Devin Booker- The League’s Next Star

The Phoenix Suns have been the definition of disfunction over the last decade.  Nine seasons in a row with zero playoff appearances.  They haven’t won more then 24 games in the last three seasons. The years of Charles Barley, Kevin Johnson and Steve Nash have become a distant memory, a mirage of greatness in the the Phoenix desert.  But suddenly you see civilization, water, food and air conditioning!  Brought to you by the leagues newest star Devin Booker.

Over their first three NBA seasons:

Steph Curry Devin Booker
PPG 16.3 PPG 19.8
RPG 3.93 RPG 3.3
APG 5.6 APG 3.5

Devin Booker was drafted by the Suns out of Kentucky in 2015.  There was small fanfare to his pick at number 13.  Booker seemed like a solid role player that could be a piece to help an NBA team.  Booker quickly proved to be more then just a role player. Shooting 40% and averaging over 20 points a game in his sophomore season Booker became the quiet leader of a Suns team that had been lacking a star.  Not since Steve Nash’s final season in 2012 has there been a player that was putting Phoenix on the map. Booker took the role and ran with it during troubling times.

2017 was a season to forget for the Suns. Eric Bledsoe took to twitter proclaiming he no longer wanted to play in Phoenix last season causing issues in the locker room.  The problems in the locker room continued into the front office as the Suns fired Earl Watson just three games into the season.  With Watson gone the Suns decided to move on from their troubled guard Bledsoe.  Moving Bledsoe to the Bucks weakened the roster but signaled a change in the culture.  The Suns went into tank mode.  But losing sometimes has its advantages in professional sports.

Phoenix selected Deandre Ayton out of the University of Arizona with the first overall pick in the 2018 draft. Adding Ayton has given the Suns a player to build along side Booker.  The presence of an inside force will allow freedom for Booker to work against one-on-one matchups. Adding sharpshooting veterans Jamal Crawford, Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza will provide the leadership for the team and guidance for a young emerging star.  The addition also puts Josh Jackson and TJ Warren to move to the bench creating tough matchups for second units.

Phoenix showed their commitment to Booker in the offseason signing him to a five-year, $158 million maximum contract extension over the summer.  Booker is now locked up for the future.  The pieces are being put into place around him with with Deandre Ayton, Josh Jackson, TJ Warren and Mikal Bridges.  The Suns will not be great this season but people will see the greatness of the next big star in the league.  Booker opened up the season showing the ability of an elite player, finishing with 35 points and 19 in the fourth quarter with the game still on the line. Booker’s 35 was the most by a Suns player in an opening day night game since Kevin Johnson put up 35 in 1993.

Phoenix got the win on opening night against a fellow rebuilding team in the Dallas Mavericks.  If Booker can avoid injury and play a full season the league will see a rise in every statistic.  Booker will take the next step in his career, remember he is just turning 22 at the end of October.  The next great star is in Phoenix and his name is Devin Booker.

 

NBA Draft: 3 Winners

The NBA draft is undoubtably the best draft of any professional sport.  There aren’t 27 thousand rounds like the MLB, it doesn’t take a whole week like the NFL and its not hockey.  The way a team drafts can define a teams legacy for the next 20 years.  No one wants to be the general manager that decided to select Greg Oden over Kevin Durant or Sam Bowie over the great Micheal Jordan.  Heaven forbid you be the guy that decided  to take Darko Milicic with the second pick of one of the greatest draft classes of all time.  the 2018 NBA Draft had a lot of promising and intriguing talent, its time to decide who had a great night and who made a Sam Bowie pick.

Winners

Phoenix Suns- Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges (trade rights), George King, Elie Oboko

Ok I know, this is a a pretty easy choice, having the number one pick usually means you are going to get a great talent.  I want to praise GM Ryan McDonough for not over thinking the situation.  Luka Doncic was an intriguing prospect for a team that will still be in rebuild mode next season.  They ignored the intrigued and locked up the clear best player in the draft.  Scouting reports for Deandre Ayton listed very few weaknesses, the lone problem was a supposed inability to protect the rim. What most people seem to forget is that Ayton played a large amount of time at the power forward position drawing him away from the basket and limiting his ability to be in a position to effect as many shots.  The ability to improve defensively will come as he transitions to the center position.

For most teams Ayton would be enough but the Suns also pulled off a trade acquiring Villanova swing man Mikal Bridges. Bridges has the tools to be a versatile defender at the NBA level, especially guarding 1-3. Averaged 2.1 steals and 1.3 blocks per 40.  He also brings offensive efficiency to a young team.  Bridges time at Villanova allowed him playing on a winning team while not having to be the focus of the other teams attention.  He is a perfect fit to play alongside Devin Booker and Josh Jackson.

Indiana Pacers- Aaron Holiday, Alize Johnson

The Indiana Pacers put themselves back on the map during the first round of the playoffs taking mighty Lebron James to game 7.  Picking from the 23rd position usually it is not easy to find the perfect fit for whatever need you have but sometimes it does.  UCLA Guard Aaron Holiday fell down the draft a bit and ended up in a perfect place.  Indiana needed depth at the point and shooting guard spots and they got it with Holiday. Excellent blend of shotmaking and penetrating — 21.6 points per 40 minutes. Tremendous balance and touch. Made 2.8 3-pointers per 40 minutes at a 42.9 percent clip as a junior.  Holiday will allow Victor Oladipo to play the off the ball more as well as get more rest and know that there will still be a scorer on the floor.  Holiday has top 15 talent that the Pacers grabbed in the mid 20’s, look for Holiday to make and immediate impact…Donavon Mitchell like??

The Pacers also picked up mid-major phenom 6’8″ Point/Forward Alize Johnson with the 20th pick of the second round.  Johnson a swiss army knife on the floor can give the Pacers depth at multiple positions.  The Missouri Valley Conference 2x first team all conference player improved every year for the Bears including shooting 39% from three in 2018.  I great grab for today’s NBA style.

Chicago Bulls- Wendell Carter, Chandler Hutchinson

I have wrote and talked about the development of the young core of the Chicago Bulls all season.  With a healthy Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkenan  I think they have the building blocks of an Eastern Conference playoff team in 2018-19.  Sitting at #8 in the draft they could have taken some chances, maybe go with Micheal Porter Jr. or add a wing player like Kevin Knox or Mikal Bridges.  They went with the steady hand of Wendell Carter Jr.  Carter Jr. is a double double machine that has underrated shot blocking ability. Chicago picks up a big center who can slide in right next to Lauri Markkanen’s finesse game up front. He has excellent hands and touch around the basket. Carter compares very well to former Bull and Blue Devil Carlos Boozer.

Having a second first round pick allowed the bulls to take a gamble on a potential prospect gem in Boise State’s 6’7″ swingman Chandler Hutchinson.  The 2018 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year brings great size and length to the young Bulls.  Hutchinson has the potential to move right into the Chicago rotation and give them valuable minutes on both ends of the floor.  Chicago found a way to add two valuable rotational pieces that are NBA ready right now.

Honorable Mention : Denver Nuggets (Micheal Porter Jr. at #14 is a steal)