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Alec Burks Deserves to Have Role Expanded for Utah Jazz

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 07:  Alec Burks #10 of the Utah Jazz drives on Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on January 7, 2012 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Zac WatneCorrespondent IIJanuary 23, 2012

The Utah Jazz's Alec Burks is fearless, an uncommon trait for rookies.

Give Burks a slightly open lane, and he will cut to the rim. It doesn't matter if there are several tall trees lining the paint, Burks is willing to go after the hoop. Granted, this has led to some easy blocks for opponents, and it may eventually be the demise of Burks if he runs into a surly Andrew Bynum, but for now, it is something Tyrone Corbin and the Jazz should take advantage of.

His attacking style had led Burks to be third on the team in free-throw attempts per game (per 36 minutes played), while he ranks fifth on the team in free-throw shooting (74.2 percent). His knack for attacking the paint is both needed and should be rewarded on a team that is loaded with spot-up shooters in the back court.

Fellow Guards/Small Forwards

Try to think of another guard on Utah's roster that prefers to get to the rim rather than stop-and-pop from outside. Alright, so there is one other perimeter player that likes to attack the basket as much as Burks, but he is only 6'1” and does his best work leading the team in assists (Sadly, it is not the starting point...not yet at least).

Burks adds a dimension to the Jazz offense that no one else does right now. This is not to say other guards/small forwards on the team cannot take the ball to the hoop. There are flashes of C.J. Miles posterizing Lamar Odom, and Gordon Hayward will occasionally attack the rim, but both Miles and Hayward are getting (too?) comfortable settling for jump shots.

When the outside shots are falling they are obviously effective, but when they are not, it can take players out of the game and make the Jazz's offense stagnant.

C.J. seems to be much more confident lately and is starting to get into the paint, going 23-of-27 (85.1 percent) from the free-throw line over the last five games, but he still tends to fall in love with his three-pointer.

Raja Bell, the Jazz starting shooting guard who seemed lost on the court in the beginning of the season, has finally found himself. His shooting average of 29.4 percent last month has vastly improved to 50.9 percent this month, including 41.7 percent from three-point land. His resurgence has helped the Jazz to a 9-2 record in January, but like Miles, he is also prone to shooting rather than going after the basket.

Burks' mindset mixes things up for the Jazz at shooting guard, and that helps the entire team.

The Frontcourt

The Jazz need a diverse set of skills on the floor to keep defenses off-balance.

Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap compliment one another in the frontcourt; while Millsap prefers to face up to the basket to hit jumpers or take his man off the dribble. Jefferson prefers catching the ball down low and using his quick feet to get around opponents, either for dunks or short one-handed tear drops.

If the Jazz get Burks more involved in the offense and he continues to go to the hoop, that will help both of the big men down low. A guard moving toward the basket would set Millsap up for easy 10 to 15-foot jump shots and Jefferson with his signature one-handers when their defenders react. With the defense watching the wings for a slashing Burks, the court opens up for everyone on the floor.

Sure, Burks can improve in many ways, specifically with his passing while cutting to the hoop (he only averages 1.8 assists per 36 minutes), but that will come with being more comfortable on the court. The Jazz need to focus on developing Burks now and make a point to get him into the game more often.

Where those minutes come from is Coach Corbin's problem, but it is an issue he and the coaching staff should be sorting out as the season progresses.

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