PHOENIX SUNS

Bill Simmons thinks Devin Booker is an All-Star, Suns could make playoffs

Jan 22, 2020, 8:09 AM | Updated: 8:14 am

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives past Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) during the ...

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives past Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Boston. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

(AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

Maybe it’s not a bad thing Devin Booker skipped participating with USA Basketball over the summer.

Sorry, Bill Simmons. We had to get that one in here because we know you’re reading.

“Can I do a hot take just so I can get on the Phoenix Suns blog? Cause they love writing whenever I say anything about the Suns,” Simmons said on his latest podcast for The Ringer.

Point is: Booker is playing well. He’s capable of passing out of double- and triple-teams. He’s scoring efficiently from inside and out.

Simmons, who founded The Ringer, said on The Bill Simmons Podcast that he thinks that there might be more than just an All-Star game around the corner for Booker — he might lead his team to the playoffs.

The Suns are one of four teams within 2.5 games of the Memphis Grizzlies, who as of Wednesday morning are the eighth seed in the Western Conference. With one final matchup against the Grizzlies on Sunday and another game against the ninth-place San Antonio Spurs two days earlier, they could move up in the standings.

With pieces in place, Simmons thinks Phoenix could make a run to outpace the Grizzlies, Spurs, Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Pelicans.

“I actually think Phoenix has the best chance of those five,” Simmons said. “The road map for them is Devin Booker taking it up a level. This is sitting here for him now, his team’s pretty good.”

It’s a brutal group of challengers. The Grizzlies are revitalized behind the young core of Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. The Spurs will not just roll over and end their 22-year playoff run. The Trail Blazers are unlikely to stay down with the backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, and 2019 first overall draft pick Zion Williamson is expected to debut for the Pelicans on Wednesday night.

As for the Suns, Deandre Ayton has also made a positive impression on Simmons. The second-year center now has four 20-point, 10-rebound games in a row.

“I think he’s looked really athletic and kind of committed,” Simmons said. “He’s definitely been playing harder than he’s ever played.”

Now to mention Booker, who Simmons thinks deserves an All-Star nod this year.

“Eye-test wise, when he has it going, he’s one of the best scorers of all the two-guard-ish kind of guys,” Simmons said. “I think one of the things I like about him is he’s not just jacking up threes guys.”

Booker is averaging 26.8 points, 6.4 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game while shooting 51% from the field and 36% from the three-point line. He proved he doesn’t need his 3-pointer to fall during his stretch of seven consecutive 30-point games, when he made seven total threes during that span.

He’s efficient in traditional and analytical stat, as his 63.2 true shooting percentage is 17th in the league and fourth-best among guards.

The All-Star selection is one thing — and Booker would have to beat out a crowded guard field or steal a spot from a frontcourt player — but making the playoffs is another.

To manage that, Phoenix needs to cut down on turnovers and sloppy play, produce enough scoring outside Booker and give consistent defensive efforts.

If nothing else, it looks more and more like the nation is noticing Booker is more than empty stats.

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