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#pounditMonday, December 6, 2021

Suns coach believes Devin Booker is the next James Harden

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker has been on fire since the team shut Eric Bledsoe down for the year. Listed as a shooting guard, Booker has been lighting up the scoreboard and dropped 70 points in a game last week against the Boston Celtics. But he has also shown an ability to set his teammates up.

While the Suns have lost 12 straight, Booker’s individual performance has been enough to inspire his coach to compare him to one of the best players in the NBA.

“I don’t know if I’ve said this publicly before, but he reminds me a lot of James Harden,” Suns coach Earl Watson said Sunday, via Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic. “When Devin Booker took off at the end of last season, he was at the point. He had a lot of 30-point games. This year he’s had a 70-point game. It’s not a coincidence.”

Booker has essentially been Phoenix’s backup point guard behind Tyler Ulis since Bledsoe went down, and the former 13th overall pick has averaged 6.8 assists over the past four games. The 39.3 points per game he is averaging is the number that sticks out more, but the increase in assists is what reminds Watson of Harden.

Harden, a shooting guard for most of his career, was given the keys to the offense by Mike D’Antoni this season. He’s averaging 11.2 assists — the highest total of his career by far — to go along with 29.2 points per game.

“I think if that’s possible, James will open up the door for (Booker to be a point guard),” Watson said. “You definitely see him with the ball in his hands down the stretch. It depends on the roster and creativity and vision of the program.

“He plays at his own speed. He plays not fast, but it’s quick. Not blazing, but somehow he dunks on you. He can shoot, he can handle, he can pass and he can post up. He’s very versatile.”

The Suns have the second-worst record in the NBA, meaning they are likely to get a high pick in a draft that is loaded with talented guards. If they end up drafting Lonzo Ball or Markelle Fultz, it will be interesting to see who plays the point. Based on the way Watson defended Booker against criticism over Booker’s 70-point game, you might conclude the former Kentucky star has the early upper hand.

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