EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
Kevin Durant and Devin Booker start white hot: By the numbers
It’s been quite the start for Kevin Durant and Devin Booker in the early days of their partnership as Suns.
Phoenix moved to 3-0 with a gritty win against the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, and while the 130-126 final line was exciting as it was competitive, there’s no denying that the Suns are already clicking on the offensive end.
To nobody’s surprise, it starts with their two best players.
Let’s peel back a few numbers in this small sample size to highlight how Phoenix has hummed along in three road games before Durant makes his debut at Footprint Center as a member of the Suns on Wednesday.
Up there with Wilt & friends
One-hundred and eighty-eight: That’s the number of combined points between Durant and Booker over their first three games as teammates, which is fourth all-time, according to Elias.
Booker is averaging 36 points per game to Durant’s 26.7 over that span.
Wilt Chamberlain surpassed that total with three different fresh teammates: York Larese (210 in 1961-62), Wayne Hightower (197 in 1962-63) and Tom Meschery (194 in 1961-62).
Carrying the offense
Durant and Booker have taken 117 shot attempts through three games, which is 44.7% of the 262 attempts by Phoenix as a whole.
From a points perspective, the pair have scored 188 of 360 points, accounting for 52.2% (!!!) of the Suns’ scoring in the last three games.
How efficient are they?
As a duo, the Suns’ stars are shooting 60.6% (71-for-117) while taking a combined 39 shots per game.
Booker is shooting 56% from the floor and averaging 25 shots per game. That’s 4.5 more attempts than his average for the season (20.5).
Durant is shooting 69% himself.
He began his run on a minutes restriction that on Sunday against the Mavs appeared to go out the window. He played 40 minutes, shot 12-of-17 from the floor, hit 10-of-11 free throws and scored 37 points.
What does the duo do for the team?
Again, three-game sample sizes shouldn’t make for grand declarations about playoff chances and title hopes.
But when the two best players are both on the court at the same time for Phoenix, it looks good so far.
The Suns have a plus-minus of 16.3 with the Booker-Durant duo on the court, which is the fourth-best number for duos who have appeared together in each of their teams’ last six games.
New York Knicks newcomer Josh Hart and point guard Jalen Brunson own the top mark (19.3), while the Western Conference front-runner tandem of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray (17.0) and Hart and Julius Randle (17.0) are not far behind.
The ancillary pieces
The Suns’ other key perimeter player, Chris Paul, has seen signs that an efficiency uptick is on the horizon with Durant’s arrival.
Paul is hitting a sneaky effective 50.8% on catch-and-shoot attempts for the year as he’s taken fewer on-ball duties. He averaged 1.5 catch-and-shoot attempts per game this season, but that’s more than doubled to 3.3 attempts in the last three games with Durant, per tracking data on NBA.com.
For the entire year, Paul scores off assists on just 26.6% of his attempts, far and away the lowest figure on the team (Booker despite being a good shooter and No. 1 option is hovering in the mid-40% area before and after the trade).
But since Durant’s addition, Paul has been assisted on 44% of his shot makes, a sign those catch-and-shoot opportunities will be on the rise as they were late against Dallas.
Next, it’s to be determined how center Deandre Ayton gets more involved after two relatively quiet offensive games in a row (10 total shot attempts).
Bringing it all together
As a whole and compared to every NBA club’s last three games, the Suns rank third in net rating, sixth in offensive rating and sixth in defensive rating since Durant joined the team.
It’ll be on head coach Monty Williams to plug holes to maintain those near-top-five marks on both ends of the court over the remaining 17 games of the year.