I guess this is one of those things you're supposed to just not say, isn't it? That Devin Booker is more Jamal Murray than he is James Harden? It's like that one, single mustache hair sticking out on your girlfriend's upper lip. Eventually you have to address it, but you know the backlash will be ferocious when you do. And I totally get it. Devin Booker's been the one beacon of basketball hope in this town for four and a half years. He's got a 70 point game under his belt. He's averaging 24 points. On the stat sheet, and on the offer sheet, he's a bonafide superstar with room to grow. But if we're honest, on the court, in real time, he doesn't have the impact that Harden, Steph, Durant, or even Westbrook had on the game by year five. He's more secondary star than superstar.
Last night was another underwhelming performance. Forget the box score. If you watched the game, you saw that Booker's 34 minutes were unremarkable. Ghost-like. Of course, die-hard Suns fans will shame and shout down any Booker slander like the cronies of any great dictatorship. They're rushing to basketball-reference as you read this to remind me of what I'm missing about his advanced statistics. I don't care. Athletically, as a shooter and as a passer, he's really good at a lot, but great at nothing. It's year five. We have 274 games of evidence here. Can we stop pretending every dude in the NBA's on a magical escalator of growth? 274 games in, you've kind of shown us who you are. Usage rate may increase, but history tells us percentages are basically fixed past year 4, and most guys aren't getting significantly taller or stronger.
And nothing illustrates who Devin Booker truly is like the last two games. James Harden and Russell Westbrook came into town on Saturday. I watched that game court-side. It was stunning to observe that the impact Russell Westbrook's pace and explosiveness have on the game dwarf Devin Booker's, even as Westbrook declines athletically and tries to fit in with Harden. Harden, of course, dwarfs most NBA stars in terms of impact. It was an epiphany. "Oh, that's what superstars looks like!"
Then, the Nuggets came to town on Monday night. Jamal Murray, with a similarly unimposing style to Booker, provided the perfect reminder about what Devin Booker is. Really smart, really mature, complete grown up, but totally underwhelming when compared to the true superstars of the game, and even emerging stars like Luka Doncic. Murray and Booker, both Kentucky alumni, both hit clutch shots at the end of the game. Murray's just happened to end it.
I really like Devin Booker. He's necessary for Phoenix basketball because he's been totally respectful of the city, he's bought in on the current leadership and he is, right now, the Suns' best player. I just think we're unrealistic about what he can be. I think he is what he is and I don't think that's going to change dramatically. He's more Jamal Murray than he is James Harden.