Devin Booker and the Phoenix Suns achieved the best record in the NBA as we near the playoffs.
That’s a sentence NBA fans would have been stunned to hear one year or even six months ago. Phoenix hasn’t made the playoffs in over a decade and finished five games below .500 last year even after sweeping their eight games in the Disney World bubble.
After finishing on a high note last year with Booker posting career-high marks across the board, 2021 looked like the season for the Suns’ young core to finally make the leap to the postseason. Bring Chris Paul aboard along with a few other veterans and now there’s some real expectation and excitement heading into this season.
Yet, they still managed to flummox the NBA world and surpass every conceivable expectation. As of May 1st, Phoenix was first in the Western Conference standings and first in the entire league by record. Yesterday Utah won their game to inch a half-game ahead, but when Phoenix wins tonight (vs. Oklahoma City) they’ll retake the top spot.
It’s a landmark achievement for a franchise that was in complete rubble when it selected Booker in 2015.
From day one, Booker has been a franchise starlet, and now, he’s the lead scorer on a top-2 team in the league. This past week just further solidified the dominance of both the Suns and Booker himself.
Phoenix faced three blazing-hot opponents this week in the Knicks, Clippers and Jazz, and the Suns swept them.
Last Monday, Phoenix entered Madison Square Garden facing a Knicks team that had won nine straight and was playing their best basketball of the past decade. Behind 33 points from Booker on 14-26 shooting to lead the game in scoring, the Suns ended the Knicks’ streak less than 24 hours after falling to Brooklyn.
Then, on Wednesday, Phoenix returned home to face LAC, who owns the best record in the NBA post-All-Star break. The Clips were quietly gaining ground on the Suns’ lead at the two-seed and could have overtaken them this past week. However, behind 28 points from Chris Paul and 21 from Booker, Phoenix got a big first win of the season over Los Angeles and extended their lead in the conference standings.
Two nights later, the Suns hosted the current no. 1 seed in the West and the owners of the best record in the NBA for most of the year: Utah.
With Donovan Mitchell still sidelined, the Suns made quick work of Utah, winning 121-100 to cruise past the Jazz to take the one-seed. Booker was the only Sun to top 20 points in this one; he finished with 31 points on incredibly efficient 13-19 shooting.
In three games, the Suns took down the team with the longest winning streak, the best team after the All-Star break and surpassed the team with the best record in a head-to-head blowout.
All thanks to Devin Booker and Chris Paul.
Paul has gotten more of the MVP buzz throughout the season despite posting much lower scoring numbers than D-Book — and has been credited as a cultural figure in Phoenix just as much as a player — but the primary story is both of them.
One is a cerebral, veteran maestro who rivals LeBron James as the smartest player in basketball, and the other is (now) a seasoned, regular 25-per-game scorer that can carry the scoring load for the best team in basketball. It’s a wonderful combination of two somewhat opposite yet perfectly binding superstars discovering just how high this team’s ceiling is.
Booker is in the best basketball-playing situation of his life and is elevating, along with his team, to the top of the NBA. It’s been an incredible ride for Devin and the Suns in 2021. And there is still much more to come.