Devin Booker learning to capitalize on perimeter threat

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Devin Booker learning to capitalize on perimeter threat

For years Devin Booker has been recognised as possessing one of the smoothest jump shots in the NBA — from pull-up mid-rangers to tough fadeaways, the balance has been a thing of beauty and led him to stardom at the Phoenix Suns.

Yet, after falling flat in a game seven, second-round defeat to the Dallas Mavericks, some were questioning whether this was it for Booker. At 25 years of age, how much of his game was left to be discovered? As such, could he actually be the best player and leader of a championship-winning team?

On the basis of four games this season, you could make the argument he’s only just now scratching the surface of more elongated dominance. Sure, he’s had stretches of similarly impressive numbers previously, but what we’re seeing at present is a completely different methodology.

Phoenix Suns superstar Devin Booker is using his own perimeter threat, and that of his teammates, to be much more aggressive in attacking the rim.

As eye-catching and glorious as it may be, the deeper mid-range jumpshot has largely entered NBA oblivion as an inefficient shot defenses allow. While Booker may now be carrying that same attitude, it’s the threatening nature of his jumper that’s the primary reason for a newfound aggression towards the basket.

Booker has the necessary handle to break defenders down off the dribble, and the soft touch to finish at the rim. Of his field-goal attempts through four games, 19.3% have come within 0-3 feet — his highest percentage since the 2019-20 season. Furthermore, he’s shooting 81.3% on these — numbers you’d associate with a center.

Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker gets to the rim against the Portland Trail Blazers. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Short mid-range jumpshots and floaters continue to remain prevalent — 16.9% of attempts from 3-10 feet is the highest percentage of his career. However, everything further from ten feet has been significantly reduced — 73.1% of his field-goal attempts came from beyond that range last season, down nearly 10% to 63.8% through four games this season.

The Results

Booker is taking a larger percentage of shots closer to the rim so naturally, he’s shooting a far greater field-goal percentage — while 53% from the floor may be unsustainable, there’s no reason to believe he can’t shoot a career-high (currently 48.9%). A slight reduction in three-point attempts means he can take better quality ones, resulting in shooting 48% from deep so far. Again, probably not sustainable, but he can easily shoot 40% across the course of the season.

But not only does the increased aggression to the basket aid his shooting percentages, but it’s contributing to higher percentage shots for his teammates. Driving to the basket will force defenses to collapse further than simply pulling up for a 15-foot jumpshot, opening up space for perimeter shooters like Cameron Johnson and Mikal Bridges. Is there any coincidence that he’s currently averaging an extra assist per game as a result?

We’re seeing someone who was already an elite offensive player, now transcend into borderline unguardable thanks to a slight tinkering in mindset. Who knows, maybe this is just a four-game hot stretch. However, deeper analytics suggest these are sustainable ingredients to a near MVP-level player.

Valley of the Suns

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