Devin Booker has been the only bright spot this season for the Phoenix Suns. After reportedly straining his left adductor during the team’s matchup with the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night, Booker will reportedly be sidelined for the next two to three weeks.
Booker has single-handedly made Phoenix a fringe League Pass team through his ability to put up massive scoring totals against any team in the league. Just a day before his injury, Booker went into the House that Hinkie build and dropped 46 in a win over the Sixers. It was his first 40-point game of the season, but it was his 10th with 30-plus points. Under interim coach Jay Triano and on a team desperate for talent, Booker has been given the brightest of green lights. He is averaging just over 24 points on almost 19 shots a game.
Booker is exciting, and the Suns are technically better when he is on the court, but not by much. When Booker is playing, Phoenix has a minus-6.8 net rating. When he’s off the court, that number drops to minus-8.8. And even if Booker is one of the NBA’s most exciting players, the Suns are still unmistakably bad: They are a bottom-five team in both defensive and offensive rating.
For a team that is contending for the Tanking Title, Booker’s short absence might benefit the franchise. The Suns are only four games better than the league-worst Bulls. They’re also just a half-game worse than the Lakers and the Grizzlies for the fifth spot in the race to the bottom. Given that this upcoming draft is projected to have a tantalizing top tier headlined by Duke’s Marvin Bagley every loss matters.
In the span before Booker’s return, the Suns will play seven home games and five away games. They’ll face the Spurs, the Raptors, the Timberwolves (twice), and the Sixers. But they also play the Kings (twice) and the Grizzlies (twice), as well as the struggling Clippers and Mavs. Booker’s absence will likely lead to more losses while also providing opportunities for young players like Marquese Chriss and Josh Jackson to develop offensively.
Booker will be back soon enough, but it would be smart of the Suns to hold him out as long as possible. Thirty-point games are precious, but lottery balls are priceless.