Devin Booker is finally an All-Star. After originally being snubbed from Sunday’s All-Star Game in Chicago, Booker has been added to the Western Conference team as Damian Lillard’s replacement. Lillard injured his groin when his Portland Trail Blazers lost to the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday.
Booker is in his fifth season with the Phoenix Suns, but this is the first time he’ll represent the team in the All-Star Game. The 23-year-old is averaging 26.4 points per game and 6.3 assists per game on 49.6% shooting from the floor and 35.8% shooting from the outside this season, according to basketball-reference.com.
Booker has had a reputation as an empty stats player since entering the league, but he has made significant strides over the last two seasons. This year, it’s fair to wonder if a better supporting cast could have helped him to shed that label completely. Regardless, it’s likely his perception led to him being left out of the All-Star Game.
Why Booker Should Have Been In Originally
While Booker’s 26.4 points per game are less than the 26.6 he averaged last season, the guard has never come close to matching this year’s level of efficiency.
With Booker sporting a true shooting percentage of 62.5 percent this season, the 23-year-old is now one of only five guards in NBA history that has averaged more than 25 points per game with a true shooting percentage of at least 60 percent. Having said that, it’s worth noting that James Harden has had seven of those seasons in his career. Steph Curry has had four. But simply being mentioned with elite players like those can give you a little perspective into just how special Booker has been this season.
Phoenix might not be a playoff team this year, but the team already has three more wins than it did last season. Considering we’re only 55 games into the year, that’s a significant improvement. Booker is a huge part of the Suns no longer being a clear bottom feeder.
While guys like Donovan Mitchell, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul have played well for playoff teams this year, it’s difficult to come up with a real case for how they’ve been better than Booker individually. While it’s understandable to commend them for being a part of competitive teams, there has always been All-Stars that play for losing teams. Trae Young is starting for the Eastern Conference, but his Atlanta Hawks are 15-41 this year.
Just The Beginning for Booker
Getting into the All-Star Game is an undeniable accomplishment for Booker, but he is a special player that will go on to do bigger things than this.
For starters, Booker needs to get into the game on his own merits next season. While he should have made the team originally, it’s up to him to remove all doubt moving forward. He can do that by leading the Suns to their first playoff appearance since 2009-10.
Additionally, Booker has all the tools to become an All-NBA player in the near future. Earlier this season, Booker was showing more fight on the defensive end than he has recently. That is likely because the Suns looked like they were heading to the postseason after a 7-4 start to the season. But with Phoenix now looking like a lottery team, Booker’s intensity on that end has dipped. And while you’d like to see him locked in on both ends no matter what the situation is, that just isn’t the case. What’s more important is that he realizes what he needs to do in order to not be a huge negative on that end of the floor.