Devin Booker is lighting up the NBA, and if it were not for his former teammate Karl-Anthony Towns assaulting the ghosts of rookies past, he would likely be getting some Rookie of the Year love.
So, A) How did we get to this point? B) raise your hand if you saw this coming...now keep your hand raised if you are a liar. Devin Booker came to Lexington as part of a recruiting class that may end up being the best haul John Calipari has ever pulled, but did not get near the hype.
The reason was the returnees and thoughts of 40-0, but the group of Booker, Towns, Ulis, and Lyles may end up as his best ever.
Booker was the #18 player in ESPN's rankings and the #3 Shooting Guard. He was actually ranked as the EIGHTH best shooting guard in the class by 24/7 sports.
The seven better than him supposedly:
When you are finished laughing, Rivals had him as the 30th best player in the class, a 4-star rating, which means he did not even garner a position ranking by Rivals. Scout also rated Booker as a 4-star player and 28th overall.
He came to an absolutely LOADED team in UK and was faced with limited playing time in Cal's infamous ‘Platoon' system. Amazingly, Booker thrived in a tough situation, while playing for a program that will crush you if you are not prepared to step up from day one and be a contributor.
One of the ways that Calipari was able to help his players overcome the ‘Platoon' diminished numbers was to really push the players projected performances over a full game vs. their limited minutes.
Devin Booker's Per 40 minute numbers at UK were strong:
This was a big factor in him getting significant attention from NBA scouts, add that to him being an integral part of a team that nearly went undefeated and Mr. Booker had the foundation for a potential 1st round pick and being a 'one and done.' After the season, Booker went to work and ultimately boosted his draft status into just inside the coveted lottery.
"I liked him in high school, and he's done nothing to make me dislike him in college," a Southeast Division personnel man said. "I think he's going to be able to come off screens and shoot, and catch and shoot. And he tries to give you a little defense."
Another executive thinks Booker is the best catch and shoot guy in the Draft, even as he also believes Booker is limited off of the bounce.
"He's not anything special athletically but you have to know where he is at all times," the executive said. "He plays well off of other players. Pretty smart kid. The way our league is going there's going to be a lot of value for him."
And the expectation is that the 18-year-old Booker isn't done growing.
"I know some people vacillate a little bit on him, but I think if he was in a situation where he was on a different team or played bigger minutes or had a more consistent role, I think he'd be really good," a Pacific Division personnel man said. "He's a talent. I think he's going to get better. And I think Cal would tell you that he's only scratched the surface. I love his size, his length. He's got a chance."
He was drafted 13th by the Phoenix Suns and all of Big Blue Nation rejoiced, as he would be part of what you could call the Phoenix Wildcats by playing with Brandon Knight, Archie Goodwin, and Eric Bledsoe.
When the season started, Booker had earned a roster spot and was expecting to play a bit role with the Suns and hopefully develop into a contributor down the road. Much like his initial expectations after committing to UK... However, much like his season at UK, he would exceed those expectations.
You can see his season progression in the chart below, but when the season started, he averaged 12 minutes per game, about 4.5 points and was more of an afterthought than a contributor. During November he had six games where he played less than five minutes and another six games where he was scoreless.
Booker opened up his December with an 18 point performance on 3/3 shooting from beyond the arc and from there he seemed to work into more of a rotation player and was on the cusp of being a full-on contributor.
In a moment that was bittersweet, former ‘Cat Eric Bledsoe suffered a season-ending knee injury at the end of the month and that opened up the door for some clock for Devin. The door would virtually fly open just a few weeks later when another former ‘Cat, Brandon Knight, went down with a significant groin injury.
With the entire starting backcourt out, Booker had his opportunity...and he would respond in his per usual 'Carpe Diem-esque' smoothness.
For the entire month of January, Booker scored in double figures in every game but one. For that month he would average 17 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists in 33 minutes per game.
Booker also burst onto the national scene in January on January with a 32-point game vs. Indiana on 6/11 shooting from three and 8/8 on free throws.
Fast forward to now and Booker has been lighting up March as if he were trying to put his former ‘Cats on his back to get #9. So far in March, Booker has averaged 38 minutes per game, 24 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds per game.
He has been especially scorch-worthy of late as well; with three 30-point games in his last five games, culminating in a career high of 35 points and 5 assists last night at Denver.
Booker leads all rookies with four 30-Point games this year. https://t.co/QbgeVkc8sl— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 11, 2016
The only reason the basketball media has not yet thrust Booker's name all over their lexicon is because we are starting college March Madness and Booker's former teammate and fellow rookie Karl-Anthony Towns has been assaulting the NBA all season with THIRTY FIVE double-doubles. We also know it is just a matter of time before the ladies of Phoenix start lining up to lick his car... right?
While we are all watching our ‘Cats make a run at #9 this March and April, keep one eye on this kid (literally, a kid) as he grows up right in front of us at just 19 years old.
If you do not want to miss an update on a crazy Devin Booker move or his stat line, give Scott Charlton a follow on Twitter, he puts out former 'Cat vines and stat lines on a nightly basis.
While BBN supports Devin wholeheartedly, one thing you can also count on is that he will reciprocate and certainly be sitting in front of a TV watching the team he loves go out to try to make history.
Booker's love for the Big Blue Nation and his short time at UK may not make sense on the surface (to everyone besides BBN), but If there is one thing that is 100% accurate about Booker... he absolutely loves Kentucky.
So, while we enjoy the Ulis-led 'Cats for hopefully 9 more games, keep Booker in your peripheral.
"I feel like UK was one of the best things that has happened for me, because it prepared me for this level."