Pelton: Suns’ Devin Booker could have top-10 playoff debut by WARP

Jun 30, 2021, 10:20 AM
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker prepares to enter the game during the second half of Game 2 of the ...

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker prepares to enter the game during the second half of Game 2 of the NBA basketball Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Clippers, Tuesday, June 22, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

In historical terms, not many players have played their very first playoff run as well as Devin Booker.

The Phoenix Suns guard is six years deep into his NBA career but at 24 years old didn’t take long to begin patching together memorable postseason moments.

As the Suns enter Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Clippers, Booker’s individual run can already be considered one of the best for a first-time playoff participant. ESPN’s Kevin Pelton put together a list of the best in terms of WARP, or wins above replacement player.

At 1.92 adjusted WARP, Booker comes in 11th all-time.

On a per-game basis, Booker’s value peaked after Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, a 40-point triple-double. Since then, the Clippers have done a better job of making life difficult for Booker, who has shot 27-of-81 (33%) over the past four games. He has still managed to boost his scoring by making nearly eight free throws per game, something that’s been consistent all playoffs as Booker’s scoring has fluctuated. If the Suns can finish off the Clippers and reach the Finals, Booker should easily move into the top 10 with the extra games.

Booker’s triple-double isn’t his only eye-popping outing through 15 postseason games.

He scored 34 points to go with eight assists in his playoff debut, a win over the Los Angeles Lakers, then dropped 47 points to go with 11 rebound to close that first-round series in a Game 6.

Despite the Denver Nuggets likewise sending all of their attention his way in the second round, Booker dropped 34 points to complete Phoenix’s sweep, then opened the current series against the Clippers with the aforementioned triple-double, the first of his career.

So far, Booker is averaging 27.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game while shooting 45% from the field and 36% from three.

Booker is not the only player new to Pelton’s list.

Third-year point guard Trae Young, who has led his Atlanta Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals, has shot up the WARP board at warp speed. He’s already at No. 4 on Pelton’s list with a 2.52 adjusted WARP.

Atop the WARP-based ratings is none other than current Suns point guard Chris Paul, whose 3.6 adjusted WARP posted for the New Orleans Hornets’ 2008 playoff run stands well above the No. 2 player on the list, big man Elton Brand for the 2005-06 Clippers (3.25 adjusted WARP).

Having finished as the runner-up to Kobe Bryant in MVP voting, Paul was at the top of his game individually when he debuted in the playoffs in 2008 with a New Orleans team that had come out of the lottery to claim the No. 2 seed. CP3 picked apart the Dallas Mavericks in his first two playoff games, combining for 67 points on 25-of-39 shooting, 27 assists and seven steals in two wins. He also had a third 30-10 game in Game 2 against San Antonio, a series the Hornets would eventually lose in seven games. Still, Paul led all players that postseason in APG (11.3), SPG (2.3) and point-assist double-doubles (eight).

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Pelton: Suns’ Devin Booker could have top-10 playoff debut by WARP