When Devin Booker turns 25, he'll already be into his seventh NBA season. He's become a savvy veteran before he can legally rent a car. He's quietly cemented himself as one of the league's most prolific scorers, posting a per-game average of at least 24.9 in the last four campaigns. Through his first eight playoff games he's been the picture of poise, pouring in 27.1 points while grabbing 6.4 rebounds and dishing out 5.0 assists per contest. The Suns' guard is no longer showing signs of promise for the future. He's the here and now.
Study the Suns' backcourt and marvel at the timeless poise of Chris Paul. And how it's rubbed off on Booker in all the best ways. Because while Paul is painting his masterpiece and garnering the most attention in what could be a well-deserved victory lap to the promised land that's eluded him for an entire career, Booker has accepted a supporting role with aplomb.
Booker is .03 percentage points shy of a 50-40-90 line in the postseason. That's the empirical highlight. But it's the intangible stuff becoming tangible through the television screen that's stood out even more. The knock on him in the past was that he was an empty-stats vessel. Such narrative is proving more and more ridiculous by the day as he learns and applies the lessons of Paul in the highest-leverage situations.
When Phoenix brought in Paul, Booker could have bristled and attempted to tighten his grip on the team. That would even be the natural inclination of an ascending star trying to break through to All-NBA status. Instead Booker embraced the opportunity to learn lessons in leadership and fitting in while standing out.
He's an unflappable vocal leader unafraid to stand up to the NBA's ruling class. He's slowly earned the respect from the most anointed places, as evidenced by LeBron James — eliminated by these very Suns — gifting him a jersey with a message imploring continued greatness. One would be forgiven for forgetting this is Booker's first rodeo as he's hardly breaking a sweat out there.
And sure, funny things could happen on the way to the NBA Finals but some things you just know when you see them. Booker has the goods. The mental and physical tools to be great. His portfolio has grown exponentially more valuable by embracing Paul's wisdom and molding himself in that image. It really is quite something to appreciate before everyone else catches on to the final stages of maturation.