On the afternoon of March 31st, DeAndre Ayton went on CBS Sports radio. When asked where he’d like to end up in the NBA, he said “Honestly, I could see myself in Phoenix. I could see a little Shaq and Kobe 2.0.”
Not only is that like the best thing you could say to any Suns fan right now, but it’s also an extremely bold statement that allows me to be able to say Devin Booker is the next Kobe without feeling alone.
Because of how much I love this quote from Ayton, I decided to have a little fun. I’m here to compare Ayton’s freshman numbers at U of A and Shaq’s at LSU, and then Booker and Kobe’s age 20-21 numbers.
Shaq vs Ayton
Shaq: 13.9 PPG, 3.6 BPG, 12 REB, 0 3PA, 57.3 FG%
Shaq is the perfect center for that era of basketball (obviously). Young, athletic, strong, back to the basket guy, productive on offense, dominant on defense at 7’1”. Shaq is Shaq. You all know how amazing he was, especially when he was young and mobile. How does Ayton stack up?
Ayton: 20.1 PPG, 1.9 BPG, 11.6 REB, 61.2 FG%, 34.3 3PT%
A few interesting differences to point out: Shaq attempted zero 3s his freshman year, and Ayton attempted 35 (and made 12). Ayton had 1.0 3PA per game. The field goal percentage is higher, despite his tendency to shoot from further out than Shaq. He’s not as dominant on defense, but still manages to get almost two blocks in a normal game. The rebounding matches up pretty well. These two players are strangely comparable (I’m so excited oh my goodness PLEASE let Phoenix get the #1 pick).
Kobe vs Booker
This one is tougher. Kobe entered the league out of high school, and Booker took a pit stop at Kentucky. But, how did Kobe fare at Booker’s current age?
Kobe (Age 20-21): 21.4 PPG, 5.9 REB, 4.4 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 46.7 FG%, 29.8 3P% over 116 games played* (1998-1999 was a 50-game lockout season)
Over the course of the 1998-99 to 1999-2000 seasons, Kobe was very Kobe. He was a high flyer with a solid field goal percentage and played closer to the rim than he did later in his career. He also had a really cool afro and basically broke every defense in the league, so there’s that. Early career Kobe is so fun. How, if at all, does Devin stand up?
Booker (age 20-21): 23.3 PPG, 3.7 REB, 3.9 AST, .9 SPG, .3 BPG, 42.7 FG%, 37.3 3P% over 132 games played
Oh. Oh wow. That’s interesting. Obviously, the athleticism and defense go to Kobe, that’s not a question (the only two good defenders from this generation of Kentucky players are Anthony Davis and Bam Adebayo), but for volume scoring, look to Booker. He shoots a LOT, but it also goes in a lot apparently, as their field goal percentages are comparable. Devin has averaged 6.0 3PA over the last two seasons, while Kobe only tried 2.1 3s per game in those early seasons. Call it a sign of the times, I suppose. Kobe attempted 14.8 2s per game to Booker’s 12.8, but both players took a lot of shots and a lot of them have gone in.
Decision: Comparable (On Offense)
It’s fun to muse about these things when your team just picked up its 20th win in 79 tries. It’s hard not to look ahead after the abysmal season the Suns have had, so hopefully 2019 in Phoenix looks more like 1996 Los Angeles.