Devin Booker’s Big Night Reemphasizes Utah Jazz Draft Snafu

Apr 3, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Utah Jazz forward Trey Lyles (41) handles the ball in front of Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) in the second half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Utah Jazz won 101 - 86. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 3, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Utah Jazz forward Trey Lyles (41) handles the ball in front of Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) in the second half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Utah Jazz won 101 - 86. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports /

After Devin Booker’s incredible 70-point outing last night, Utah Jazz fans can’t help but wonder if the organization made a major blunder back in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Let’s all go back momentarily to the 2015 NBA Draft. The Utah Jazz were coming off of a somewhat disappointing 38-44 record although they showed a lot of promise to close out the 2014-15 season.

Thus, with the Number 12 pick in the draft, optimism was high that Utah would be able to snag a rookie that could come in and have a significant impact the following year and beyond.

Unfortunately, the Utah Jazz missed out on Myles Turner (who quite honestly was the guy I was hoping they would get) by one pick as the Pacers picked him up 11th. Still, there were plenty of talented guys yet to be had, and as Adam Silver stepped out to the podium, I’d wager the majority of Jazz fans had imagined that Utah would go with Kentucky sharpshooter Devin Booker.

In fact, even Jalen Rose specifically said that Booker was his pick for a Jazz team that was in desperate need of spacing and shooters at the time. In the video below, start it at the 1:16:45 mark to hear Rose make that prediction about who he thought Utah would select.

But, alas, Utah instead opted to select a different Kentucky Wildcat, namely power forward Trey Lyles, and the Phoenix Suns managed to scoop up Devin Booker with the ensuing pick.

Of course, drafts are always full of hindsight and “coulda, shouldas” as you never know what you’re truly going to get. Not to mention, Lyles showed some glimpses of promise in his rookie season that even had many Jazz fans chirping that he could very well develop into a potential replacement for Derrick Favors.

Trey’s outlook started to appear even better in the 2016 NBA Summer League as he separated himself from many of the young guns playing there as one of the top players on the floor night in and night out. Unfortunately, while Devin Booker, who even after his rookie season was looking like a better choice than Lyles, has taken enormous strides in his second year in the league, Trey Lyles has gone through the ultimate sophomore slump.

Lyles is averaging just 6.6 points per game on a horrific 36.6 percent from the field and 32 percent from deep. His points are about the same as his rookie season, but his efficiency is way down despite logging a similar amount of minutes.

Booker, meanwhile is putting up solid averages this season of 21.6 points per game on 42.4 percent shooting from the field and 36.4 percent from deep. Those percentages do leave something to be desired, but for a second-year player who’s already arguably the best player on his team, those are some solid figures.

And as if Lyles’ poor shooting, dismal defense and inconsistent playing time which has largely led to him finding himself out of the rotation of late wasn’t enough to make Jazz fans wish they had a dead-eye like Booker on their team, the prolific Suns guard exploded last night for 70 points in Phoenix’s loss to the Boston Celtics to remind them of their disappointment.

The 70 points were a Suns franchise-high, the most points scored in the NBA since Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game and the most ever scored by a 20-year-old.

It was an awe-inspiring outing of which you can see the highlights in the video below:

Once the news of his incredible game broke, it was almost as if the entirety of Jazz Nation let out a collective groan of dismay. As the Deseret News’ Jody Genessy so painfully pointed out, Booker managed to score just one point less in one night than what Lyles has scored since January 23rd. Ouch.

So as if it isn’t bad enough that the Jazz are stuck with a power forward that isn’t producing and have been hampered at the shooting guard position all season long with the injuries of Rodney Hood and Alec Burks and could really use a shooter like Booker on their squad, he had to go out and make history to remind us all how poor of a decision the Lyles pick was back in 2015.

Now, to be fair, both players are in just the second year of their NBA career and that’s far too short a time to determine the worth of a player or declare any one guy a bust or a superstar. While it’s certainly looking like Booker is bound to be the better long-term player, he quite frankly still has a lot to prove. One game does not an NBA great make.

Not to mention, while I’m not trying to downplay Booker’s incredible night, one has to remember that he is playing on a lottery-bound team that has shut down three of their key veteran players in Eric Bledsoe, Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight. To be frank, take one look at the guys Booker has starting alongside him, and in some ways it’s no surprise that he’d have to put up 70 points just to keep his team in the game due to the lack of talent around him!

Plus besides, again, not to downplay what he accomplished, but near the end of the game once Phoenix had conceded defeat, their sole purpose became to get Booker the ball and to let him score. No other teammate was even interested in putting up points at that point. Yes, it was a big night for Booker, but the fact remains that, as Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas put it, the Suns still were handily defeated and are still very much lottery-bound.

Furthermore, while looking situationally at both Booker and Lyles, it’s pretty evident that the young Suns guard is in a better position to get minutes on a team that is fully embracing the youth movement and has no playoff hopes whatsoever. Meanwhile, Utah is in definite win-now mode as they seek to earn home court advantage in the first round of postseason action.

While having that much at stake is certainly great for the fans and the organization, it’s not necessarily ideal for a young guy like Trey Lyles. Rather than give him extra minutes and let him play through his mistakes like Booker is getting the chance to do, Coach Snyder is forced to pull him in order to keep the Jazz in games.

Now, I’m not trying to say that if the two switched teams, Lyles would suddenly be the one putting up 70-point games while Booker struggled, because let’s be honest, just by looking at the two players’ careers it’s evident that that wouldn’t be the case. But the fact remains that Booker is simply in a situation that gives him more opportunity to perform than Lyles.

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Nevertheless, it seems with each passing game in which Utah desperately needs a lift off the bench amid injuries and inconsistency and while Trey Lyles continues to be more of a detriment than a help, that Jazz brass has to be kicking themselves for picking the wrong Kentucky standout in the 2015 NBA Draft.

And Booker’s mind-blowing 70-point game from last night was just the icing on the cake – yet another heart-wrenching reminder of what could have been for the Jazz.

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