PHOENIX SUNS

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker lands in top 10 of ESPN’s NBArank

Sep 22, 2022, 10:39 AM

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns reacts after dunking the ball during the first half against the...

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns reacts after dunking the ball during the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers at Footprint Center on March 13, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker continues to receive national recognition for his ability and talent on the court.

ESPN on Thursday released spots 10 through six for its NBArank 2022, which ranks the best players in the NBA only for the 2022-23 season, with Booker landing at No. 10.

That ranking sees the Suns All-Star guard rise up five places and into the top 10 after coming in 15th a year ago.

Booker joins teammates Chris Paul (No. 21), Mikal Bridges (No. 49) and Deandre Ayton (No. 51) on the list of the top 100.

Since summer 2021, Booker has led Phoenix to its third NBA Finals run in franchise history, won an Olympic gold medal with Team USA and gave the Suns their best regular season in team history with a 64-18 record last year.

However, in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of sports, Booker’s last two games in a Suns uniform saw him shoot a combined 9-for-31 (29%) as the Suns flamed out to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 6 and 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.

ESPN’s Dave McMenamin writes:

Booker’s 26.8 points per game last season ranked No. 12 in the league, further cementing his reputation as one of the game’s most lethal scorers. However, he’ll take the next step by leveraging those scoring skills in crunch time.

It’s no secret that Booker likes to get it going early in games, as the All-NBA guard is continuously aggressive in the opening quarter in order to get into a rhythm and help Phoenix set the tone against its opponents.

In fact, Booker shot 48.5% from the field and 42.1% from three in the first nine minutes of quarters last season. Compare those metrics to his 41.8% shooting percentage from the floor and 31.8% clip from beyond the arc in the final three minutes of quarters.

The Suns won a whopping 74.6% of their regular-season games over the past two seasons but are defined just as much by their flameouts as they are their success. Booker’s rise to All-Star status has been largely absent of the weight of expectations. He will have to win big in the playoffs to further his place in the game.

The question is, in today’s NBA, where the top tier of superstardom is reserved for players who dominate on both ends, what room for growth remains for Booker? Offensively, he relies on finesse, angles and footwork to do his damage. Defensively, he’s certainly known as a heady player who can operate within team schemes. Can he become more forceful with his stops and his scores to keep climbing up the list of the game’s best?

Finishing in front of Booker on the list was Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant at No. 9, Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant at No. 8, Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum at No. 7 and Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James at No. 6.

That leaves Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Mavs guard Luka Doncic, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, presumably, to round out the top five.

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