The Phoenix Suns now have a legitimate argument for the best backcourt in the NBA in Chris Paul and Devin Booker.
Paul’s arrival to the desert should have massive ramifications for a franchise without a playoff appearance in over a decade. It also gives the Suns a superstar duo as strong as any in the league.
Booker has continued to cement his status as one of the best guards in basketball. Booker made his first All-Star team this past season, averaging 26.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 6.5 assists while leading the Suns to a 15-win improvement.
Today’s NBA demands at least two stars in order to contend for a championship. Now, the Suns boast a bona fide one-two punch with Paul and Booker as their superstar duo. Deandre Ayton is also on his way, for good measure.
The question is: just how good can Paul and Booker be together, and where do they rank among the top duos in the league?
Chris Paul and Devin Booker have very complementary skill sets.
Booker is one of the best pure scorers at the two-guard spot, but he also has the added onus of being Phoenix’s top playmaker and one of the team’s best assist men. The latter notion becomes less imperative for Booker with CP3 orchestrating the offense.
Paul, on the other hand, is one of the premier assist men in NBA history. He has tremendous vision and his ability to get to the cup and score or find the open man in pick-and-roll sets has led to numerous All-Star appearances and All-NBA honors.
The 35-year-old is also unselfish. Paul is not afraid to look for his own shot, but he is undoubtedly aware the scoring load should and will run through Booker.
Fortunately for Paul, Booker is not a ball-dominant scorer. He moves well off the ball and is a constant threat coming off screens and freeing up space via an assortment of dribble pull-ups and fadeaway jumpers.
Booker should also benefit from Paul’s pick-and-roll partnership with Ayton.
Phoenix’s young center gobbles up everything around the rim, and he should have ample opportunity to catch lobs or find space for easy baskets at the cup–particularly given Paul is just as capable of getting to the basket and finishing through contact.
Paul-Ayton sets could force defenses to collapse, which could lead to some open shots for Booker and other perimeter threats of the Suns.
The more interesting thing to watch might actually be whether Paul’s rugged defensive style and endless energy will rub off on Booker on that side of the floor.
Phoenix will be that much better if Booker can show defensive improvement to pair with his tremendous offensive repertoire. Time will tell whether Paul can bring it out of him.
Where They Rank
It is a bit hard to opine as to where Paul and Booker rank among the NBA’s top duos, given they have yet to play together.
Then again, the same can be said for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and their partnership is supposed to propel the Brooklyn Nets into contention.
In any case, there are not too many backcourts that look as strong as the one the Suns have assembled. The Portland Trail Blazers have a dynamic duo in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, though both have their problems on the defensive end of the floor.
Perhaps the best measuring stick is the Stephen Curry-Klay Thompson backcourt. Curry and Thompson have accomplished far more team success than either Paul or Booker. For his part, Thompson is also one of the best perimeter defenders in the game, and both he and Curry are among the greatest shooters in NBA history.
But from a competitiveness, leadership and playmaking standpoint, Phoenix’s new duo is right there. Booker’s drive and will to win is immensely underrated, and Paul is one of the most renowned competitors in the sport.
Or, perhaps John Wall and Bradley Beal are another good comparison. But Wall has not played for some time, and it remains to be seen how both will adjust now that Beal has elevated as an all-around playmaker.
In any case, the Paul-Booker duo might be among the best in the league this year.
No, they are not on the same level as Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Los Angeles’ other duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George is still elite, and Jamal Murray’s ascendance makes him and Nikola Jokic among the top duos in the game.
The same can most certainly be said for Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo in Miami, in addition to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the ever-underrated Khris Middleton in Milwaukee.
Still, there is a scenario where NBA fans look back at Chris Paul and Devin Booker as one of the Top-5 duos in the league this year, especially if they experience team success. Regardless, the Paul-Booker partnership will make the Suns one of the top teams to watch this season.
The pressure will be on in Phoenix. Can CP and Book live up to the hype?