempted, but his 4.6/5.3 average per game was his lowest since his rookie year.
Booker has had two spells out this season, missing seven games in December to recover from a left hamstring injury, and missing four games in March after entering COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
But it seemed like every time he went out, Booker came back better than before. In his first 21 games, Booker only played 13 games with 20+ points, averaging 23.2 points per game. After his hamstring injury, Booker went 20+ in 26 of his next 33 games, averaging 27.2 points per game.
And after returning from COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Booker scored more than 20 points in each of the 14 games he played to finish the season, averaging 31.2 points per game.
His best performance of the season came midway through that particular streak when he poured 49 points over the Denver Nuggets on March 24 in the Suns’ 140-130 win. On the night Phoenix earned their 60th win of the season, Booker went 16-25 from the field, converted 15 of 17 attempts from the line and also added 10 assists and 3 steals to his line.
Booker started his 2022 playoff campaign strong with 25 points in Game 1 of the Suns’ first-round series with the New Orleans Pelicans, and things were looking good in Game 2 after scoring 31 points and burying 7 three in the first half alone. But a right hamstring injury forced his exit early in the third quarter. Booker would miss the remainder of Game 2, as well as Games 3-5, before returning in Game 6 to help the Suns eliminate the Pelicans.
Booker deserves praise for his performance in the 1-2 and 4-5 games in the Suns’ second-round series against the Dallas Mavericks. But his lackluster performance in Game 3 and horrendous performance in Games 6 and 7 will forever mark last season. Even now, it looks like a typo to see Booker was 9/31 from the field in those last two games, a putrid 29% that included him missing all eight of his three attempts.
The greatest strength
Booker’s ability to create for himself is his best attribute, plain and simple. Whether off the ball or on the ball, inside or outside, Booker can create and execute just about any shot he or his coach wants. No matter how much Booker tells us to stop comparing himself to Kobe Bryant, there’s something about Booker’s repertoire that sparks memories of the game’s greatest shooters.
Although Booker has made huge strides in his defensive effort, he still has some way to go before he can be considered a positive on the defensive end. Nonetheless, Booker finished the season with a career-high 1.1 steals per game and set a new record when he caught 6 steals against the Oklahoma City Thunder on February 24.
On the offensive side, Booker can improve his efforts to reach the free throw line. As mentioned earlier, his numbers have plummeted in this category, especially in his last two seasons. While it’s probably true that Suns coach Monty Williams and Chris Paul have built an offensive pattern that creates easier opportunities for Booker to score, inherently reducing Booker’s chances of taking contested shots and being victim of a foul, Booker must seek to reinstate this aspect of his game next season.
Likewise, Booker will need to take on more responsibility as a playmaker next season to relieve Paul of that burden. Booker once played playmaker and averaged over 6 assists per game between the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. After falling to 4.3 assists per game last season, Booker is back to 4.8 assists per game this season and should look to continue the trend next season.
On top of all that, Booker will have to find a way to maintain his production and efficiency beyond the arc next season. After dropping to the mid-30s the past three seasons, Booker had his best shooting season since 2017-18, with 2.7 three-for-7 attempts for 38.3%, nearly identical to his third-year campaign. With Phoenix finishing 21st in the league in 3PM and 26th in 3PA, the team can hardly afford a drop in production from Booker from three.
- Entering the fourth year of its maximum five-year extension, worth $33,833,400
- Eligible this summer for a 4-year super-max extension of approximately $211 million that would begin in 2024
Booker’s selection to the 2022 All-NBA 1st Team made him eligible for an approximately $211 million super-max extension that would keep him in Phoenix through the 2027-28 season. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks explained, this expansion would take effect after the 2023-24 season and would start at around $47.1 million and grow to around $58.4 million in its final year.
- 2022-2023 (current contract) – $33,833,400
- 2023-2024 (current contract) – $36,016,200
- 2024-2025 (Extension Super-Max) – ~$47,100,000
- 2025-2026 (Extension Super-Max) – ~$50,800,000
- 2026-2027 (Extension Super-Max) – ~$54,600,000
- 2027-2028 (Extension Super-Max) – ~$58,400,000
There’s technically no rush to get Booker to sign that extension and with key contracts for Cam Johnson and Deandre Ayton still to be settled, the Suns will likely be looking to push that negotiation as late as possible.
Ultimately, Booker has proven himself worthy of being named one of the best in the game today. And given his age (he’ll only be 26 in October) and relatively clean physical form over his seven-year career, Booker has shown his reliability and loyalty to receive the keys to the franchise.
So, as the Suns settle Johnson and Ayton’s contracts for the first time, they’ll have to factor in Booker’s supermax extension and decide exactly who is worth and who isn’t worth their asking price.
Here’s how I would rate Devin Booker’s season overall
- Overall rating as an NBA player: A
- Pre-Season Expectation Score: A