The Phoenix Suns have not had a shooter this pure with this much elevation on his shot in a very long time. Booker, still just 18 years old, managed to average 15 points per game in Summer League on a Suns team loaded with scoring talent.
I'm sure we will spend some quality time this summer breaking down just what Booker showed this summer, and why he could be the best draft pick since 2011 (or why not).
Comparing Booker to T.J. Warren's first summer league and Archie Goodwin's first summer league is a bit unfair, in several ways. But let's do it anyways.
T.J. Warren averaged 17.8 points last year on 54% shooting, along with 4.8 rebounds per game and 0.2 assists. That's 0.2 assists, in case you missed it. He was a second-team All-NBA Summer League performer as a 21-year old with 2 years of college experience before he declared for the Draft.
His limitations as a rookie were mostly due to a deep Suns small forward contingent blocking his way, but also because he couldn't space the floor beyond 15 feet from the basket.
He improved this summer, putting up 18.7 points (exceeding 20 per game before hobbling through a pulled hammy) on 54% shooting, but regressed a bit in the rebounding department despite playing a lot of small-ball four (3.6 rebounds) while improving on assists (1.2 per game). Warren was named to the First-Team All-NBA Summer League, as one of the five best players in Vegas.
This year, his second NBA season, he figures to get regular rotation minutes after the Suns salary-dumped three small forwards just to ensure he's got the opportunity. The Suns did the same for Alex Len last year, making him the primary backup at center. Len responded with a good season, when healthy.
Warren will hopefully take advantage of this opportunity, but really really really needs to develop both his defensive skills and his shooting range to stretch defenses. Worst case, he's a Cedric Ceballos who can't rebound as well. Like Ced, he can score in a variety of ways without a single play being called for him. Best case, he's a poor man's Paul Pierce who becomes passable on defense and from range, making him a nightly threat for the opponent's defense.
Remember the joy everyone felt watching Archie's first summer league in 2013? After an awful 2012-13 season with little athleticism up and down the Suns rotation, the 18-year old Archie was a summer revelation.
He entered summer league with a big skill - getting to the bucket against anyone - and we all hoped that help would turn him into a solid NBA player someday. But he had a lot to learn, and we knew his maturation would require learning how to play the game of basketball the right way.
Goodwin averaged 13.1 points that summer (50% shooting overall), along with 3.3 rebounds and 0.9 assists. He made half his three-point shots - a HUGE development for star-hungry Suns fans - and generally displayed a swagger uncommon to 18 year olds in their first summer league.
After a rookie year where he lost playing time once the team started winning a lot of games, Goodwin regressed in his second summer league. He put up just 12.8 points on 36% shooting, along with 3.0 rebounds and 0.8 assists. He was meant to be a team leader, but ended up trying to be something he's not (a point guard) and failing miserably at it.
Now in his third summer league, he got better scoring 15.9 points on 47% shooting, along with 4.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. All improvements, and all while playing a secondary role to Warren and letting the game come to him. He's mostly dropped the hitch from his shot, too. But he still gets lost on defense, and he's not a team leader on the floor.
But Archie doesn't yet have a guaranteed rotation spot entering his third NBA season. He will have to beat out Sonny Weems and Devin Booker to get time as the first guard off the bench behind Knight and Bledsoe.
Frankly, if he can't beat out a Euro import and an 18-year old rookie, he doesn't deserve rotation time. So let's see how that shakes out.
Alex Len hasn't had the best history in Summer League, rehabbing as a rookie (2013) and then breaking his thumb in his first game last summer (2014).
This year, after a full year in the NBA and starting half the games, Len entered his rookie summer league somehow being too experienced and accomplished to be there.
But summer league is not real NBA. The only reason NBA rotation players go to SL is to work on their deficiencies. That's what Archie did a year ago (and didn't look good) and that's Len did this year (and, offensively, didn't look good).
Len, the biggest guy on the court in every game, put up 10.8 points on 44% shooting, and pulled down 9.8 rebounds while blocking 2.2 shots per game. He was 4th in the league in rebounding and 8th in blocks. The Suns were 4-1 in games he played, losing only in the SL Championship game.
Entering his third NBA season, Len will come off the bench behind Tyson Chandler and be one of the league's best backup centers.
Warren was a sure-fire star out of his rookie summer league. So was Goodwin.
So now, when we tout Devin Booker, take it with a grain of salt.
Like Archie, Booker comes into his rookie season as a just-turned 19 year old with one NBA skill and everything else still in development.
He performed well in Summer League as a third-scorer, jputting up 15.3 points on 40% shooting, pulling down 4.9 rebounds and dishing 1.7 assists.
What makes Booker stand out better than Goodwin, though, is that Booker already seems like he knows how to be at the right place at the right time. Booker contributed more rebounds and assists than Goodwin had at the same age and overcame a terrible shooting start to light it up as the games got tougher in the mini-playoffs.
I've got high hopes for Booker, but I also know that the NBA is whole different animal. Let's see how Book uses his rookie season.
Big props to DawkinsMTA for the video.