PHOENIX SUNS

McDonough: Teams were calling the Suns before Devin Booker was drafted in 2015

Apr 5, 2017, 4:07 PM | Updated: 9:46 pm
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) shields Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from t...

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) shields Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist from the ball in the third quarter during an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 2, 2017, in Phoenix. Phoenix defeated Charlotte 120-103. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
LISTEN: Ryan McDonough, Suns' General Manager

Kevin Durant admitted last week on Bill Simmons’ podcast that the Thunder were ready to pick Devin Booker in the 2015 NBA Draft.

The Suns instead selected Booker 13th overall and a spot behind them, Oklahoma City settled for Cameron Payne, a backup point guard who the team traded to the Chicago Bulls this year.

Payne is averaging 5.3 points and 1.8 assists per game and shooting just 33 percent in his second season. He’s spent time in the D-League and the inactive list since the trade to the Windy City.

Meanwhile, Booker is averaging 22 points, 3.4 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game. He put up 70 points against the Boston Celtics in March.

Juxtaposing the young careers of Booker and Payne only emphasizes the uncertainty of the draft.

“There are different tiers sometimes in drafts. I guess the best way to explain it is the difference between picks is not always equal,” Suns general manager Ryan McDonough told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “Sometimes there are pretty big drops and pretty big gaps.

“We were fortunate that year. We had Devin in our top tier and then we had a pretty significant dropoff after he and a few other guys were off the board,” McDonough added. “One of the things we’ve gathered in talking to teams kind of around us, especially right behind us in the draft, is that their phones were ringing a lot when Devin was on the board in the late lottery. And our phone was ringing a lot when Devin on the board in the late-lottery for potential trades and trade proposals.”

Once Phoenix selected Booker, the ringing died down, McDonough said.

The Suns general manager added that teams had proposed aggressive offers to obtain the 13th pick. Once Booker fell and Phoenix had a chance to select the youngster out of Kentucky, the Suns opted to keep their pick.

“Obviously, it’s been very beneficial for us and for him the past couple of years,” McDonough said.

Others would agree.

ESPN’s Chad Ford and Kevin Pelton recently redrafted the cream of the crop from the 2015 class, and despite Booker’s defensive liabilities that show poorly when observed through the lens of advanced statistics, neither see how Booker could have fallen to the near-end of the lottery.

Ford redrafted Booker fourth overall, and Pelton selected the Suns guard fifth. Pelton couldn’t draft Booker any later despite a few obvious holes to his game:

As skeptical as I am that Booker will ever rate as well in terms of advanced stats as he does in points per game, I can’t put him any lower than this. Booker has shown both a unique ability to create his own shot at a young age and occasional playmaking chops.

If he can add efficiency to the mix, he’ll be a quality starter no matter how infrequently he grabs a rebound or comes up with a steal.

From that perspective, it seems the Suns — and a team or two behind them — correctly evaluated Booker in the 2015 NBA Draft.

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McDonough: Teams were calling the Suns before Devin Booker was drafted in 2015