Devin Booker is joining some elite NBA company despite the Phoenix Suns woes this year.
The Phoenix Suns haven’t had much to brag about this season with an overall record of 17-59. Along with the putrid New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers, a ray of sunshine in this lost season is that they’ll be leaders in the Zion Williamson sweepstakes once the NBA Draft Lottery rolls around.
But one of the best stories within their lost season has been the spectacular play of guard Devin Booker, who scored 50 or more points for the second straight game last night in a 124-121 loss to the Washington Wizards.
Playing on a stocked college squad at Kentucky alongside Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Dakari Johnson, Willie Cauley-Stein, Trey Lyles and Karl-Anthony Towns, Booker was more of a complimentary piece as a freshman on a team that lost to Wisconsin in the Final Four.
Despite averaging 10 points per game while coming off the bench in college, the Suns saw his potential and selected him with the 13th overall pick in the 2015 Draft after he was named the SEC Sixth Man of the Year and selected to the SEC All-Freshman Team and the All-SEC Second Team.
“We thought he had a lot of potential,” former Suns GM Ryan McDonough said about the franchise’s decision to draft Booker. “We loved his character and work ethic, his size and his shooting ability stood out. I think sometimes when you’re on a team with a lot of talent like Devin was at Kentucky, all that talent can do one of two things: it can mask some of your deficiencies if you do lack in some areas. I think in Devin’s case, it was the opposite of that.”
But he really began to turn heads during his second season after scoring 28 fourth quarter points against the Mavericks during a January game in Mexico City, setting a franchise record for most points scored in a quarter. At the mere age of 20, he became the youngest player to score at least 20 points in 16 consecutive games.
But he truly announced his arrival in late march of his second season, when he erupted for a 70-point outburst against the Boston Celtics. Despite the Suns’ woes, he’s proven to be one of the league’s most potent offensive weapons over the last few years.
“What strikes a lot of people about Devin is all the other stuff he can do — he’s really developed his ball handling, his pick and roll game, he thinks the game at a high level,” McDonough said as Booker began to establish himself as one of the league’s best young players. “But I’ll be honest, we had no idea he’d be able to do this much, this quickly.”
Booker is the youngest player in NBA history with consecutive 50-point games, but he’s also the first player in NBA history to lose the first three games in which he’s reached that lofty plateau. He scorched for 59, and added 10 rebounds, in Monday’s loss to the Utah Jazz.
The Suns haven’t had much to brag about this year other than Booker, who became just the seventh player since the NBA merged with the ABA 42 years ago to hit for 50 or more points in consecutive games. In doing so, he joined some pretty lofty company. The others to accomplish the feat are James Harden, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Bernard King, Antawn Jamison and Allen Iverson.
He also joined Harden and Wilt Chamberlain as the third player in NBA history to score at least 50 points in consecutive games and lose both. Very few players have recorded three 50-point games before the age of 25. Booker, still only 22 years old, is among them alongside Chamberlain, Rick Barry, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron.
“Devin is just — he takes so many shots that are almost like, they’re unguardable,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks told the media last night. “We did the best we can. We were trying to trap him and double-team throughout the game. He’s crafty. He was attacking us.”
“The fans in Phoenix have been behind us the past four years since I’ve been here,” Booker said after the loss to the Wizards. “They deserve that. It’s entertainment for them. They come to the game, and hopefully I try to put on a show for them and hope they enjoy and make memories that last forever.”
Booker might be toiling in obscurity in creating those memories right now, but if the Suns can land the #1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and bring Zion Williamson to town, more hoops fans will get a better understanding of how incredible Booker is and the magnitude of what he’s accomplishing at such a young age.