As was apparent during last week’s draft profile piece on Kevon Looney, one of the big themes throughout this series has been Utah using their lottery pick on a young, high-upside prospect. That angle is going to continue this week as we take a look at Kentucky freshman Devin Booker.
On the same team that featured the best college frontcourt since Al Horford and Joakim Noah helped led Florida to multiple national titles during the mid-2000s, Booker was quickly able to etch his own role with Kentucky. The youngster was able to accomplish that by doing one thing: being one of the finest perimeter shooters in the nation.
That jumper allowed Booker to shoot an impressive 41% from deep on 6.9 attempts per 40 minutes. That shooting percentage becomes even more impressive when you factor in how Booker struggled in both the SEC (33% from three) and NCAA (26%) tournaments.
While this should be expected from somebody that shot over 40% from three, Booker’s jumper is a thing of absolute beauty. Booker’s shooting mechanics are nearly perfect, with a quick, compact motion that he can repeat on a shot-by-shot basis. His 6’6 frame, high release point and ability to create separation from his opponent has allowed him to be effective as an off-the-dribble shooter, which gives him a lot more value as an offensive weapon.
Aside from that beautiful stroke, Booker is an incredibly smart player on the offensive end. Throughout the season, Booker did a terrific job knowing his role within the star-studded Kentucky offense. Despite his incredible gift, he never really shot when he was pressured or there was too much time left on the clock, but rather was able to make that extra pass to maintain the flow of that high-powered offense. That unselfish behavior is backed up by Booker only averaging 1.8 turnovers per 40 minutes.
Booker’s an aggressive off-ball cutter as well, and he knows when he should work his way towards the paint for an easy basket. That knack is backed up by Booker shooting 73% from around the rim, according to hoop-math.com.
Aside from those perimeter jumpers and the occasional off-ball cut, Devin Booker is a pretty raw offensive talent. At least in Kentucky, Booker didn’t showcase any real solid ball-handling ability besides the ability to create space for an off-the-dribble shot attempt. While he’s good at taking advantage of defensive lapses, Booker wasn’t too comfortable driving to the paint when there was any sort of front-court presence. In those moments, Booker laced up a floater or pull-up jumper, which are far less efficient looks than just taking it to the rim.
On the other end of the floor, Booker is a pretty solid weapon but isn’t as versatile as other players in this year’s draft class. At 6’6, the Kentucky product is the perfect size to guard either NBA or college shooting guards. Just going against players that fit into that position, Booker does a pretty solid job, as he’s an incredibly focused defender that is tough to push around thanks to his muscular frame.
One of Booker’s limitations compared to others in his draft class is his 6’6 wingspan, very short for his size by NBA standards. With that lack of length and only average lateral quickness, Booker could be out-muscled against small forwards but too slow to keep up with point guards.
Despite his flaws, Devin Booker could immediately be a useful fit inside Utah’s rotation, mainly because of his shooting stroke. For a team that finished 19th in three-point shooting percentage last season, adding a capable floor-spacer like Booker could do a lot for the team’s offense, which had consistent lapses where they just weren’t able to score.
Putting Booker into the Jazz organization could also allow him to continue developing his overall game without putting too much pressure on his shoulders. With players like Alec Burks, Rodney Hood and Gordon Hayward on the team that could work on the wings, the organization would be comfortable with sticking him in Idaho for a few games to help develop as a ball-handler or just to see if he can become comfortable as a team’s main scoring weapon.
Although Booker might not fill a positional need for the Jazz, he’d definitely give the team another young, talented aspect that they could mold into their improving group.