Alec Burks: 6 Expectations for the Utah Jazz Rookie's Season
Though many Jazz fans were disappointed when Jimmer Fredette was selected as the 10th pick by the Milwaukee Bucks (then abruptly traded to the Sacramento Kings) in the 2011 NBA Draft, the selection of Alec Burks as the 12th pick was a great one by GM Kevin O’Connor and the Jazz management team.
Burks is exactly what the Jazz need to complement their frontcourt of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Burks can get to the basket with his speed and length, and he can draw contact and hit free throws when on the line.
His abilities can help spread the floor for Utah and his development this year should be a crucial concern for Tyrone Corbin and the Jazz coaching staff.
The following are keys to his improvement.
Develop Three-Point Range
At the University of Colorado, Burks shot 31.3 percent from the three-point arc, but that is going to need to improve playing the shooting guard position in the NBA. He has taken only four three-point shots this season, hitting one of them, so it is hard to tell exactly how his long-range game looks after working on it during the lockout.
Burks did have a promising performance in a preseason game, the Pro Players Classic in Salt Lake City, scoring 29 points while going 12-of-13 from the field (including 5-6 from behind the arc).
How well that shooting transfers over to full-speed NBA action is hard to tell with such limited opportunities, but this is surely an area that should be emphasized during workouts this season.
Get to the Free-Throw Line
One thing coaches and fellow players have consistently praised Burks for is his ability to get to the charity stripe. In Utah’s recent win against the Milwaukee Bucks, Burks went 7-of-10 from the free-throw line. Overall, he is shooting 76.9 percent.
With his 6’10” wingspan and 36-inch vertical, Burks has the ability to rise up and get shots off over opponents, but his ability to slash to the basket and draw contact is going to help him spread out the floor for other players and provide more opportunities to get easy points from the foul line.
Burks averaged 80.4 percent from the free-throw line throughout his college career. If he can increase that average, he will further his ability to contribute for the Jazz.
Work on Passing
Traditionally, Burks has not had high assists numbers, but to really contribute on a Jazz team that utilizes player movement, this is an area that he should continue to work on during his rookie season.
In college, Burks averaged only 2.4 assists per game, though that was largely due to the fact he was primarily relied on as a scorer.
In his limited action this season, he is averaging 1.6 assists per game, though his average of 11.2 minutes per game hinders his ability to develop this skill.
To his credit, or rather to point out a serious fault in fellow Jazz shooting guards C.J. Miles and Raja Bell, Burks is averaging nearly double the next highest assists-per-game average of Bell (0.7), and Burks’ average is three times that of Miles (0.5).
Look to Rebound
Burks was an average rebounder in college, grabbing 5.8 per game. In his appearances thus far for the Jazz, he has averaged 1.2 rebounds and had a season-high three rebounds against the New Orleans Hornets on Jan. 1.
Again, with his limited minutes it is difficult to see exactly how effective Burks will be as a rebounder in the NBA, and even using advanced metrics to simulate his rebounding for 36 minutes per game only places him at 3.9 rebounds per game.
To be a solid shooting guard for the Jazz, it would be a major benefit to see Burks work on utilizing his length and grabbing more rebounds while he is in the game.
Put on Some Weight
At 6’6”, Burks is going to need to put on some more weight to be durable in the NBA. During his final season at the University of Colorado, he weighed in at 195 pounds and has put on some weight coming into this season, currently listed at 202 pounds.
Ideally, Burks should put on another five pounds during the season and then another five to 10 pounds during the offseason, leaving him at around 210-220. Though it is not a drastic increase from the 202 at which he currently weighs in, the additional muscle that he puts on will help him stay healthy and finish shots around the rim.
“Be patient” is a mantra that many rookies are told to adhere to, and it certainly applies to Burks right now. He is third on the depth chart at shooting guard behind veterans Raja Bell and C.J. Miles, though if Bell continues to struggle, that order may need to be revisited by Tyrone Corbin.
Only playing 11.2 minutes per game thus far hurts Burks’ ability to develop his NBA game, but when given the opportunity to get some minutes in, he needs to capitalize by getting to the basket and played crisp basketball.
The Jazz will utilize his talents soon enough, but for the time being, Burks needs to work on his game during practices and in the few minutes he is on the floor.