Suns Draft Points of View: Devin Booker

The build-up to the 2015 NBA Draft ended on June 25, when the Suns selected Kentucky sharp-shooter Devin Booker with the 13th pick in the first round. This is one part of a three-part series, each of which focuses on the points of view of the Suns' general manager, head coach and rookie during the events leading up to, during and after the draft.

SUNS DRAFT POINTS OF VIEW: Ryan McDonough | Jeff Hornacek | Devin Booker

Devin Booker wasn’t always a shooter. When he was young, his coaches actually made him play forward or center.

“Growing up, I was bigger than everybody,” he laughed. “They throw you in the post when you’re young.”

That started to change when he was 12 – which was only six years ago. Booker’s work in the gym was heavily influenced by the Pistons teams of his youth. Growing up in Michigan, it was only natural for him to follow Detroit during its contending years. His favorite player was Richard Hamilton, a shooting guard renowned for his stroke and ability to find seams in opposing defenses off the ball.

Booker took his growing skill set to Kentucky, where he bought into coach John Calipari’s team-first, platoon-substitution style of basketball. Despite being the team’s sixth man, he took the second-most shots per game. Half of those attempts came from beyond the arc. He connected on 41.1 percent of them.

Instant Analysis: Pick 13

A skill refined to that degree is a rare thing, especially for someone of Booker’s age (he turns 19 in October). Though he’s open about wanting to show more of his game in the NBA, the 6-6 guard realizes his most publicized skill is what lifted him to lottery pick status in the months leading up to the draft.

“I think having a directly translatable, elite talent is important in the league,” he said. “If you’re going in there not sure of what position you are or something like that, it’s not a good thing.”

Booker showed what he did best at workouts, but he also flashed other qualities he felt had been reduced at Kentucky for the good of the team. He turned in the fastest lane agility score at the Chicago Draft Combine, a good sign of defensive potential. His max vertical jump (34.5 inches) was also solid.

“I think I’m a little more athletic than people know,” he said. “I’m willing to show that, and also creating for others. Throughout my whole high school career, I played a lot of pick-and-roll. I wasn’t in the right situation to do that at Kentucky…”

Booker worked out for the majority of teams in the lottery, but his visit to Phoenix stood out for a couple of reasons – a couple of individuals, really.

The first was the head coach.

“[Jeff Hornacek] was the only coach, head coach, that was out there running a workout,” Booker said.

The second impression came from a fellow former Wildcat.

“Eric was sitting right there,” Booker recalled. “He told me ‘we need a shooter.’”

He left the workout feeling good about the impression he’d left, but Booker still had “no idea” which team would draft him on June 25. His father admitted to scouring mock drafts on every website he could find, only to see him slotted just as many different spots.

Booker would wait 12 turns before hearing his own name called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. When it was, he had difficulty absorbing the enormity of the moment.

“I think having a directly translatable, elite talent is important in the league. If you’re going in there not sure of what position you are or something like that, it’s not a good thing.”

— Devin Booker on his outside shooting

“It’s hard to put it into words,” he said. I’ve wanted this dream my whole life. I’ve worked so hard ever since I’ve been five years old. To be in this position I am now, it really shows that hard work really does pay off.”

Booker knows more hard work lies ahead. Bledsoe tweeted Booker moments after he was drafted, saying “Welcome to the valley @DevinBook … Got your backpack ready!”

His confidence is also ready. When told his new head coach has a habit of beating his own players at three-point shooting contests, Booker looked particularly intrigued.

“We can schedule that. We can actually do that [the day I fly into Phoenix],” he laughed. “I hear he’s a great shooter, but I feel the same.”

Those contests might have to wait until later in the summer when the team starts to reassemble for the season. For now, he’ll have to content himself with informal workouts, possibly summer league play, and the moment when a Suns representative presented him with his first NBA jersey.

“Whoa,” he said as it was brought up to him. “That looks good.”