Beyond the Key Episode of the week
By Adam Fornwalt
Being 19 years old is difficult. Most teenagers at this age are just fitting into the college scene or breaking into the work force at the bottom of the totem pole.
But Devin Booker isn’t most teenagers. At the ripe age of 19, he’s carving his path as one of the NBA’s up and coming stars.
"I don't think anyone envisioned him doing this as the youngest player in the NBA," said Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough. "We saw him as a traditional shooting guard. To see him run the pick-and-roll, and make plays at this level -- that has surprised us."
No one though Booker would rise so quickly at Kentucky either. The Wildcats would go 38-1, including and 18-0 record in SEC conference play, before falling to Wisconsin in the Final Four. Booker would take home the SEC’s Sixth Man of the Year award and All Conference Second Team honors. Despite never starting a game, Booker would finish third on the team in points per game. Despite his success at the college level, some NBA scouts and general managers claimed Booker only had one dimension to his game.
"I think he's gotten caught up in Calipari's reality-distortion field," one GM said. "No one saw him in high school or in the early scrimmages for Kentucky and said 'lottery pick.' No one…He's hit a bunch of shots this year and there's always value there. But what makes him that much better than Tyler Harvey or Joseph Young? You think if those guys were at Kentucky they'd hit shots too?"
The Suns would take a chance on him at 13, and it’s safe to say so far they haven’t regretted it. Despite the early season firing of head coach Jeff Hornacek and injuries to Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, Booker had shown an ability to carry the team on the offensive side of the ball. He’s averaging just over 21 points per game so far this month, including a double-double in a close lose to the Golden State Warriors.
"Some people in the media might see (Booker) as a 'good stats, bad team' player," said Suns interim head coach Earl Watson. "But us basketball teachers, we can see skill."
The future of Suns is bright with Devin Booker. If he can continue to grow as an all-around player and the team can stay healthy, big things could come out of Phoenix next year.