It had to happen. Of course it did. After weeks of my dumping on Devin Booker, who may be my least favorite first round prospect this year, the community decided to pick him for the day in which the writing responsibility falls to me. I warned you not to. Multiple times, I warned you. Apparently my warnings are useless.
On the surface, it makes complete sense that the Sixers should have interest in Booker, and at 16th on the Big Board, there's not a TON of undeniable potential left available that we're passing over in favor of him. Booker's measurements are excellent for a modern NBA 2-guard-- he stands a full 6'6 in shoes and measured a solid 6'8 wingspan at the draft combine. Furthermore, his skill set perfectly fills the void for the Sixers' lack of shooting. Despite placing 6th in the league in overall 3-point attempts, Philadelphia shot a dismal 32% on those attempts, ranking them 29th overall in 3-point efficiency. Booker, meanwhile, shot 41% on 7 attempts per 40 minutes during his freshman year at Kentucky, auguring great potential as a 3-and-D player in the NBA.
Unfortunately for Booker, in order to be effective in that role, you need to succeed at both aspects. Booker can clearly shoot, but the "D" portion is severely lacking. In fact, everything except for shooting is severely lacking in Booker's game, and, historically, one-dimensional shooters have been a perfect measure of finding busts.
Booker has a reputation as a good defender, and he seemed to be good in his one year at Kentucky. However, closer analysis quickly reveals that not to be the case. By playing along elite defensive big men Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein, Booker's mistakes were often covered up by his teammates, the ultimate get-out-of-jail free card. His Defensive Box Plus Minus was an abysmal 2.0 this year, placing him 14th overall on his own team. Moreover, his defensive counting stats-- blocks and steals-- which are generally indicators of athletic ability and feel for the game were inexplicably low. In fact, while my database isn't as extensive as DraftExpress's, Booker's BLK% of 0.3% was the second lowest of any wing player in the entire draft, behind only defensive sieve Joseph Young.
|Player||BLK%||STL%||DBPM Rnk on Team||Projected Draft Slot|
|Devin Booker||0.3||1.3||14||9 to 14|
|Kelly Oubre||1.8||3.3||7||12 to 16|
|Stanley Johnson||1.6||3.2||4||8 to 14|
|Justise Winslow||2.9||2.8||2||4 to 8|
One of these things is not like the other.
The comparisons don't get better as you move deeper into the draft. RJ Hunter, Rashad Vaughn, and Andrew Harrison all triple Booker's block rate and are far better pickpockets. Many projected second rounders have better defensive statistics than Booker as well. Some of this could be chalked up to the team that he played on-- in a group of such strong defenders, who can blame him for placing so low in DBPM? But the reality is that, unlike points and rebounds, steals and blocks are not finite resources, and therefore having a teammate collect an inordinate amount of them doesn't limit a player's own capability.
Furthermore, Calipari tends to play an aggressive defensive scheme. His big men have almost universally seen their personal foul rate drop below the expectation when they jump to the NBA because of this, and it's fair to guess the same would apply to his guards. This is a scheme that would encourage high steal and block rates, not suppress them.
So Booker's defense is a concern. But if his offense is good enough, it might not matter. And, with a 30.9 net rating (despite having the worst defensive rating on the team), Booker placed 5th on Kentucky overall. So that must mean he is a dynamo on offense.
Unfortunately, Booker doesn't appear to be multi-faceted enough for that to hold water at the next level. Out of 17 potential first and second round wing players, Booker placed 15th in assist rate (10.9%), 16th in free throw rate (.223), and 16th in total rebounding rate (5.4%).
Taken individually, none of these traits need be particularly worrisome. Taken in conjunction with each other, a weak passer, creator, and rebounder is a player who provides no value other than his jump shot. In the modern NBA, that's a more valuable player than it has been in the past. But as the finals just showed, if you can't bring anything to the table other than shooting, you're really just taking things off.
I've added Justin Anderson and Christian Wood to the voting process today. Have at it, you crazy kids.