Devin Booker records

How good can Devin Booker be?

Devin Booker has accomplished quite a bit in his young NBA career. On Monday, the Suns’ guard turned 21. It is incredible what Booker has done in his young NBA career already.

The numbers

In his rookie season, Booker scored his 1,000th career point at the fourth youngest age behind just Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Booker also became the second teen to record back-to-back 30-point games along with James. He also became the sixth teenager to top 1,000 career points along with Bryant, James, Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard. Booker finished his rookie campaign with 1,048 points.

Booker continued to dominate in his second season. He had a stretch of 16 straight games where he scored at least 20 points. He became the youngest player in NBA history to accomplish that, passing James.

Devin Booker records

Devin Booker joins elite company with his accomplishments in his young career. (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE)

Who could forget his 70-point performance against the Celtics? Booker set the franchise record for points in a game while shooting 52.5 percent from the field. He also became the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 points in a game. It also made him the third youngest player to score at least 50 points in a game behind just James and Brandon Jennings.

How about the 28 points he scored in the fourth quarter against the Mavericks? Booker finished the night with 39 points and set the franchise-record for most points in the fourth quarter.

By the end of the season, Booker finished with three quarters of at least 27 points, while the rest of the NBA only came up with two. That made him the first player since Bryant in 2005-06 to do so.

Booker is continuing his record-setting play this season as well. In his last game Saturday before turning 21, he scored 34 points. That was his 21st career 30-point game, which is the third most in NBA history before turning 21, behind just James and Durant.

Another impressive accomplishment by Booker is that his 2,897 career points are the fourth most for a player before turning 21. Only James, Durant and Anthony had more. Bryant comes in fifth with 2,755. Mind you Bryant came into the league out of high school and played 40 more games than Booker before turning 21.

Now don’t think I’m saying Devin Booker is going to be better than Kobe Bryant. Bryant is an all-time great, but that is what makes Booker’s accomplishment so incredible.

This guy is a star in the making. He is in good company with all of his records and accomplishments so far.

Why doesn’t Booker get more credit?

There is one thing about some of these records though that puts a knock on Booker. The 70-point game, the 28-point fourth quarter and the 21st career 30-point game were all in losing efforts.

In case you haven’t noticed, the Suns are one of the NBA’s biggest laughing stocks. They reinforced this reputation by firing their head coach Earl Watson after just three games this season. Watson was the team’s interim coach last year, and Phoenix decided to keep him on and sign him to a three-year deal. After losing the first three games this season, the Suns decided to give up on Watson.

Besides the coaching situation, the Suns also lack experience. The Suns are the youngest team in the NBA with an average age of 24.5, including six players 21 or younger. Even Watson, at the time of his promotion to head coach, was the second youngest head coach in the NBA.

There is also the Eric Bledsoe drama. The team’s starting point guard apparently tweeted that he doesn’t want to be with the team anymore. Since the Tweet, Bledsoe has not played in a game since.

Defense is also one of Phoenix’s struggles, as they have ranked 28th, 30th and 29th in all three of Booker’s seasons. You aren’t going to win too many games with numbers like that.

The Suns currently sit at 2-4. These losing ways are a big reason Booker is overlooked. One of the games most dominant scorers is on one of the worst teams. The situation the Suns are in would be difficult for even LeBron James to fix, much less Booker.

Playing in the Western Conference also doesn’t help. With so many great teams like the Warriors, Rockets and Spurs and star players like James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Steph Curry and Durant, players like Booker tend to get less attention.

Why talk about a 21-year-old kid from one of the league’s worst teams when Harden and Westbrook were putting up triple-doubles almost every night last season? If Booker was in the East, he’d definitely get more recognition and would be one of the conferences top players along with James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving and John Wall.

How good will Booker be?

Devin Booker records

Stay tuned for what is still to come from this record-breaking young gun. (Photo by Anthony Gruppuso – USA TODAY Sports)

What can we expect from Booker in the future? You can bet he is going to continue dominating on the offensive end of the floor. According to the numbers, Booker should end up being on the same level as James, Durant, Anthony and Bryant.

The Suns offense only will help Booker, as the Suns have a reputation for lighting up the scoreboard that goes back to when Steve Nash was running the team. If Bledsoe ends up getting traded, that will only give Booker more opportunities to put up points as the clear go-to guy on the team.

This kid has a bright future, and I can’t wait to see how his career plays out. Keep an eye on him, and don’t let the Suns atrociousness distract you from his performance and success.

This team is still young. Maybe things will begin to turnaround for Phoenix once players like Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender spend a few more seasons in the NBA.

Could this be “The Process” 2.0? Only time will tell, but for now, Booker is one of the league’s premiere players whose limit is higher than the sky.

 

Featured image by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Why LaVar Ball Doesn’t Matter

LaVar Ball has been making far more headlines than his son lately. In the past week he has been hyping up the playing ability of his three sons, bragging about the Ball brand and claiming that he could have beaten Michael Jordan in a game of one on one. The media can’t get enough of him.

Unfortunately for his oldest son Lonzo, his father’s press seems to be having a negative impact on the perception towards him. It has now gotten to the point where some people are questioning whether Lonzo’s draft stock may be hurt by his father.

Quite simply, that is crazy. LaVar Ball has been overzealous, arrogant and flat out wrong over the past few weeks. But, there is no reason that the comments he made should impact how Lonzo is viewed as an NBA prospect.

LaVar Ball (Photo courtesy: youtube.com)

Suns head coach and former UCLA point guard Earl Watson made some interesting comments about the Balls. Watson claimed that Lonzo is the exact opposite of his father, and that he just wants to play basketball. Lonzo himself made a similar comment when he stated, “My dad is who he is, I just got play basketball, I can’t worry about who he is.”

Ball’s teammate Bryce Alford had high praise about Lonzo’s mindset and off court presence earlier in the season. Alford said, “For someone who has that kind of hype around him, he does an unbelievable job of handling it and keeping himself humble.” Lonzo also started the season by stating his mindset when he said, “Just basically play like you haven’t made it yet . . . I haven’t made a name for myself yet, so I have to go out there and prove myself.”

Despite his father’s comments, Lonzo Ball has done nothing but prove that he is a humble guy, and that his focus is foremost on basketball. He has helped execute a swift turnaround of the UCLA basketball program and has been leading am outstanding team into the tournament. Regardless of the buzz surrounding his father, teams should not hesitate to add Ball come draft day.

However, players are already saying that they want to face Lonzo, and there is always a risk of his teammates not getting along with him. If he truly is as humble as his UCLA teammates say he is, that should not be a problem. Also, there’s nothing that can’t be proven with hard work and talent. Those are two things that Lonzo seems to possess.

Of course, there is always the problem of the hype surrounding LaVar Ball to create unnecessary attention for an NBA team. Guys in other sports like Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel have created attention that has caused trouble for their teams.

If Lonzo truly possesses NBA level talent, that problem won’t persist. Proof of that lies in somebody like Bryce Harper. Harper came into the league with a lot of hype surrounding him, and his attitude and arrogance drew even more attention to him and his team. After two outstanding seasons and an MVP award, all criticisms of Harper’s attitude seem to have faded.

In the case of Lonzo Ball, teams will be quick to forget about his father if he can prove his talent. No matter how much LaVar Ball runs his mouth, Lonzo can leave it on the court.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Why the Rhode Island Rams Will Make the Sweet 16 in 2017

The Rhode Island Rams, have not made the NCAA Tournament since 1999, will be a Sweet 16 participant in March of 2017. On the surface this sounds like a hilariously bold claim to make. In reality, the Rams’ situation is significantly better and more complex than their 17-15 record would indicate. There is a lot more to the story.

 

Lamar Odom was the star the last time the Rams made the Big Dance. (Photo courtesy of heavy.com)

The Rams are no strangers to success despite being a small school from a small state. Their best campaign was in 1998, when they made a splash and ran all the way to the Elite Eight and were two points from making a Final Four appearance. Lamar Odom was the team’s leader when the Rams last appeared in the Bid Dance in 1998. The 12th-seeded Rhode Island squad lost to Charlotte in overtime. After that the Rams began a lengthy, multi-decade NCAA Tournament drought and have made very little noise since.

 

On another note, the team plays in a conference that is not given the amount of credit that it is due. The Atlantic 10 conference is far from a one-bid league, but for some reason is not looked at in that light. Last year, three teams made the tournament (St. Joseph’s, Dayton, and VCU). So the conference has current legitimacy and it does not lack historical importance.  LaSalle won a title in 1954, VCU had a magical run in 2011, Shaka Smart built the VCU program into a tournament regular, and Phil Martelli has led several runs in his tenure with St. Joe’s. Yet, the notion of the Atlantic 10 being a productive conference is strange. This should not be the case at all.

 

That is where the notion of the Rams making the Sweet Sixteen is generated from. If we look at the conference in a different light, then we can give Rhode Island a bit more credit. If they are a legitimate contender in the conference, then they can be a legitimate contender nationally. So let’s take a peek at the Atlantic 10’s recent history: The conference received three bids in 2015, a whopping six in 2014 (more than the SEC, Big East, and American conferences), and five in 2013 which was the third most by a conference in the tournament. The conference is due a little more respect. They have proven that year in and year out the Atlantic 10 can produce tournament teams. That means that any team able to compete in the A-10 is due some respect.

 

That does not change the fact that Rhode Island has not danced since 1999. So what makes this Rhode Island team ready to not only break through the tournament bid barrier, but also make a run this year? It is the process that has been the re-formation of the Rams’ program. In reality, the Rams have proven that, when healthy, they can be one of the best teams in the conference and thus one of the best teams in the country.

 

E.C. Matthews was preseason all A-10 and a candidate for the conference player of the year. (Photo courtesy of draftexpress.com)

Current head coach Dan Hurley took over for the 2012-13 season.  The team went 8-21. Over the next few seasons, Hurley steadily improved the team’s standing, capped by a 23-10 record in 2014-15. Unfortunately, the team was not one of the A-10 teams invited to the dance. Then, just when they seemed poised to finally make that coveted NCAA appearance, disaster struck.  A whole ten minutes into the team’s opener guard E.C. Matthews tore his ACL. In 2014-2015 season, he had averaged 16.9 points, 2.0 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game.  Matthews was a legitimate candidate for A-10 player of the year. The loss was devastating and all of the momentum that Rhode Island and Hurley had built dissipated.

 

This year will be different. Mathews is back along with an excellent supporting cast and a great deal of experience. In all, the team returns four of its five leading scorers. It gets better because, these five players are also the five leading rebounders on the team. The only notable departure is fourth leading scorer Four McGlynn who graduated. So a team that was already able to muster a .500 record (9-9) in a conference that has proven itself all comes back with another year of experience–and returns a star player.

The crux of the matter is this: the team that lost their star player was still able to muster a .500 record in an underappreciated conference. They have proven that, when all together, they can win. Three players plus Mathews return who played on the 23-10 2014-2015 team and Four McGlynn was not even a part of that team. So, what we have is a team that has proven that they can win, when healthy, and now adds Kuran Iverson’s production. Last year’s team was actually picked second in the preseason Atlantic-10 poll and Matthews and Martin were preaseason all A-10. This team was supposed to win last year. Now they have another year under their belts and a returning star.  This is an experienced team that knows how to play together. Sure, it may take a moment for E.C. Matthews and Iverson to gel. However, this team has the experience and drive to make some noise.

Dan Hurley did not lose all of the momentum that he had been building with the boys in baby blue when Matthews was injured. He merely stowed it away for the 2016-2017 season, the season in which the Rhode Island rams will taste the sweetness that is the second weekend in March.