Thursday night the 2015 NBA Draft will commence, and several former Wildcats will have their lives changed in an instant. For the Big Blue Nation, it will be a bittersweet night as their could be as many as seven ‘Cats donning NBA team hats before the night is over.
One of the more bittersweet draft picks will be that of Devin Booker. Booker came to UK with NBA aspirations, but certainly not expecting to "succeed and proceed" after year one. Even Devin himself did not expect to be in this position so early.
"I honestly didn't think I'd be in this position this early. Going into the season, you just want to be part of something special, and we did that."
Booker's rise has been a meteoric one; he has went from a 2-3 year player in college; to a one and done player; to a lottery pick projection; and now a probable top 10 pick. The most common comparison he gets is to Golden State Warriors All-Star and World Champion Klay Thompson.
YOUTH: Booker is still just 18 years old; he will not turn 19 until October. Booker actually was not even born when Tony Delk led the 1996 ‘Cats to a National Title. He is also the youngest player in the draft.
ENERGY: Booker is a high-energy guy that hardly stands around. He also gets out on the fast break as fast as anyone looking for a lane for a direct line to the basket or a soft spot in the transition defense for an open three.
He also rarely breaks composure and seems to be having fun every minute he is out there.
BASKETBALL IQ: Booker may only be 18, but he is years ahead in his basketball IQ. A lot of that can be attributed to his pedigree and it shows.
Booker is excellent at finding holes in the defense; He can either come off a screen and curl in for a catch and shoot from 15, or flare out for a three off an undercutting defender. He is also exceptional at taking care of the ball, averaging only one turnover per 40 minutes played.
SHOOTING: Booker is already 6'6" so he has the ability to get most any shot off he wants on most defenders. Add in to the equation his high release point and his true jump shot where he lifts about 18 inches off the ground on every shot.
Booker also has every shot in his bag; whether it be an NBA three from anywhere on the arc, a mid-range jumper, or a floating runner in the lane.
ATHLETICISM: Booker does not have an explosive first step, but he is a great slasher and gets to the rim quickly. He can also finish strong with a momentum-swaying dunk or adjust to contact for the potential and-1.
DEFENSE: While Booker is certainly not a statue on defense, he does leave a lot to be desired when guarding superior athletes. Booker tends to use his body more than his feet, causing foul trouble and blow by penetration.
STRENGTH: Booker needs to put on weight and become stronger. At 6'6" he needs to be a little bigger than 206 pounds or at the very least, much stronger at 206.
BALLHANDLING: Booker is an average ball handler. He is unlikely to be able to take an aggressive defender off the bounce.
CONSISTENCY: Booker finished as a 41% three point shooter, but it was a streaky season. Early on, he struggled mightily before finding his stroke and shooting above 50% for several weeks. He would then cool off near the end of the season, before getting hot again near the very end.
Devin Booker is coming into the NBA at the best time possible. With the Golden State Warriors coming off an historic regular season, culminating in a World Championship, the stage is set for teams to try and copy their M.O.
Booker will be picked anywhere from 7-13 and has all-star potential. With his youth, he could be one of the younger all-stars in the league one day. I am sure all of BBN is looking forward to seeing Booker "reload" on the big stage.