Nobody likes seeing a double team. But Devin Booker might as well just accept the reality of them.
Devin Booker is tired of seeing double teams. And, who can really blame him?
At 22, he's already established himself as one of the best scorers in the NBA, finishing seventh in points per game last season with 26.6. And last season he shouldered the load as the Suns' primary ball-handler and de facto point guard, posting 6.8 assists per game, which was a top-15 mark in the league.
But because Booker plays in Phoenix and has clearly established himself as the top player on his team and an elite scorer, he gets a lot of attention from defenses. Like, a lot a lot.
So when a video surfaced on social media Monday showing Book going against a double team during an open gym with other NBA players, people naturally began talking about what proper double team etiquette should be and whether or not Book had a right to be upset.
There's a lot to unpack here.
But before we get into everything, let's note that Joakim Noah is such an amazing agitator. He wasn't even part of the double team and is still the one most loudly explaining that doubles will be part of this open run.
Okay, now back to Booker.
So, he's clearly upset at this double team. It's safe to assume that's because he's either seen too many so far during the run, his team has been getting hammered during this run or because he was in a groove and wasn't trying to deal with a double as he was having a good day.
Based on this other video that appears to be from the same run, it seems like the latter is likely what was going on.
Now, at the point Book is putting in work, it's understandable why he wouldn't want to deal with a double team at that time. When you're as hot as that video makes it appear he was, you just want to keep dominating and getting buckets. He didn't have time to evaluate defenses and look for open cutters on this day.
And as he stated in the video, he deals with double teams all season long. The biggest downside of being the best player on the Suns is probably that the opposition can afford to send a double whenever they think it's necessary because it's the Suns, and based on their record, there weren't too many people not named Devin Booker to be concerned about all game long.
So it makes perfect sense that while in the middle of going off against other NBA players, he wasn't trying to deal with the same "janky" defenses he sees when he's back in Phoenix and losing about 60 times within the season.
But, as Booker also stated in the video, he and his fellow players are at this open run to work on their games. And if double teams are something Booker sees consistently during the season, then going against them in an open run would be beneficial for his game. How can he get better at dealing with double teams if he doesn't deal with them in practice scenarios? Isn't this the time to encourage seeing more doubles so he's more comfortable with them when they come and the games actually matter?
Now, there is an argument to be made that this open run isn't the place for him to work on that aspect of his game. Sure, it will help him to see doubles and get more used to beating them, but maybe that's not what he was trying to work on that day. Maybe Book wanted to focus more on manipulating defenses that allow him to get his and then shut down his teammates and force him to do all the scoring. It is entirely possible that in Booker's eyes, it was more beneficial for him on that day to go against a defense that locked up his teammates when they were off-ball and provided great help instead of one that just schemed to get the ball out of his hands and make it harder for him to score. There are benefits to getting good reps against quality opponents in either situation.
If the plan all along was for guys to play sound one-on-one defense and that's it, then there is something to Booker's frustration.
There is also a school of thought floating around that an open gym just isn't the place for Book to get reps against doubles. Some will argue that is why he practices with an NBA team and has a training camp before the regular season. Or maybe that he can practice this on his own time, but an open gym just simply isn't the place for this type of defense. While I don't fully agree with that school of thought, I understand where those people are coming from and there is some credence to that opinion.
However, considering the other guys in the open gym seem to be okay with the double team, that point can get tossed out the window. I would get it if Book was going against some Kentucky guys just for the sake of getting some work in and a bunch of college players threw a double at him because they were tired of getting scored on and he wanted to shut that down. Or even if there were only a couple NBA players on the floor and the guys sending the double were regular dudes who just play ball really well. But these were other NBA players on the court.
And the guy who brought the double, Tony Snell, has been in the league longer than Booker. And the guy who most loudly vocalized his support for doubling in this situation, Noah, has been in the league three times as long as Booker and was once the Defensive Player of the Year. So simply put, the players older than Book with more NBA experience probably aren't just inventing rules on the fly within their open run and likely aren't defying the sanctity of that particular run with their defensive scheme to slow down Book.
So I say all that to say, I get why you're mad, Book. Double teams blow. Nobody wants to see a double when they are in the middle of getting buckets, even if it means setting up a teammate with a dope assist. When you're in the zone, you just want to keep getting buckets against guys in one-on-one situations.
But at the end of the day, you said it yourself Book, you "get that s--- all season" and you're there to work on your game. Sometimes working on your game means dealing with the parts of basketball that you hate the most and are tired of dealing with.
It's not like you can just ask the defense to stop doubling in the regular season.