Marching to Vegas: In Defense Of Askia Booker

Posted by Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) on November 22nd, 2013

Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) of Pachoops again will be joining us all year, providing us with his weekly take on our favorite conference, as we begin the March to Las Vegas. 

It’s not often that someone can or will make the case for a career 37 percent shooter who takes 26 percent of his team’s shots — a guy who boasts a true shot percentage of just 48 percent and an ORtg of 98.2. No, this isn’t usually the type of player we make the case for, but for the Colorado Buffaloes, Askia Booker is critical. He will wow you with quickness and the voluminous nature by which he gets his points, but when the lane is packed, when the offense goes stagnant and Colorado is forced into a half-court set, the Buffs are in need of the type of player willing to throw Basketball 101 out the window and get baskets. He’s the hero Colorado deserves and the hero it needs right now.

Askia Booker, Colorado

Askia Booker’s Shot Selection – Or Lack Thereof – Make Him One Of The Pac-12’s Most Controversial Players (Patrick Ghidossi, BuffaloSportsNews)

Because Colorado’s strength is not in the half-court; it’s a very sound defensive basketball team that is going to thrive in transition. Any team with athletes like Wesley Gordon, Xavier Johnson and Jaron Hopkins would. The issue, however, is teams aren’t soon to let them do it. Their schedule to date has included Wyoming and UCSB who rank #323 and #343, respectively, in offensive rebound rate. What does that mean? It means the Cowboys and Gauchos are getting a shot up and heading back on defense faster than you can say “if you want to play slow, go to UCLA.” Because of these opponents, the stat sheet won’t soon show us the Buffaloes’ transition success.

Last season the Buffs were the 37th most transition team in the nation. And how do the Buffs get into transition? With a hellacious on-ball defender like Booker. If you’ve watched him play, he’s quicker than a water bug and I’ve watched him cause fits for Nick Johnson (career 33 percent shooter against Colorado). There’s a reason he led the team in transition field goal attempts last season. The issue, however – and this is where I think people find the biggest issue with Booker – is that a season ago he took 41 percent of those transition shots in the form of a two-point jumper. WHAT? You’re telling me that this kid is going to get out ahead of everyone else and pull up? No thank you. Just 29 times (23%) did he get to the rim in transition. And to break it down real lay for you, shots at the rim are easier than shots farther from the rim. For further context if not comparison, Sabatino Chen (of exquisite hair lore) took 22 of his 36 (61%) transition shots at the rim. That’s a pair of two-guards with contrasting shot selection and I’ll give you one guess as to who had the 45 percent eFG as opposed to 67 percent? But this season Booker has dropped the number of transition jumpers he’s chucking up and either getting to the rim (up to 37 percent) or smarting up and letting the offense – whatever half-court option they have – develop. Against the aforementioned Wyoming and UCSB anti-transitioners, Booker averaged 14 points on 43 percent shooting in the Buffalo sweep. The hero they deserve and need.

What’s more is that he’s played a critical leadership role for this team. Into a timeout you’ll see him instructing a younger player, coaching them up and explaining where he needs to be and when. The hero they need because this team enlists the services of 10 underclassmen. Booker is a veteran and he’s wearing that hat when he needs to. For all of that youth, he is the player who’s going to make things happen, for better or worse, when the task might seem too large. Who took the most shots against Baylor in Dallas during the first game of the season? Askia Booker. I’m not necessarily condoning this, but for a team that doesn’t shoot well from distance  – 32 percent on any shot not called a layup or dunk – and is prone to cold streaks (see: Tournament, NCAA vs. Illinois w/ scoring droughts of eight minutes, four minutes, three minutes, and five minutes, the bookends of which were to close each half and consequently the season), then yes, Colorado needs a little bit of fearlessness and direction. A sort of “do as I say, not as I do” type.

The above might not describe the best player in the nation. In fact, it doesn’t even flirt with those descriptors. But for a team whose two best assets are a foul-drawing point guard and a classic back-to-the-basket type, Booker is that talent capable of scooching through the cracks and doing things perhaps some of the other kids can’t. Getting the Buffs out of trouble despite all the trouble he might cause. Their hero.

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5 Responses to “Marching to Vegas: In Defense Of Askia Booker”

  1. Bryce says:

    While I agree with your analysis of Ski’s transition shot selection, I completely disagree with your assessment of his leadership. I sit behind the Buffs bench in the CEC, and most of the time, Booker is fighting with Boyle and acting like a temperamental teenager. Not a get-out-of-my-way-I’ll-stab-you-I-want-to-win-so-bad Jordan or Kobe type of emotion, petulant child emotion.

    Ever since the ’12 Charleston Classic, where he played great and took home the MOP of the tournament, he’s played terrible, forcing up terrible shot after terrible shot. When the Buffs are down 10, he takes it all on himself, disregarding the P12 POTY candidate at PG and the ever improving post destroying PF. He short circuited the Buffs in the most recent Baylor game with excessive, crappy shots. He’s not a 30 minute a game starter type. Boyle needs to bring him off the bench for short bursts of amazing energy instead of leaning on him for heavy lifting.

  2. MB says:

    Good article with justifiable criticisms, especially in regard to lack of offensive consistency and questionable shot selection…but as noted he plays good defense and does things beneficial for the team that often fly under the radar. Last year he finished the season 2nd on the team in assists and 2nd in scoring. He was third on the team in defensive rebounds and he doesn’t turn the ball over. All in all he is an asset that deserves plenty of minutes played–of which he was second on the team last season as well. Whether those minutes come as a starter or off the bench is a different matter for a different time.

  3. […] has his flaws and may shoot Colorado out of – or dangerously close to – a few games. But as I said a few weeks ago: Askia Booker is the hero Colorado needs and […]

  4. […] of Spencer Dinwiddie’s injury. He’s been a lightning bolt of criticism and I’ve defended him all over the place. In that linked piece I said, “He’s the hero Colorado deserves and the hero it needs right […]

  5. […] This post, had it been written two months ago, would’ve looked a lot different than it does today. Back then, seeing as how I’m a big Booker fan, it would have evolved into another defense of his shot selection and gumption. We’d probably have revisited the Jayheave and his performance against then #10 Oregon where he dropped 27, 7, and 4 on (have to note this in an Askia column) 8-16 shooting. That would have made for a great post and likely unfolded a lot like this one. […]

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