The moment the Jazz were eliminated from playoff contention last spring, Jazz fan discussion quickly turned to the draft and with it, came the discussion of finding the next “point guard of the future” for the franchise. In reality, that discussion had started nearly 2 years prior, the minute the Jazz traded away Deron Williams.
Trey Burke was not a player that you could find on Jazz fans’ collective lips leading up to draft night. The Jazz held the 14th and 21st picks, and Burke’s impressive Sophomore and March Madness performances had him projected as a high lottery pick. Guys like Dennis Shroeder, Shane Larkin, and Michael Carter-Williams were plausible targets, but due to a little luck and possibly Minnesota’s lack of needing a point guard, the Jazz were able to trade their 14th and 21st picks to the Timberwolves for the rights to Trey Burke who the T-Wolves had picked at #9.
Trey Burke will be an instant fit with the Utah Jazz, who have a young up and coming player at every other position. The Jazz have cleared their roster to allow Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward, and Alec Burks to have more prominent roles, and Burke will complement them on the court. Burke excels at scoring in a variety of ways and was the leader of the most efficient offense in college basketball last year. According to synergy databases, Michigan ran over a third of their offense (35%) out of pick and rolls, which would suit the Jazz this year with a big man like Derrick Favors who moves well towards the basket, and outside shooters in Gordon Hayward, Brandon Rush, and Richard Jefferson. Trey Burke is also a good spot up 3 point shooter who will be able to have those opportunities if Enes Kanter passes out of the post, or the Jazz opt to put the ball and play-making duties in the hands of Hayward or Burks.
Trey Burke is small (6 foot nothing, 185 pounds) and lacks the elite speed that allows small point guards to make up for it. There should be questions about his ability to create his own shot or get to the rim at the NBA level. He isn’t great at finishing at the rim, even against college competition, but if he can shoot the 3 with any level of consistency, that won’t matter as much. He has a good wingspan (77 inches) for his size, but he will have to discipline himself in learning good defensive habits and putting forth a better defensive effort than he did in college. Every night of his NBA career, Burke will face a better and smarter brand of point guard than he faced in college., and his isolation and pick and roll defense in college was poor at times, to be kind.
The Jazz are going to allow Burke to work on his game this season with a lot of time on the floor. Burke has almost no competition for point guard playing time and is a sure lock to start and play 28+ minutes per game. That would be a big deal for a franchise that waited 4 seasons to start John Stockton full time and sat Deron Williams his rookie year, in favor of NBA heavyweights Milt Palacio and Keith McLeod.
In the last 13 seasons, there are only 7 NBA point guards, 6’2” or shorter, who played more than 28 minutes per game their rookie season at the age of 21 or younger. Those players are Chris Paul, Brandon Jennings, Kyrie Irving, Tony Parker, Raymond Felton, Dajuan Wagner, and Jonny Flynn. While most of those players are serviceable NBA players (Wagner had unusual health problems, including a colon resection), each had their unique struggles their rookie seasons. Only Paul, Irving, and Flynn had a true shooting percentage better than 50%, and Paul, Parker, and Wagner all made less than one third of their 3 point attempts their rookie seasons.
However, those 7 players scored an average of 16.2 points and gave out 5.9 assists per 36 minutes played, so it would be fair to expect Trey Burke to put up numbers, while most likely failing to do so in an efficient manner. Burke’s long-term success with the Jazz will depend on his ability to run an offense, score efficiently, and play defense at a passable level, which shouldn’t be expected this season. Due to available playing time and the fact he will have the ball in his hands, I expect Burke to put up numbers (something like 16 points and 6 assists in 32 minutes per game) and be a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year all season.