Devin Booker is off to the best start to a season of his young career. His averages of 25.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.9 assists are all ever-so-slightly down from last year, but his efficiency is at the highest its ever been, with a 51.2/41.5/91.4 shooting split that puts him on track to join the 50/40/90 club.
Doing so would be quite the accomplishment for a player who had garnered a reputation, fairly or not, as being an unrepentant volume shooter over his first four seasons in the NBA. Booker’s improvement as a more efficient player has come along with the Suns best start in years at 10-12, currently tied for 7th in the Western Conference.
Monty Williams, Booker’s fifth coach in as many years, challenged his young star to be more efficient this season and hoped the addition of a true lead guard next to him in Ricky Rubio would ease some of the pressure on Booker to be the end all be all on the offensive end. That’s proved to be the case, but to go along with a new group of talent around him, Booker used this summer to take stock of his game and embrace a somewhat different approach.
As Booker told Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Abrams, he’s learned to accept that he’s not the best player in the world and not good at everything on the court and be honest with himself about his deficiencies so he can work to improve on them.
“I’ve been in that state where you try to deny everything,” Booker said. “Like, ‘I’m the perfect human. I’m the best basketball player. I’m the best at this,’ when in actual reality, you’re not. It’s fine, not being the best at everything, but if you’re putting the work into it to become better and making progress every day, that’s what it’s about.”
“I’ve got to the point where it’s like I know I’m not the best at everything,” Booker said. “Us as athletes, I think once you can get to that point where you’re comfortable with saying you’re not good at something—’I need to work on it’—that’s when you can get the most out of it. Personally, you know what you’re not good at, and to actually embrace that and go work on it is what I did this summer. It wasn’t just one part of my game or working on my body. It’s just collective—everything.”
The result of that approach has been evident in the first quarter of this season, and is helped by the fact that he has more teammates he can trust to help him out on the court. Booker has swapped volume for efficiency and barely lost any counting stats in the process, while gaining wins and beginning to shake off the reputation of both he and the organization. That was his stated goal this summer, knowing that he and the team as a whole needed to rewrite the narrative about the Suns, and so far he’s off to a great start in that quest.