The Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball team is an enigma. Each year head coach John Calipari brings in a crop of top-level talent and each year the Wildcats are in the mix for a national championship. But Calipari and Co. have a way of making potential superstars look like average players. Whether it’s the fact that the Calipari likes to play a team-oriented game that promotes a more balanced attack or the fact that he likes players to accentuate certain parts of their game over others, sometimes players don’t get a chance to showcase their true potential.
Much like the way that my fellow writer Timmy Sclafani undervalued Karl Anthony Towns coming out of Kentucky, Devin Booker has burst onto the scene in a way that not too many experts could have predicted. Booker had been touted as the best shooter in the 2015 NBA Draft, where he was selected 13th overall by the Phoenix Suns, but after averaging just 10 points in his one year under Calipari in Kentucky, people weren’t sure if he would be anything more than a spot-up shooter. But much like so many other Kentucky products, Booker has proved to be one of the top up-and-coming stars in the league.
Booker had his ups and downs to start the season as he was trying to find his way in the NBA, but once the Suns hit tank mode and started to give younger players a bigger role, he thrived. After averaging just over six points through December of his rookie season, Booker embraced his New Year’s resolution to become a professional scorer. Team record be damned, Booker was going to make the most of his increased playing time and put the league on notice. Over his final 47 games, Booker averaged 17.8 points per game. His efficiency from the field needs to improve, but there is no denying the fact that his shooting touch from beyond the arc and his ability to fill up the score sheet is ahead of the game.
Although only heading into his second season in the league, Booker has all the confidence in the world. During the 2016 Las Vegas Summer League, Booker looked like a man amongst boys when he averaged 26 points per game to go along with 6.5 assists and 5 rebounds. Now Summer League is certainly no indication of success once the regular season roles around, ask Michael Beasley how that went, but Booker is getting rave reviews from the likes of LeBron James, which has to mean something.
There is a lot to be excited about as a Suns fan heading into the upcoming season, Booker being right at the top of the list. His defense needs to be better to be considered an above-average two-way player, but he has the work ethic and determination to get better where he needs to. The three-point shot is there, but over the course of his rookie season Booker proved to be an above-average mid-range shooter and had the ability to facilitate if the ball was in his hands and he was able to run the offense. The potential is through the roof with this kid and why wouldn’t it be when he can fill it up like he did against the Miami Heat:
The Suns will go into this season with a group of talented young players, led by Booker. Although it may not translate to a winning record, this team will be fun to watch and Booker will continue to climb the latter to stardom. There will be hiccups along the road, but don’t forget that Booker won’t turn 20 until the 2016-2017 NBA starts, which is absurd. The tools are there to become a perennial All-Star; a beautiful three-point stroke, the quick release, ability to get into the paint, and not to mention the 6′ 6” frame that he will undoubtedly grow into. The similarities to Klay Thompson may be too soon, but Booker’s ceiling may be the same. The next great scorer from the shooting guard spot may be here folks.