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The Ringer’s Ryen Russillo talks Suns’ start and Booker’s efficiency

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives as Brooklyn Nets guard Garrett Temple (17) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

As the Phoenix Suns continue to sizzle early in the 2019-2020 season, more national media is beginning to take notice.

Analyst for The Ringer and former ESPN radio host Ryen Russillo called into the Bickley and Marotta show on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Wednesday to talk about the early success of the Suns.

During the preseason, he and The Ringer’s Bill Simmons looked at the Las Vegas over/under for each NBA franchise and saw the Suns’ number at 29.

Russillo dug deeper and saw potential for more.

“When I started to go back and look at the depth charts I saw that Phoenix actually has like seven or eight guys that would play on good teams,” Russillo said. “When the over/under came out, I thought that was an over team. I’m a little surprised they’re this good but I’m not surprised they’re competitive.”

The Suns’ success comes largely from a stellar offensive start.

New point guard Ricky Rubio is third in the league in assists as he has taken a huge load off of star Devin Booker’s shoulders. In turn, Booker has shown unreal efficiency.

He is scoring 25.3 points per game on 54% shooting from the floor (51% from three). Although his percentages are likely to take a dip, he has been taking better shots and not forcing plays due to the lack of talent around him in past years.

Now he has other players on his team that he can rely on, which helps as he flips the script on a lot of national criticism of him.

“Booker is an interesting guy,” Russillo said.

“When you’re a high volume guy on a losing team it goes from ‘how good can this guy be’ to ‘wait a minute this guy is a losing player’. But it is much better to see him not have to force it all the time. Rubio finding other people has lightened the load and it has been more fun to watch.”

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Part of the core that Phoenix has built around Booker came at the expense of a top-six pick. The Suns selected a lottery pick in each of the prior eight seasons, so they switched their thinking.

“The Suns just started saying ‘do we really need a top-six pick, this hasn’t worked'”, Russillo said. “I don’t think that this is a league shifting philosophy, but it’s specific to them.”

Another topic brought up was Deandre Ayton. The 2018 first overall pick is in the midst of a 25-game suspension while last year’s third pick Luka Doncic is fifth in the NBA in scoring and second in assists.

But, the Booker-Ayton duo could still be lethal down the road, and it will need to be if the Suns plan on turning this exciting start into legitimate playoff aspirations.

“If booker continues to be a high consistency scorer and Ayton becomes a top-30 player, then that is what the Suns hope for,” Russillo said. “As fun as this start has been, none of these teams turn into real threats until you have a couple of top-20 caliber guys.”

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