Earl Watson: Devin Booker is learning how to be a number-one option
Expectations can be a burden, especially when someone exceeds them right away. Phoenix Suns shooting guard Devin Booker is learning that the hard way.
Booker is coming off a phenomenal rookie campaign that began as the youngest player selected in his draft class trying to pick up any scraps of minutes he could find and ended with him being the number-one option on the team and thriving in the role.
The start of year two in the role has, perhaps unsurprisingly, been a bump in the road.
In eight of his 19 games, Booker has shot under 40 percent from the field (league average is around 45 percent). His three-point shooting — he shot 41 percent in his one year at Kentucky — has not had the uptick many predicted after a below average 34 percent mark set his rookie year.
All of this adds up to an inefficient NBA scorer.
Of the 38 NBA players averaging at least 15 shots a game, Booker enters Tuesday’s game against the Utah Jazz tied for the lowest effective field goal percentage — an advanced statistic that factors in a three-point shot being worth more than a two-point shot — with Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook at 46.6 percent. The difference between the two is one is averaging a triple-double and the other is not.
The rapid rise and development of Booker has led to a bit of a crash course for the 20-year-old, something that doesn’t shock Suns head coach Earl Watson.
“I think Devin is understanding what it’s like to be a number-one option in the NBA at the age of 20, which is difficult,” Watson said on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM on the Doug And Wolf show.
Booker leads the team in field goals attempted per game, and has had even more of a bulk of responsibility since small forward T.J. Warren, the second leading shot-taker on the team, has been out of action the last seven games.
Watson used Golden State Warriors small forward Kevin Durant as an example of someone who had to take on a big role at a young age.
“I never push him too hard without letting him know where he’s at, and where KD was at, and putting too many expectations on a young guy,” Watson said.
The attention and physical toll of that standing on a team is already affecting Booker.
“The tough thing with Dev also, he’s been injured, he’s been under the weather, he’s been banged up so he’s really getting hit and he’s understanding the grind of a number-one option in the NBA,” Watson said.
The important perspective Watson touches on with Booker is all of this happening at a much younger age compared to most promising young players, so Suns fans have to keep that in mind while Booker continues to learn by virtue of struggling at the top of the pyramid.
“There’s nothing like experience. This is Devin’s first year starting a full season, you gotta understand, he just turned 20. These guys, Klay (Thompson), Steph (Curry), KD, they’re 28 to 30 and they’re doing amazing things. So imagine experiencing the confidence he will have quicker than that age of late 20s,” Watson said.