To Villanovans, Phil Booth’s legacy and value is unquestioned. Since arriving at Villanova, he made a firm first impression as a solid contributor off the bench, with a bright future that ultimately ended up even brighter than expected. His 2016 National Championship performance made him a legend before his junior year and has become the one fun fact broadcasters love to allude to (also a recurring inside joke for Wildcat fans.)
However, for Booth, it was more than just 20 points in Houston, there were the trials and tribulations that came with plaguing knee issues and a bad case of mono that didn’t seem to slow him down in the 2016 championship run. After sitting out for the 2016-17 season, he bounced back strong as a member of the starting five and eventually helped the ‘Cats win another national championship. This past season was his encore, and there’s no doubt he played the hero on a number of occasions. He amassed just over 1,500 points and almost 400 rebounds and assists throughout his time on the Main Line. Can NBA teams see what Villanovans see in regards to what makes Booth so special? Will the fifth-year senior hear his name on Draft Day?
Phil Booth’s Career Stats
If there were any questions surrounding whether or not Booth could carry a team or be a top scorer, he certainly extinguished those doubts. Booth showed that he was capable of scoring from anywhere on the floor and in almost any way he wanted. He could drive to the basket, score off the bounce, pull up at will or convert on the catch-and-shoot--whether there was a hand in his face or not. He led the ‘Cats in scoring and was top-five in the Big East.
He can create for himself and sometimes even the smallest amount of breathing room was more than enough space for Booth to shoot his shot. Booth made the shots that made the crowd go wild, he had the confidence to pull up from well beyond the arc, and he had some great shooting percentages to top it off. He also displayed his playmaking and the ability to create for others, which certainly helped as opposing defenses geared up to stop him.
According to the Stepien, Booth cashed in on 61.3 percent of his shots at the rim. He was effective in the mid-range, converting on 43.0 percent of his takes. His three-point shot also proved to be NBA-ready, as he took 222 of his 259 three-point attempts from NBA range. He knocked them down at a respectable rate as well, sinking them 36.5 percent of the time. Once he adjusts to the tempo of the pro-level, his shot should be fine and ready to go.
This was a strong part of his game that was evident pretty early in his career. He might not get enough credit for this aspect--from someone who may be unfamiliar with Villanova and the Big East--because he doesn’t have amazing steal/block numbers or have the reputation of being a turnover-generating machine. Make no mistake, Booth’s defense, especially at the perimeter is superb.
Once he got his first full-time starting gig with the ‘Cats, it was apparent how valuable he was on defense. His toughness, drive, and tenacious nature helps him be a tough defender. He’s quick on his feet and has great instincts on that end of the court, as he fights to keep his assignment at bay or uncomfortable. He wasn’t expected to be a top scorer in the 2017-18 season, so his contributions on the defense were much-appreciated and well-noted. His presence was key in bringing another National Championship to the Main Line.
A year later, his defense was vital in helping the Wildcats achieve the first-ever Big East Tournament three-peat. On the final possession of the Big East Tournament finals, with the Wildcats clinging onto a two-point lead, Booth forced Seton Hall star Myles Powell to shooting a tough shot that clanked off the back of the rim. Booth came up big in a crucial moment with his defense, but that was just one of his many defensive highlights throughout his career.
Some of the biggest knocks on Booth has to do with things that don’t show up in the box score. No, I don’t mean attitude, grit, and hustle, because it’s very well clear that Booth has all three, but I’m referring to things like his injury history, age, and his size.
Although healthy now, Booth had battled knee issues midway through his collegiate season. He underwent arthroscopic surgery shortly after the 2016 National Championship run, but it would later be evident that the extent of his injury would be much more serious than anticipated, as it lingered into the following season and he ultimately took a medical redshirt year. He’s underwent a couple of different procedures with his knees and although that appears to be behind him now, the knee is not something that NBA teams can simply overlook--unlike the hand injury he had his junior year, when a good fraction of the team was dealing with a similar fractures as well.
Booth is also 23 years old, and he will be 24 on New Year’s Eve. Teams may feel that he has limited upside with his age and may opt to draft a younger player. Apart from his age and his injury history, there are questions as to how Booth will measure up with the competition. He is listed at 6-foot-3, placing him a tad below the average height of NBA shooting guards, and he doesn’t have tremendous length either. While Booth can facilitate, he’s not a true point guard and his prospects of being a playmaker in the NBA is still to be determined, but his frame would be better suited for that position.
This past season, there were times Booth took over the game and willed Villanova to victory, and there were other times that fans and supporters groaned over “hero ball.”
When Booth was on, he was on. At one point, he looked like a legitimate candidate for Big East Player of the Year. Other times, he would undergo a cold-shooting streak--coupled with some instances of questionable shot selection. It isn’t to say that basketball players are expected to shoot 100 percent, let alone 50--even 35-40 percent--all of the time. Cold stretches happen, but the streaky shooting may be a problem for some.
Say what you want about hero ball, minutes distribution, and the lofty expectation and standard that Booth was expected to bring night in and night out for his senior year, but this may not be a problem in the NBA, as he won’t have to carry a team or be the bulk of his team’s workload. He can focus on picking and choosing his spots and helping out the team by providing quality minutes. Overall, his shooting percentages were good for the year, but some nights it felt like he couldn’t miss and others where he struggled with efficiency.
Ala Darrun Hilliard, Phil Booth just needs to get a team to fall in love with him enough to enter the second round picture. Like Hilliard, Booth hasn’t exactly been a consistent feature for NBA Mock Drafts throughout the year. If he does get picked, it’ll likely be in the second round. Worst-case scenario, he’ll just have to prove himself as an undrafted free agent signing--which at the bare minimum, he would get some summer invitations to sift through.
Keep an eye out for the Sixers, who have a ton of second round draft picks. Philadelphia has the 33rd, 34th, 42nd, and 54th picks on Thursday, although Villanovans are probably distrustful of the Sixers when it comes to drafting Wildcats--maybe they’ll get a chance to redeem themselves on Thursday.
Atlanta also has a number of picks, with the 35th, 41st, and 44th picks in its possession. Could there possibly be a reunion between Booth and Omari Spellman? The Pistons have the 45th pick, while Indiana (No. 50) and New York (No. 55) have late ones.
Regardless, at the very least, Booth should get an opportunity to prove himself, if he goes undrafted. If that’s the case, could he be another one of those undrafted gems--following in the mold of other players that had successful, winning collegiate careers but were discounted for one reason or another when it came to making the jump for the NBA. Former teammate Ryan Arcidiacono carved out a role in the Windy City. Then there were guys like Quinn Cook and Allonzo Trier, who saw a huge uptick in minutes and recognition this past season, while Fred VanVleet became a media darling for his play in helping the Toronto Raptors take down the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Booth is no stranger to adversity, so if this is his path, there’s a solid chance he eventually adds himself to the list of undrafted signees that ultimately went on to play solid minutes for their respective teams.