PHOENIX SUNS

NBA GMs say Suns’ Devin Booker is poised for a breakout season

Oct 18, 2016, 9:10 AM

Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker (1) drives the basket as Utah Jazz's Joe Ingles, right, defends during t...

Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker (1) drives the basket as Utah Jazz's Joe Ingles, right, defends during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Kim Raff)

(AP Photo/Kim Raff)

The 2016-17 NBA season is a little more than a week away.

The Phoenix Suns open their season next Wednesday night against the Sacramento Kings at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Coached by Earl Watson, the Suns enter the campaign with a renewed sense of forward momentum, much of it fueled by the youth on the roster.

Phoenix features three players — Dragan Bender, Devin Booker and Marquese Chriss — who will be teenagers on opening night. While Bender and Chriss figure to take time finding their footing in the pro game after being top-ten draft picks last June, there is a great deal of responsibility on Booker’s shoulders.

Booker was an NBA All-Rookie First Team selection last year when he averaged 13.8 points per game after injuries made him the focal point of the offense.

NBA executives are expecting more from Booker this season. In the annual GM Survey published on NBA.com, respondents were asked to pick the player they expect a breakout season from in 2016-17. Booker got more votes that anyone, garnering 31 percent. That was more than Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, who was named by execs as the player they’d pick if they were starting a new franchise today.

bookercapture

Booker, the 13th overall pick in 2015 out of Kentucky, played sparingly early in the season, but moved into the starting lineup in late December. In 51 starts, Booker averaged 17.4 points per game in just over 34 minutes.

The praise Booker is receiving heading into his second year isn’t limited to just GMs. Superstar LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers was asked on a podcast in August about a promising “young gun” to keep an eye on in the future.

“That no one knows about?” James asked. “I’ma be honest. If it’s someone that is under the radar right now that … I believe that’s gonna be a really, really All-Star (level) player in the league, it’s Devin Booker from the Phoenix Suns.”

The audio clip from the podcast is featured in the Suns’ pregame hype video this season.

Booker wasn’t the only member of the Suns to receive notice in the survey. Chriss got votes for Rookie of the Year and was mentioned as the player who was the biggest steal in the position he was drafted. The Suns moved up in a trade with the Kings to select Chriss, a forward out of Washington, with the eighth overall pick.

Forward Jared Dudley, whom the Suns brought back in free agency this summer, finished tied for second in the “Current Player Who Will Make the Best Head Coach Someday” category. Dudley got the same number of votes as former Suns guard Ronnie Price, who now plays for Oklahoma City. Clippers All-Star guard Chris Paul led the voting in that category.

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