Recently, the MVP candidacy for Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns has gained momentum in the media. Fellow NBA players and coaches agree that he is one of the most disrespected players in the league. For years he was considered an empty scorer because he was on a team without a winning record. Now the narrative has changed to Chris Paul being the key piece to the Suns' success. Constant narratives around the league downplay Booker’s effectiveness as a player.
Now, without a doubt, Paul has been instrumental in the Phoenix Suns’ success the past two seasons. However, we can’t forget that Booker led this team to an 8-0 in the NBA bubble, almost making the playoffs. During this time Booker averaged 30.5 points per game with 4.9 rebounds and 6 assists. And again, he was snubbed for the NBA bubble seeding game MVP despite being the best player on the best team during that time.
As for this season, Booker is averaging 26.4 points, five rebounds and 4.9 assists this year. In NBA history there have been 12 other players putting up a similar stat line on the league’s best team, and all 12 of those players won MVP that season. So on paper, Booker is fit to be an MVP. On the court, Booker does not disappoint either. Whether it’s putting up 26 points a night, with 30+ points during each meeting against two out of the top-three MVP candidates, or holding opponents to 1.7% below their field goal percentage, he is one of the league’s best two-way players.
Not to mention he is the league’s clutchest player, shooting 57.4% from the field amongst players with 40+ field goal attempts this season. Even without Paul, an early MVP candidate, Booker led the Suns team to an 8-3 record, scoring 28+ points and seven assists. Additionally, despite all the injuries that plagued the team, Booker has prevailed and kept the Suns’ momentum moving forward.
Currently, Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and Milwaukee Bucks center Giannis Antetokounmpo sit atop the ladder. All three players have made a significant impact in keeping their teams in playoff contention and deserve to be in the talks for MVP, but not having Booker up there is insulting. Compared to the other candidates statistically, Booker ranks below them in player efficiency rating at 21.1. However, with the “Point God” Paul facilitating the offense, this is not surprising and shouldn't be used as a point to downplay Booker’s value.
After tonight’s 32-point, seven-assist performance in ending the Los Angeles Lakers’ (one of the preseason favorites to win the NBA championship) playoff chances, there should be no doubt that Booker is a top-three MVP candidate. With only three games left in the season and the Suns sitting at the top of the league at 62-16 with a wide margin over the second-place team, there is no doubt that Booker should be crowned MVP (#SunsIn4).