Devin Booker is undeniably one of the best scorers and shot-creators in the NBA today. Selected 13th overall by the Suns in 2015, Booker has improved every year he’s been in the league and finally made the All-Star team in 2020 after being snubbed the previous two seasons.
The Phoenix guard is averaging 26.2 points and 6.6 assists per game this season on a career-high 48.6% from the field, according to basketball-reference, but his team is fighting for a playoff spot in the Orlando bubble. He’s yet to make the postseason in his career, and while the Suns are 5-0 since the restart and arguably playing the best they have in Booker’s tenure, many people think the 23-year-old sharpshooter is being held back by his lackluster organization.
Even Draymond Green said recently on “Inside the NBA” that Booker needs to play elsewhere if he wants a real chance to win, so it’s clear people around the league feel his talents are being wasted. Booker has four years left on his max-contract and is only getting better. If he decides the Suns aren’t built to win soon and wants out, here are the top-5 teams that should do everything they can to acquire him.
5. Brooklyn Nets
The Nets have two players in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving making top-dollar for the next three seasons, so trading for Booker would mean little cap space to sign an above-average supporting cast. Still, they have great young assets on team-friendly contracts in Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince, all of whom would help fill Booker’s void in Phoenix should he be dealt.
Brooklyn also has at least three first-round and six second-round picks in the next two drafts, which makes Booker’s asking price realistically matchable. If a trade were successful, a big-three of Booker, Irving and Durant would be perhaps the most talented trio in recent NBA history. It would rival Durant’s recent teams in Golden State and surely make the Nets the favorites to win the Eastern Conference.
A third team might have to be included in the deal to make all the pieces work, but this big-three would make the Nets as offensively prolific and exciting as any other team in the league.
4. New York Knicks
For the Knicks, acquiring Booker might mean first trading for Chris Paul. Booker surely wouldn’t want to go to New York as the team’s lone star. Bringing in another veteran leader who can take some of the playmaking duties away from Booker would greatly increase his interest in the franchise, especially since it’s a major market. Paul is the perfect addition.
Paul, 35, is owed over $85 million over the next two seasons and doesn’t appear to be in the Thunder’s future plans despite his stellar season thus far, so his trade value shouldn’t be too high. The Knicks could save their five first-round picks in the next two drafts to trade for Booker and could give Oklahoma City some second-round picks and a combination of players like Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr., Kevin Knox and Julius Randle.
Depending on what they give up for Paul, the Knicks could offer the Suns any of the aforementioned players, five first-round picks, Wayne Ellington and Bobby Portis. New York could keep R.J. Barrett and get both Paul and Booker since they have so many other assets, but if the Suns play hardball and want Barrett, giving him up for two star guards is hardly a loss.
Paul and Booker would not only mesh well on the court but also draw future free agents to the franchise. New York is a place many players want to live in. The only reason free agents haven’t gone there in recent years is because there’s no organizational structure. These two stars could change the team’s culture and begin a new era for the Knicks.
3. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers would have the most difficult path to get Booker of the five teams on this list because they lack significant trade pieces and cap space. Still, it’s possible, and if done would form a big-three surely the favorites to win the title until LeBron James retires or leaves.
Kyle Kuzma would be the main piece of this trade. If he plays well in these playoffs his trade value will skyrocket, which not only could help Los Angeles acquire Booker but also help the team make any other type of trade it wants to. The Lakers can offer the Suns Kuzma, Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Alex Caruso and Quinn Cook, as well as any of its future first-round picks.
A third team may need to be included to make it work, and Booker’s contract on L.A.’s books would leave little room for the rest of the roster, but this big-three would be unstoppable. The Lakers could use a perimeter playmaker to assist James against teams with formidable defensive wings like the Clippers. Booker is the perfect solution.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves
A big-three of Booker, D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns wouldn’t help Minnesota’s defensive issues, but it would form one of the most dynamic offenses in the league. All three are prolific 3-point shooters, can create their own shot and Booker and Russell are strong playmakers. There’s no reason this Timberwolves team couldn’t be one of the top offenses in basketball.
Another intriguing aspect of this trio is its youth. None of these three players are older than 24 and are all signed for at least the next three seasons. These guys could build a potential dynasty in Minnesota and play together for a long time if they find success. Towns and Russell also make about the same amount as Booker per year, so there should be more space to sign a supporting cast than any of the other four teams on this list.
Minnesota could offer Phoenix some combination of Jarrett Culver, Jake Layman and Malik Beasley — who averaged 20.7 points in 14 games for the Timberwolves once he was traded from Denver, as well as its two lottery-bound first-round Draft picks in 2020.
They could add another first-round pick in 2022 if needed, but if the Suns don’t like any of those three players, then the Timberwolves would need to get creative to acquire more attractive assets to trade.
1. Philadelphia 76ers
Booker is the type of player Philadelphia needs to become a championship team. It’s painfully obvious how desperate the 76ers are for a perimeter playmaker alongside Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, and Booker could be the remedy.
Trading Al Horford’s contract would be the ideal scenario for Philadelphia to find future success with Booker. Realistically, though, the former Celtic is there for the foreseeable future, so a trade package consisting of the 76ers’ younger players and several future picks would be the winning formula to get Booker.
In addition to its two 2020 first-round picks and nine second-round selections in the next two drafts, Philadelphia could offer Phoenix a combination of Josh Richardson, Matisse Thybulle, Zhaire Smith, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton and Mike Scott for Booker.
Dealing Tobias Harris wouldn’t be the worst move either since he’s owed over $36 million per year over the next four seasons, which clear cap space for Booker’s contract that it might be needed to make the deal work.
If the 76ers feel the Simmons and Embiid duo simply doesn’t fit, they could even trade him for Booker in a deal. Booker and Embiid are the more natural pairing of the two, and not trading Harris allows him to play more power forward, the position he excels at more. Philadelphia has plenty of options to trade for Booker if he wants out of Phoenix. General manager Elton Brand has shown he isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade before. It almost worked last time, why try again?