Updated: Oct 9, 2021
Devin Booker and Bradley Beal: two offensive specialists on below-average NBA teams that can hurt opponents with their mixed bag of tricks and shots. But who is the better player? Let's find out!
Devin Booker's Background
Booker played one year at the University of Kentucky, averaging 10 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. After being named to the SEC All-Freshman Team and the All-SEC Second Team, he declared for the 2015 NBA Draft. Booker was selected by the Phoenix Suns with the 10th overall pick.
In his rookie season, Booker averaged just under 14 points per game, displaying his scoring ability from the beginning. He was selected to participate in the NBA Three-Point Contest during All-Star Weekend, becoming just the fourth rookie selected in the competition's history.
Since his rookie year, Booker hasn't averaged under 22 points per game in a season. Although the Suns have failed to make the playoffs since his arrival, it appears they're beginning to turn a corner. They went 8-0 in the seeding games in the Orlando bubble, only to be knocked out of playoff contention by Portland's win over the Brooklyn Nets.
Bradley Beal's Background
Beal's freshman season at the University of Florida earned him a SEC All-Freshman Team selection as well as a spot on the All-SEC first-team. In 37 games, Beal averaged 14.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. He was drafted third overall by the Washington Wizards in 2012.
Beal had a similar rookie season to Booker, averaging a 13.9/3.8/2.4 split per game. However, it took longer for his scoring to translate in the pros, as he struggled with various injuries in the early stages of his career. In the 2016-17 season, Beal averaged 23.1 points per game, his first season averaging 20 or more.
Neither Booker nor Beal have had the luxury of contending for a championship, but Beal has the edge in playoff game appearances (40) over Booker (0).
Since the end of the "seven seconds or less" era around 2010, Phoenix has struggled in constructing a playoff team. The closest they've come to that elusive 8th seed was in 2013, when their record earned them the 9th spot in the Western Conference. However, their current young core and head coach Monty Williams gives reasons for optimism in the future.
For Beal, his Washington Wizards have been a playoff team when John Wall is healthy, making it four of the last seven seasons. Unfortunately, Wall hasn't played a game since December of 2018. Beal has held down the fort during his absence, setting a career-high average in points per game in consecutive seasons.
Let's take a look at Booker and Beal's 2019-20 regular season statistics.
At first glance, Beal's gaudy point totals might give him the advantage. However, looking at shooting percentages shows that Booker is the more efficient player. Beal has never been hyper-efficient, as this last season was one of his better shooting years. Although he's been decent from range, he still likes to take a mid-range jumper from the elbow now and then. 35.2% from behind the arc in the last two seasons isn't the number you would anticipate from a player advertised as a "knock-down shooter."
Although Booker has a lower PPG average, he is beginning to become one of the most efficient high-volume shooters in the NBA. Out of the six players that attempted more field goals than Booker, only one had a higher field goal percentage: LeBron James. That's some pretty impressive company to be in. He can become even better if he buys in on defense; increased presence on the other side of the ball would make him the complete package.
Booker's rightful position as best shooting guard in the NBA should not take away from Bradley Beal's talent. In the 2018-19 season, Beal became the first player in Washington Wizards history to average 25-5-5 in a season. He has carried the offensive load on his back during backcourt mate John Wall's absence. Nonetheless, Beal won't be receiving any NBA All-Defensive Team nods any time soon.
Booker is simply is one of the most gifted scorers in the league, as he can score efficiently from all three levels of the floor. In recent years, he's even displayed some playmaking abilities despite his true shooting guard profile. Although he doesn't put as much effort into defense as some other elite guards in the league, his shooting more than makes up for it. For these reasons, Devin Booker is the better player.