ESPN’s NBARank puts Suns G Devin Booker on the verge

Sep 18, 2018, 8:17 AM | Updated: 8:20 am

Devin Booker, left, guards Victor Oladipo during a training camp for USA Basketball, Friday, July 2...

Devin Booker, left, guards Victor Oladipo during a training camp for USA Basketball, Friday, July 27, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

(AP Photo/John Locher)

To some degree, Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker will always be judged by how much his teams win.

Some hold last season’s 21-win season for the Suns against him more than others. After Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney tabbed Booker as the No. 50-rated player in the NBA, ESPN’s NBARank voters consisting of dozens of panelists ranked Booker as the 31st-best player in the NBA heading into the 2018-19 season.

It’s a major leap from last year, when the Suns’ 21-year-old came in 60th on the ESPN list, writes Mike Schmitz.

So long as he’s able to return from hand surgery cleanly, expect Booker to continue his scoring ways while taking another step as a ball-screen facilitator under new coach Igor Kokoskov. Booker’s efficiency will likely depend on who the Suns start at point guard, as they’re a bit short on experienced ball handlers. But the 21-year-old has proved capable of operating as Phoenix’s version of James Harden as a pick-and-roll shot-creator.

Deandre Ayton figures to take attention away from Booker, and the addition of wings Trevor Ariza and Mikal Bridges will give Booker more space to operate in modern lineups. Booker’s downside will likely always be his defense.

Aside from the 19-place difference in his rankings for Sports Illustrated and ESPN, the company Booker shares in the two rankings is quite different.

He was ranked behind Houston’s Eric Gordon, Philadelphia’s Robert Covington and Boston’s Jaylen Brown on the former list. On the latter, Booker sits ahead of Boston’s Al Horford, Detroit’s Blake Griffin and Washington’s John Wall.

The expectation is Booker, who signed a projected $158 million max contract extension this summer, will be able to return from surgery on his hand close to the start of the regular season. He averaged 24.9 points, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds a year ago while shooting 43 percent overall and 38 percent from three-point range despite playing with one of the NBA’s least-talented rosters.

His expected improvement after spending the summer in training camp with Team USA — and the help he should receive from what on paper looks like a more talented Phoenix roster — could propel Booker into elite status when these player-ranking exercises come around next year.

Phoenix Suns

Associate head coach Kevin Young of the Phoenix Suns during the first half of the NBA game against ...

Arizona Sports

Kevin Young to reportedly stay with Suns as NBA’s top-paid assistant

The Suns have reportedly agreed on a deal with assistant coach Kevin Young to remain on head coach Frank Vogel's coaching staff.

2 days ago

Former Suns head coach Monty Williams...

Arizona Sports

Pistons agree to deal with former Suns HC Monty Williams

Former Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams has agreed to a six-year deal worth $72 million to coach the Detroit Pistons.

3 days ago

Frank Vogel, Chris Paul, Phoenix Suns...

Kevin Zimmerman

What does Frank Vogel’s hire tell us about how Suns build the roster?

Frank Vogel agreeing to become the Phoenix Suns' head coach gives us a North Star of sorts for how the team will begin constructing a roster.

3 days ago

Frank Vogel...

Dan Bickley

Frank Vogel more than enough coach to lead Suns over championship hump

Frank Vogel is a solid choice, more than enough head coach to get where the Suns need to go. Now comes the hard part.

3 days ago

Former Suns F Mikal Bridges' Paradise Valley home for sale...

Arizona Sports

Former Suns forward Mikal Bridges sells Valley home for $6.68 million

It didn't take long for former Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges to sell his luxurious Paradise Valley home.

3 days ago

Head Coach Frank Vogel of the Los Angeles Lakers coaches against the Denver Nuggets at Ball Arena o...

Kellan Olson

Frank Vogel sets tone for Suns’ makeover, steps toward 1st title

Hiring Frank Vogel is a solid yet fairly predictable and uninspiring direction from the Suns. That doesn't mean it's a bad thing.

3 days ago

ESPN’s NBARank puts Suns G Devin Booker on the verge