Why Devin Booker belongs in the NBA MVP conversation.
The NBA Most Valuable Player race this season has been one for the history books.
Nikola Jokic is single-handedly leading a depleted Denver Nuggets team to the playoffs while putting up video game numbers. Joel Embiid, having a career year, is right there behind the Joker. Giannis Antetokounmpo is having one of the best seasons of his career, which is saying something for a two-time MVP award winner.
Jayson Tatum has flipped a switch since the All-Star break and has completely turned around the Celtics season. Ja Morant has led the Memphis Grizzlies, with jaw-dropping highlights, to the second seed in the Western Conference. Luka Doncic, top five in the league in points and assists, has turned it up a notch since the All-Star break, leading the Dallas Mavericks to the second-best record in 2022.
Even DeMar DeRozan had his moment in the sun when he became the first player ever to score 35 points or more on at least 50 percent shooting in seven straight games for the impressive Chicago Bulls.
Through all of the discussions, one player has been severely disrespected until recently. That player is Devin Booker.
When asked if he should be in the MVP conversation after his season-high 49 points against the Denver Nuggets last Thursday, Booker simply said “Yeah” while nodding his head.
The 25-year-old All-Star doesn’t have to say more than that one word this season about being in contention for the league’s most prestigious individual award.
Others are doing it for him.
From Ja Morant to Kyrie Irving to Damian Lillard to Isaiah Thomas to Doc Rivers to his teammates and head coach Monty Williams, Booker is the hottest MVP candidate right now.
So why all of a sudden is Booker getting all this love for the MVP? Well, since the All-Star break, Book has been on a tear.
In the 13 games since the mid-season classic, Booker is averaging a whopping 30.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.4 rebounds, 1.8 steals on close to 50/40/90 shooting splits (53.8/41.4/88.1), per ESPN.
In their past two games, Booker dropped a season-high 49 points in the Suns’ victory over MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets. Three nights later, Booker put up 35 on James Harden, Joel Embiid, and the Sixers en route to the dub.
The Suns are 10-3 in those games and have won their last eight during this stretch.
The numbers and wins stand out, even more, when you factor in that Chris Paul missed nine of those games with a fractured thumb.
For the season, Booker is averaging 26.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.2 steals per game on 46.5/37.8/86.7 shooting splits for the NBA’s best team: The Phoenix Suns, per ESPN.
With that being said, as well as Booker and the Suns have been playing this season, he’s seventh on NBA.com’s latest MVP ladder.
"Joel EmbiidNikola JokicGiannis AntetokounmpoJayson TatumLuka DoncicJa MorantDevin BookerDeMar DeRozanKevin DurantKarl Anthony-Towns"
Booker moved up two spots from the previous week’s MVP ladder edition, a point addressed by Monty Williams before the Suns’ Thursday game in Denver.
"“I saw Devin was in like ninth place,” Williams said. “OK. There you go. That’s all you need me to say. What’s the criteria?” The criteria seems to be a moving target every year. Is it winning and stats. Is it stats. Is it impact on winning? I don’t know what it is so it’s hard to make a judgment as a coach and if I do that, I spend too much time getting upset about it because two of our guys aren’t where they should be.”"
The second guy Williams is referring to is Chris Paul who is in NBA.com’s “five more” MVP mention list with Stephen Curry, James Harden, LeBron James, and Donovan Mitchell.
CP3 might deserve a mention for the MVP discussion for just how he has turned the Suns from a lottery team to a championship contender, but Booker is the one who’s being disrespected the most.
Historically, the MVP, for the most part, has gone to the best player on the best team. This season the Suns are, by far, the best team.
With a record of 61-14, Phoenix has an 8.5 lead over the team with the next best record: the Memphis Grizzlies (53-23).
Devin Booker is the Suns’ best player and has emerged as the best two-guard in the league with his play this season.
Now, will Booker win the MVP? No. No, he won’t.
Jokic has put up historically great numbers for a Nuggets team who have played the entire season without two of their top three players in Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. Embiid and Giannis aren’t too far behind The Joker, if at all depending on who you ask, with how they’ve performed this season in a stacked Eastern Conference.
But Booker deserves to be right behind those top three. What he’s doing for the league’s best team should not and cannot be ignored by voters.
If the season ended today, Booker should finish fourth or fifth in MVP voting with the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum getting the other spot. The thing is though the season isn’t over, so Booker still has time to bolster his MVP candidacy and maybe even crack into the top three.
But even if he doesn’t and the Suns decide to rest him before the playoffs, Booker is still deserving of a top-five finish in the MVP race.