The All-Star Game is only three days away, and Damian Lillard’s unfortunate injury will force the hand of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to name a replacement for the All-Star Game and the 3-Point Contest — two events Lillard was slated to participate in. Following his groin injury, Lillard was hopeful someone deserving of the opportunity would be named to the team, quickly mentioning Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker as a likely candidate to get in.
As soon as the reserves were named, Bradley Beal and Booker were two of the names to quickly surface as snubs, considering their potent stat lines despite the losses they’ve suffered this season.
The East had plenty of players who would like a word to get into the mid-February festivities, including Beal, Jaylen Brown, Malcolm Brogdon, and Zach LaVine, to name a few.
The West is a different story, as Booker was the lone bona-fide star who had all the chops to make it into the big game but only needed his team to do better to make it.
The Suns have won 22 games by the All-Star break (not great, but better than what they were), already surpassing last year’s 19-win total. Booker has had a large part in that with averages of 26.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game — numbers that resemble last season’s averages, but that have had a much larger impact.
Booker has taken his game from high volume to high efficiency, taking the least amount of shots since his rookie season (17.9 per game), but hitting at a career-high 49.6% clip. Book is still not an elite 3-point shooter, despite his marksman capabilities and a 3-Point Contest title from 2018, but he’s making a serviceable 35.8% from deep this season.
Where he’s really made a massive improvement is his free-throw shooting, leading the league with an automatic 92.0%, which has made all the difference in his game.
Somebody like Ja Morant may also be considered thanks to his catapulting the Memphis Grizzlies into a playoff spot and making them one of the NBA’s Cinderella stories this season. Yet rookies hardly ever make the All-Star Game.
In fact, it hasn’t happened since Blake Griffin did so after sitting out a year with an injury in 2010-11. Prior to that, it was Yao Ming in 2002-03, getting massive support from his home country of China. Even the great LeBron James didn’t crack the All-Star Game in his rookie season.
The Suns might not have made it that far as a team, but Booker has made every alteration necessary in his game to propel them in the right direction. His body of work is now reflecting he’s not just an empty stats guy, as many pundits pointed out in past seasons.
If anything, Lillard being willing to throw out his name should mean something, as it is he who is ceding his spot in the All-Star Game.
Adam Silver has to make a decision quickly. If he doesn’t overthink it, it shouldn’t take long for Devin Booker’s name to come out of his lips.