“When I get out there, they are going to remember me.”
Those are the exact words that came out of Devin Booker’s mouth in The Players’ Tribune Rookie/Vet documentary, in which cameras followed him and veteran teammate Tyson Chandler on day-to-day duties last season.
Though that type of bravado from rookies is common as they make the transition from college to the NBA, Booker’s play on the NBA hardwood rest assured that “they” would remember him.
Through six DNP-CDs before the All-Star break, a mid-season coaching change, rumors of locker room tension between players, injuries all across the board that opened up a starting role and playing on a team that hasn’t made the postseason since 2010, here’s how Booker finished the season: 13.8 ppg while shooting 42.3 percent from the field (34.3 percent from behind the arc), 2.6 apg and 2.5 rpg.
To some, the aforementioned numbers might be mediocre and maybe even irrelevant, especially for someone on a 23-59 team. With his emergence as one of the L’s most exciting players that’s making his debut at No. 47 on this year’s SLAM Top 50, D-Book’s stats were the best from a Suns rookie since Amar’e Stoudemire in 2002-03.
But the season accolades didn’t stop there for the young buck.
Booker was the only guard to make the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team. His six games with 30 or more points are the most by a rookie since Blake Griffin in 2010-11. He was the first rookie in three years to record more than five games of 30-plus points since Damian Lillard in ‘12-13.
He reached 1,000 points in third fewest games (74) to join Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant as the sixth player in NBA History to crack 1K as a teenager. And he was also the first teen since King James to have back-to-back 30-plus-point games and second-youngest player to dish out 11 assists in a game.
Booker kept the momentum going into the summer where he averaged 21.3 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists per in his three-game Summer League stint in Las Vegas, while sharing the backcourt with former college teammate Tyler Ulis.
Kobe, Dwyane Wade, LeBron, Gregg Popovich and Klay Thompson (the player he’s often compared to) have nothing but high praise regarding Booker as one of their favorite up-and-comers.
“He understands how to play the game,” said Poppovich earlier this year at Thomas & Mack Center where Booker was a member on Team USA’s Select Team. “He’s got great skills, but I think what makes him special is his character […] He’s got everything he needs to be a great player.”
As Booker prepares for his second year with hopes to end the Suns’ six-year playoff drought, he’ll look to soak up even more knowledge from OGs like Jared Dudley and Leandro Barbosa who make their return to the Phoenix, and prepare rooks like Dragan Bender, Tyler Ulis and Marquese Chriss for the rigors of an 82-game season.
So when you’re out there for Year 2, make ‘em remember you some more, Book.
Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2016-17—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.
Follow the entire #SLAMTop50 countdown.