Devin Booker's eye for the rim appeals to Pistons

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — Devin Booker learned about "The Grind" at an early age from his father Melvin, a professional basketball player who bounced around the world playing the game he loved.

The Grind was sometimes getting to the gym two hours before practice and staying two hours afterward.

The Grind for the dad was playing for 13 different teams in four countries.

And The Grind was sitting at his dad's knee and learning the game, professionalism, and how to grow into a man.

The Grind is why Booker visited the Pistons Thursday morning for a pre-draft workout. And The Grind is a reason Booker, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard, is expected to be picked in the first round of the NBA draft next Thursday, perhaps by the Pistons, who covet shooters.

"I learned everything from him, to be honest," Booker said. "When I moved in with him I learned the grind, which I didn't understand at first. I was like, 'Come on man I am grinding, getting to practice (early) and staying (late). He taught me things on the court and off the court. It wasn't just a basketball experience, I learned everything."

Booker, 18, is the youngest player in the draft and feels his body is still growing and maturing. It might allow him to play small forward also because the Pistons already have Kentavious Caldwell-Pope starting at big guard.

But Booker believes he is the best shooter in the draft. He averaged 10 points a game his freshman season with the Wildcats and made 41.1 percent of his 3-point attempts and shot 47 percent from the field overall. Those are the most impressive shooting numbers of any of the Pistons draft invitees.

"You can never have enough shooters and Golden State showed that in the (NBA) Finals," Booker said. "The last five teams in the playoffs were the top five 3-point shooting teams. It shows a lot about shooting. I think the game has evolved into the way I play now."

Booker might not be the most explosive or athletic player in the draft. But he is crafty and sneaky and can shoot the ball all over the floor. When Kentucky's big stars struggled, Booker often found a way to keep the Wildcats humming with a big shot or big play.

"At the end of the day, how did Larry Bird do in NBA combine testing?" Booker asked. "You have to look at it like that."

If you want highlight reel theatrics, perhaps Booker is not your guy.

"I know what I am capable of," he said. "I think people get confused on the way I play. I make things simple. I don't want to make the highlight play. I want to make the simple play and just play fundamental basketball. I can do those athletic things but I want to make the game simple."

This is a guy with untapped potential because he was not a starter and not in the limelight all the time at Kentucky. The only things that held him back were more talented teammates.

He won't come in and star and might not start immediately. The Pistons could keep the seat warm by signing former Piston Arron Afflalo, who was traded by the team in 2009 along with Walter Sharpe for a second-round draft pick. It ended up being one of the Pistons' worst trades.

Afflalo broke out and enjoyed five consecutive seasons of double-digit scoring, including averaging 18.2 points with Orlando in 2013-14. He shot 45.9 percent from the floor that season and 42.7 percent on 3-pointers.

Booker does not want to take the same path to the NBA as his father Melvin Booker, who played for 13 different teams in the United States, Russia, Turkey and Italy. He enjoyed brief stints with the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets.

He spent the 1993-94 season with the Grand Rapids Mackers of the CBA. Booker was raised in suburban Grandville where he played for Grandville High School.

He later moved to Mississippi and played for Moss Point High School after his father retired and became an assistant coach. Devin Booker left as the school's all-time scoring leader (2,518 points) and averaged 30.9 points as a senior.

Booker said he planned on driving to Grand Rapids after the workout to visit friends and his mother Veronica Gutierrez, who still lives in Grand Rapids.

He also followed the 2004 Pistons and was a big fan of Rip Hamilton, whose calling card was rolling off screens and hitting mid-range jumpers.

Now he is ready to go through the grind of the NBA and show off skills that perhaps he was not able to display playing alongside Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles.

"I think that is going to be as close to an NBA team as possible," he said. "People might say I was limited and things like that, but at one point we were 30-0. You cannot complain about that just as long as my team is winning. I come in with a winning attitude. I feel like I can show some more, but like I said I will do whatever it takes for the team to win."