Phoenix Suns Head Coach Monty Williams’ first NBA coaching experience came as an assistant with the Portland Trail Blazers from 2005-2010. The Blazers saw at least a 10-game win improvement throughout each of his first four seasons on Portland’s bench. Those teams were led by three-time All-Star Brandon Roy, who controlled the pace of game from the shooting guard position.
Now with the Suns, Williams sees a parallel between the former Blazers All-Star and Phoenix’s star in Devin Booker.
“He reminds me so much of Brandon Roy,” Williams said. “But I think Devin can eclipse that because he’s durable. He’s big and strong. Even though Brandon was [big and strong], Brandon wasn’t healthy.”
Roy was destined for stardom at a young age. By 25 years old, Roy’s resume already included 2007 Rookie of the Year honors, two All-NBA selections and three All-Star appearances. Despite the fact that Roy’s promising career was cut short by injuries, the Roy comparison speaks volumes about Booker’s status as a franchise player.
The most distinct difference between the two players lies in just how young Booker was when he was drafted, leaving even more room for improvement and growth next season and beyond. Roy entered the league at age 22 and was 23 when he received his first All-Star selection. Booker is still only 22 years old.
“Devin’s one of those guys who’s not even in his prime yet. He’s going to be able to eclipse some of the things that Brandon did,” Williams said.
Steve Blake, who recently joined the Suns as an assistant coach on Monty Williams’ staff, was Portland’s starting point guard during Roy’s tenure. The 13-year NBA veteran has also taken notice of the similarities between his former teammate and Booker.
“[Booker] can create his own shot, can create shots for others,” Blake said. “I think Booker might have a little better deep ball. They’re both go-to guys, franchise-type players. It’s fun to be around guys like that.”
Blake first witnessed what Booker was capable of on Dec. 12, 2015 when the rookie shooting guard scored a career-high 18 points on five-of-six shooting against Blake and the Pistons. While that may have been the first and final matchup between the two guards, Blake has still kept up on Booker throughout his career.
“Over the years, just being a fan of the game since I’ve been retired, I’ve had a chance to watch him play many times and he continues to get better and better,” Blake said. “The respect he has around the league is really high. Everyone you talk to since I signed here is like ‘Booker’s awesome. He’s great. He’s really hard to stop.’ I’m excited to be around a player like that on the coaching side. Should be fun.”
A comparison to Roy seemingly sets lofty expectations for the fifth-year guard, but Williams has a simple plan for Booker entering this season: let him do what he does best and help him continue to grow.
“He’s a creative offensive player and I don’t want to take his paintbrush away from him,” Williams said. “I want to enhance that.”