• Chris Stewart

Devin Booker: 2015 Draft Class Comparisons


*Photo via USA Today

With just over 15 games left on the 2015-16 NBA season, what better time is there to catch-up with the rookies to see how they’ve panned out so far? It’s interesting to analyze the NBA Draft and how it might have turned out differently had General Managers knew then what they know now. The Phoenix Suns, their fans, and the media are thrilled to have snagged guard Devin Booker with the 13th pick of the first round.

This article piece isn’t to pick-on the players drafted before Booker -- because it’s only one season -- and it usually takes 2 to 4 seasons for players to head toward their ceiling (depending on the player). It’s simply to dwell on the fact that the Phoenix Suns may have drafted a player with star potential at the bottom of the lottery.

Last summer, a local media member reported a unique quality to the then 18-year old Devin Booker after an interview. It was during his pre-draft workout with the Suns. This was weeks before the draft, but it was a telling remark at the time. There was a sense that this kid could be mature for his age, respectful, and humble. Days before the 2015 NBA draft, Booker’s name circulated as a prime target for the Suns to draft.

The league consensus seemed to be that his youth (the youngest player taken in the draft) would leave him on the draft board for the Suns to take at 13. This is indeed what happened, and today the organization is ecstatic that Devin Booker fell into their lap. He clearly would have been a top 10 pick if the clock were turned back.

HOWEVER, there were reports last June that Phoenix wanted to trade-up to draft forward Frank Kaminsky (7.4 pts., 4.1 rebounds per game, and 33 percent three-point shooting) who was selected 9th. There was also talk that the Suns had interest in Miami Heat small forward Justise Winslow (6.1 pts., 5.3 rebounds per game) who was drafted 10th. Still…there were others.

Mario Hezonja (5.7 pts. and two rebounds per game) was taken 5th, center Willie Cauley-Stein (6.1 pts. and five rebounds per game) was drafted 6th, and forward Trey Lyles (4.7 pts and 3.6 rebounds per game) was taken just before Booker at 12. Again, this is not to say that any of these players will not develop into a very good or great player. But if I was a betting man, I’d say that Devin Booker has a chance to be as good or better than any of the above aforementioned players.

NBA rookies entering the league at 18-years of age need a break for playing time, and that’s exactly what Devin Booker received. Starting point guard Eric Bledsoe went down with a season ending knee injury in late December, and starting shooting guard Brandon Knight has been troubled with a hernia since mid-January. Knight returned to action last Saturday, after missing 22 straight games.

*Photo via USA Today

Booker took advantage of his playing time though, and became the team’s number one offensive option and leading scorer. He’s had four 30 or more point games this season, and has played as well as other top 10 picks (guards/small forwards) in his draft class. These include: guard Emanuel Mudiay, guard D’Angelo Russell, and small forward Stanley Johnson.

I realize it’s a hopeful “Homer” spout that screams hey! look at us… “we have a potential star” to compare Devin Booker to the players drafted before him. However, I’d like to think that I speak on behalf of many Suns fans and media members. The consensus appears to be that many believe the Phoenix Suns have drafted a special player in Booker. Actually, looking back at the 2015 draft, there could be five or six stars/superstars from that class, and so far Booker is playing like he may be one of them.

Let’s take a quick look at Devin Booker’s pre-draft scouting strengths and weaknesses.

Weaknesses

Not an explosive athlete

Can he defend NBA two guards?

I’m not sure explosive athleticism can be developed, but Booker looks to be a GOOD athlete. He doesn’t appear to be a player who can explode to the basket for high-flying dunks in the same way Russell Westbrook, Lebron James, or Kobe Bryant (once did). Without trying to bypass the importance of athleticism, I find Devin Booker’s ball handling, shot creation, and ability to get to the free throw line, to be the most important developmental issue for him.

He may not become a great lockdown defender, but how many great scorers are? He has the size and speed to guard two guards, but improvements are needed. This will take a few more years, but Booker has a high basketball IQ, and will learn the tricks of the trade to cover the Klay Thompsons, Jimmy Butlers, and DeMar DeRozans of the league.

Strengths

Great 3-point shooter

Quick release

Very good free throw shooter

Improved his on-the-bounce game

High basketball IQ

Good shot selection

Good size

In 60 games and 25.6 minutes per game, Devin Booker is averaging 12.3 points and 2.2 rebounds per game. By every indication, he will score much more as his career progresses, but he must improve his rebounding. He’s an 83 percent free throw shooter, and shoots 46 percent from the field and 37 percent from three-point range.

I found Booker’s pre-draft scouting report to be very accurate, and think that he has showcased each category with great poise in his first season. But it all must continually progress as he matures. Booker has to continue to grow. Just like a flower. Even in height…heck he’s barely 19 years old. Hopefully the Suns organization won’t put too much pressure on young Devin Booker, and he develops into that star that Suns fans have been waiting for since the Steve Nash/Amare Stoudemire days. It’s looking good.

*Stats courtesy of BBall Reference and NBA.com

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