Suns Squared: Inside Devin Booker’s Scoring Style

Devin Booker continues to put up big scoring numbers for Phoenix. Recent looks into Booker have focused on his overall play with regard to comparing him to other young players. In those breakdowns, I have noted how his scoring has driven his game. Considering that, I wanted to take a look into how Booker scores.

(Also read: Devin Booker and the Unicorn Generation; Devin Booker: Rising; Devin Booker: Road Warrior)

I dove into Booker’s Synergy Sports numbers to see how he scores most often and most efficiently. By how he scores, I mean what play types he scores out of, and Synergy does a great job of classifying the many different types.

The basic scoring plays Synergy uses are Transition, Isolation, Off-Screen, Pick and Roll Ball Handler, and Spot-Up. There are a few more options Synergy breaks down, such as Post-Up and Offensive Rebound Put-Backs, but as Booker is a guard he doesn’t have many possessions used in those types.

Below is a chart with Booker’s most used play types with some basic information.

Play-Type

Possessions (% of Time)

Points per Possession

Rank (Percentile)

FG%

P&R Ball Handler

325 (26.8%)

0.772

47th

40.8%

Transition

236 (19.5%)

1.203

71st

54.3%

Off-Screen

156 (12.9%)

0.795

22nd

33.9%

Isolation

155 (12.8%)

0.935

68th

42.3%

Spot Up

138 (11.4%)

1.087

73rd

40.2%

Hand Off

61 (5%)

0.574

13th

22.7%

Booker’s best scoring types are transition, isolation, and spot up, which isn’t that surprising. Many of the best scorers put up excellent numbers in transition and when spotting up. For Booker that showed through as those are the two heavy-usage plays where he scores more than one point per possession.

The most surprising number here is that Booker’s off-screen shooting numbers aren’t great and are significantly worse than isolation. Few players are better in isolation situations than off-screen – Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving are two examples – because isolation often means tougher defense whereas off-screen situations are plays designed to get the shooter space.

The pick and roll (P&R) number for Booker is low, but that could be expected as he is still getting used to the NBA and learning to operate the P&R effectively to find scoring openings for not only him but also teammates. Booker’s P&R numbers improve from 0.772 points per possession (PPP) to 0.842 PPP when including possessions where he passes out of the P&R. This signals that Booker is grasping the intricacies of P&R, though he is not yet proficient as his percentile doesn’t improve when including passes, but actually gets worse.

Catch and Shoot

% of Time

PPP

Rank

FG%

Unguarded

33.2%

1.371

84th

48.4%

Guarded

66.8%

0.8

23rd

28.8%

Looking at Booker’s catch and shoot numbers indicate that he shoots significantly better when wide open, a not so surprising revelation. This is a giant positive as it does show that Booker is an elite shooter when unguarded and makes him deadly to leave open for any defense.

The next table break’s down Booker’s driving preferences when in isolation situations.

% of Time

PPP

Rank

FG%

Drive Right

41.5%

0.784

36th

33.3%

Pull Up for Jumper

35.3%

0.833

39th

35.3%

Drive to Basket

41.2%

1.048

34th

37.5%

% of Time

PPP

Rank

FG%

Drive Left

58.5%

1.069

81st

50.9%

Pull Up for Jumper

52.8%

0.921

51st

42.9%

Drive to Basket

23.6%

1.588

97th

69.2%

In both of the above tables the “Pull Up for Jumper” and “Drive to Basket” are subsets of the main features which is either driving left or right. Booker prefers to drive left which is odd for a right-handed player but it makes slightly more sense when you contextualize it with the fact that he prefers to pull up and shoot jumpers, especially when going left. Shooters generally like to pull up when driving to their weak hand, it is more comfortable for a step-back and it allows for a quicker move into one’s shooting motion because you can get the ball right into the shooting pocket as the dribble is picked up with the off-hand.

However, it is still odd that Booker is so much more efficient and effective going left even when going all the way to the basket. Look for Booker to always try and drive with his left no matter where he gets the ball (Synergy shows that Booker goes left more often than right no matter where he gets the ball on the court).

Booker’s pick and roll numbers reveal mostly what he prefers to do and display and that once again that he is better going left.

Pick and Roll

% of Time

PPP

Rank

FG%

Dribbles off Pick

86.4%

0.915

49th

41.2%

Rejects Pick

11%

0.8

24th

34.8%

Left Side PnR

9.9%

1.074

66th

53.8%

Right Side PnR

12.1%

0.788

25th

32.3%

High PnR

77.9%

0.915

48th

40.4%

Booker heavily prefers to use the screen rather than reject the screen, which is normal. The screen is meant to be used and rejecting it is a rare occasion even for pick and roll maestros like Chris Paul. Paul only rejects the pick about 5% of the time but when he does he is extremely effective (1.31 PPP). Booker can definitely add that to his game by selectively rejecting the pick (when the defender jumps over/under) and attacking quickly.

Booker sees most of his P&R opportunities in high P&R situations which means the picks are up above the 3-point line and not to one side of the court. These plays typically give the ball-handler more options and allows the ball-handler to get down hill quickly to attack, or have a lot of space to pull up for a shot (which Booker specifically loves to do).

I hope this breakdown gave you a clearer idea into the mind of how Devin Booker likes to score specifically, and gives a guide into what to look for when watching games. These numbers display a lot of promise for Booker and show he can continue to grow and become elite if he continues to work. This should make him unstoppable when he is already good at each of these scenarios and incredibly dangerous when forced to settle for what he is weaker at.

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