BY: ED COLE
PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns were worried that Devin Booker was going to be lost to the Charlotte Hornets at No. 9 in the 2015 NBA Draft, so they were working hard to try to trade up to get him. The trade didn’t come through, and the Hornets ended up taking another player that Phoenix was interested in – Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky.
It’s funny how things tend to work out in life. Booker lasted all the way to No. 13, and the Suns have their man.
There were some questions about Booker’s youth – he’s only 18 – and if that youth would be something that would limit his ability to perform at the NBA level. In talking with Booker, Hornacek had no concerns whatsoever with him in that department.
“This kid’s (Booker) a very mature 18-year-old. He could step right in and play,” Hornacek said. “He’s very confident about the way he plays. When we’re doing things in the 3-on-3, we’re screening away; stuff that he would do in a game. He had great reads of going behind or under. We feel he’s the best shooter in the draft. That’s obviously something we need.”
The way Kentucky head coach John Calipari runs things is that he gets everybody on his roster to buy in for one year, knowing that the majority of them are bound for the NBA the following year – Booker obviously being one of them. It’s all about the team with the Wildcats.
Just because Booker was a freshman, it didn’t keep Hornacek and the Suns from seeing all they needed to see from him, and make such a fuss about him, trying to move up to grab him. After all, this is a young man who was named SEC Sixth Man of the Year, along with countless other honors last season.
“With Devin (Booker), we saw that he didn’t try to force things, he didn’t try to do too much. He did what the coaches asked, and consequently he shot a high percentage (.411 from three point range),” Hornacek said. “You can’t shoot in the 40’s from (the) three-point line if you’re taking bad shots. He took shots that were there. I think that’s a sign of a guy that knows how to play.”
Booker comes “pre-made” with his shot, according to Hornacek.
“It’s a heck of a stroke. He (Booker) gets it up and it’s right above his head where it should be,” Hornacek said. “It’s great when you got a guy that can shoot the ball, because then you can teach him all the other things: how to play the game, how to take advantage of the way the defender plays, and if their hands are down and you have the quick pull for the shot.”
“He’s (Booker) not a guy that we’ve got to break down and say, ‘okay, now you’ve got to work on this,’ and he spends all summer working on getting the proper form. He’s got it right there, he’s got a good follow through (and) he’s a solid shooter.”
When looking at Booker’s shooting style, Hornacek paid him the ultimate compliment, comparing him to Golden State Warriors’ guard Klay Thompson.
“He’s (Booker) not 6’3” or 6’4”, where he might have trouble with a taller guy. He’s 6’6”, so he’s got that ability,” Hornacek said. “He’s gonna have to work at defense, but I truly believe that if you know the game, and you understand the game well offensively, you should be able to understand it pretty well defensively.”
As stacked as the Suns are at the guard position, there should be some good battles that come out in the NBA Summer League and in training camp. Hornacek is excited to see what Booker can do when he gets with his new teammates.
“Hey, duke it up,” Hornacek said. “Whoever goes out there and plays the best, that’s what Summer League’s for, that’s what training camp’s for, and see if there’s someone that wants to separate themselves and earn those minutes.”