Burke ready to shake up rookie race?
This year, there wasn’t a player with as much hype as Anthony Davis going into the season, and through the first few weeks of the season, no one has stuck out quite like Lillard did with Portland in early 2012. Michael Carter-Williams started his career off with a bang, but injuries and inefficiency (37.5% FGs, 72.7% FTs, and 3.3 TOs) have opened up the race to others. Victor Oladipo is currently headlining that list of other candidates, averaging 12.5 points and 1.8 steals on the year, but he’s struggled even more than MCW with turnovers (4.4 per game) and has been almost as flaky with his percentages (39.2% FGs and 73.7% FTs). And all in all, it seems like the Magic can’t determine where to place him on the floor: point guard, shooting guard, and now they’re trying out a three-guard lineup where he’s almost like a small forward?
After MCW and Oladipo, there have been a few solid performances from Kings guard Ben McLemore and Celtics center Kelly Olynyk, but nothing consistent yet. It’s a pretty wide-open race right now. That’s what makes it just about the perfect time for Jazz rookie Trey Burke to step onto the scene and show the league what he’s got.
Is Utah better than their 1-12 record shows? Maybe not too much better, but they have a promising young frontcourt with Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter. The problem so far this season has been that they A) haven’t been able to get their big men the ball enough and B) haven’t had any steady production from the point guard position. John Lucas has been the primary point guard while Alec Burks - who’s really more of a 2-guard - has taken some of the load as well. Both Kanter (50.9%) and Favors (47.6%) have been rather efficient with their touches so far this year, while Lucas (36.8%), Burks (36.7%) and Hayward (39.7%) have been pretty shaky from the field, to say the least.
To translate that all into more simple terms, the Jazz are in desperate need of some solid, efficient guard play and Burke’s likely to have quite a responsibility on his shoulders when he’s inserted into the starting lineup (likely this Friday against Dallas).
In his NBA debut against the New Orleans Pelicans, Burke played 12 minutes off the bench and scored 11 points on 5-8 shooting from the field. He scored his first basket on what looked almost like an effortless drive to the hoop, he threw a perfect dime down to Derrick Favors to record his first NBA assist, and got in between an exchange between Jason Smith and Jrue Holiday to earn his first steal. On the negative side, he was whistled for two fouls and was a -6 in a game his team only lost by 7.
Burke’s one of the most intelligent guards to come into the NBA in the past few years. He sees plays develop earlier than just about everyone else on the court. He plays by his instincts and is never afraid to take the big shot when he knows it’s there. The main question about him has been his size at 6’1”, but guards like Chris Paul (6’0”) and Ty Lawson (5’11”) find ways to get it done through their scoring abilities, will to win, and overall basketball IQ. Burke can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court and he’ll always find an open teammate at the right time. All the tools seem to be there, but it’s yet to be seen just how well his game translates into the NBA.
So is Burke ready to help bring the Jazz back to NBA legitimacy and crash the NBA Rookie-of-the-Year race in the process?