Phoenix Suns superstar Devin Booker has missed out on the NBA’s Western Conference player of the week award, with the title going to Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard.
Booker has had a remarkable start to the regular season, playing key conductor to the Suns 2-1 record through three games. Lillard too has had an impressive beginning, dropping back-to-back 40-point games as Portland have reeled off three straight wins.
Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker can consider himself unlucky to miss out on the Western Conference Player of the Week award.
Lillard missed the majority of last season, making his return even more notable. It’s this context that’s undoubtedly earned him the award, along with his team’s unbeaten start to the season. But if the NBA were looking at this purely from on-court production, then they’ve simply made a gross misjudgement.
Starting with the basic numbers – Lillard has averaged 34 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists, compared to Booker’s 32 points, 3.3 rebounds and also 5.3 assists. That’s slightly in Lillard’s favour, until such time you reach the efficiency numbers.
The Trail Blazers star has shot 47.1% from the floor and 36.4% from three, good numbers but nothing like the absurd 53.1% and 52.9% that Booker has delivered at. Then you can throw in that Lillard has twice the amount of turnovers through the three games.
But Lillard’s more impactful to winning right? Sure, they may be undefeated, but the advanced numbers are also in Booker’s favour. He has a 127 offensive rating and 110 defensively, with Lillard at 119 and 108 respectively. Do the maths and you’ll find that’s a better net rating for the 26-year-old. Booker also has a greater number of win shares, a higher box plus-minus, and the two share the same VORP (value over replacement player).
It’s a genuine challenge making the argument for Lillard aside from the external factors. But if we’re expanding this to more than a one-on-one debate, then a few other stars could also consider themselves unlucky.
The explosive Ja Morant has put up a ridiculous 34.3 points, three rebounds and seven assists on 54.8% from the field and 57.1% from three-point range. Mavericks maestro Luka Doncic is always going to put up crazy numbers, averaging 33.5 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, although the efficiency isn’t at the height of others. NBA Finals MVP Stephen Curry has picked up from where he left off, posting 33.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists on 47% from the field and 44.4% from deep.
No one can begrudge Lillard for winning, he’s a fantastic player to watch and frankly Portland, like we saw last season, would be a dog’s breakfast without him. But by the same token we can also acknowledge that this, like so many NBA awards, was completely narrative-driven.