Isiah Thomas: ‘Let’s put (Devin Booker) in the MVP talk conversation’

Mar 22, 2022, 2:00 PM | Updated: 8:23 pm

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) looks to pass around Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic during...

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) looks to pass around Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 18, 2022, in Phoenix. Phoenix won 129-102. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Better late than never.

It took 72 regular season games for a big-name TV analyst to say it is time for Devin Booker to be considered the Most Valuable Player in the NBA.

“I’m going to mention Devin Booker in the MVP race,” Isiah Thomas said on Monday during NBATV’s Game Time. “Let’s put him in the MVP talk conversation because they are the best team in the league right now. He’s averaging 27-28 points a night … normally those guys are talked about as MVPs.”

Thomas has a compelling argument. At 58-14, the Phoenix Suns hold the best record in the Western Conference and the entire NBA. Even after Booker struggled to find his rhythm early in the season and dealt with a hamstring injury, he has played at another level in the past three months.

From January to March, the Suns shooting guard has put up 27.9 points per game, winning 28 of 33 games.

“Whatever the criteria we’re using, it usually goes by who wins the most games and who’s averaging the most points on that team, they get mentioned … He has met the criteria,” Thomas said.

Booker responded to Thomas’ claim, noting how those criteria always change.

Since Chris Paul suffered a hand injury, Booker has also stepped up in the passing game, with 7 assists per game, guiding the Suns to a 10-4 record.

Even with all the offensive production, the most overlooked component of Booker’s game comes from the other side of the ball. The Suns 106.1 defensive rating is the second-lowest just behind the Boston Celtics. Mikal Bridges is the name thrown around when it comes to the best defensive player on the team, but Booker’s performance has also been one of the best in the league.

“Probably sounds a bit nutty because of how he scores, but I’ve always felt he has the capability and should be recognized in the All-Defensive conversations because of the fact that he will guard his position and he does guard sometimes half-court, sometimes full-court out of the time out, just to change up the rhythm of the game, or show ‘I’m the best player and I can defend, not just score,'” head coach Monty Williams said in February.

Now with Paul potentially returning for the final stretch of the regular season, Booker has set up the Suns five wins away from marking a franchise best.

So what could stop him from winning the MVP?

Booker’s slow start to the season has had an affect on his overall statistics. During the 2021-22 season, Booker has averaged 25.9 points, still the best on the Suns, along with 5.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game.

Most of the leading players in the MVP conversation have better, basic statistics. For example, reigning MVP Nikola Jokic is averaging 26.1 points, 13.6 rebounds and 8 assists per game.

The depth of his own team might also hurt Booker’s chance at winning the award. Before his injury, Paul was in the conversation as well and other players in the starting lineup and on the bench have made the Suns a complete team.

One other claim against Booker is this season is not one of his best statistically. His points and assists per game are the third-highest in his career and his 45.9 field goal percentage is the worst he has shot in four years.

Phoenix has not had an MVP since Steve Nash won it in back-to-back seasons in 2005 and 2006 and the drought might continue. However, Booker and the Suns might be happier if they can bring home an NBA championship instead.

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Isiah Thomas: ‘Let’s put (Devin Booker) in the MVP talk conversation’