One of Devin Booker’s first rookie moments came Nov. 18, 2015.
Before Booker became a regular in the Suns’ lineup, the rookie found himself receiving spot minutes and at times guarding Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler. They didn’t go well for the Phoenix guard. Butler scored 32 in a 103-97 Bulls victory, and after the game raised eyebrows with his comments about Booker, who’d only played 15 minutes.
Apparently that exchange didn’t sit as poorly in Butler’s mind as it came across in a tweet. As a guest on Bill Simmons’ podcast Wednesday, the Chicago star named Booker as an up-and-comer he’s keeping an eye on (54-minute mark).
Simmons: “Young players on the way up that aren’t totally household names yet, but you respect and they’re on your radar.
“Who’s the next Jae Crowder slash Butler slash Wesley Matthews slash, whoever?”
Butler: “I’ll tell you one player I do like: Devin Booker. I like that kid. He’s young, he can really shoot it, he can get to the rim.”
Simmons: “And he was 18. He was 18 last year.”
Butler: “He can really play.”
That’s high praise from one NBA player who will likely spend his summer hearing his name associated to blockbuster trade rumors. Butler, who was the 30th overall pick in 2011, was one of the best draft steals in recent memory and apparently gained a bit of respect for Booker despite the youngster’s trash talk.
Butler isn’t the only NBA star who went out of his way to complement Booker, who scored 30 or more six times as a rookie and averaged 13.8 points, 2.6 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game after being selected 13th overall by Phoenix.
Kobe Bryant appreciated the Suns’ rookie using his own post moves on him when the Lakers visited Phoenix later in the year, and before that, Heat guard Dwyane Wade said he liked Booker after the rookie dropped 32 on Miami in March.
So while Booker’s career requires improvement before he can even call himself an average NBA player, there’s a reason he’s catching the eyes of NBA vets and a reason he’ll take part of the national team’s training on the USA Basketball Select Team.
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