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The real reason Earl Watson started Devin Booker over Brandon Knight during Suns stint

Devin Booker, Suns, Earl Watson

Earl Watson was the coach of the Phoenix Suns in Devin Booker’s first three years in the league. And during his stint, Watson made the bold move to start a young Booker over the more established Brandon Knight.

It definitely raised some eyebrows in the Suns’ front office, but Watson had enough good reasons to start Booker over Knight.

In February 2016, Watson was made interim coach after the team fired Jeff Hornacek. It was Booker’s rookie year. The shooting guard spot was already locked to Knight, who inked a hefty five-year $70 million deal in the summer of 2015. But through Watson’s careful observation of Booker’s playing style, he knew that the right decision would be to start the rookie.

“So by me starting Devin Booker was like ‘whoa, what are you doing? I’m not paying Brandon Knight $70 million to come off the bench,'” the former Suns coach told Gilbert Arenas on on “No Chill with Gilbert Arenas,” per Duane Rankin of Arizona Republic.

“But I just saw in the backcourt when you have Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe, you had two pattern players. The game was changing and I knew the game was changing from my AAU teams. I seen what was coming. That’s not going to be sustainable. In the playoffs, you can’t have a pattern player with the ball. You’re not going to win.”

In the 2015-16 season, Devin Booker played 76 games (56) starts, while Brandon Knight played 52 games (50 starts). The following season, Knight suit up for 54 games (five starts) while Booker played and started in 78 contests. Injuries coupled with Booker’s strong performance essentially booted Knight out of the Suns’ roster

Come 2018, Knight was eventually shipped out to the Houston Rockets.