Best-Case, Worst-Case NBA Comparisons for Michigan's Trey Burke

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterApril 25, 2013

Apr 8, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Michigan Wolverines guard Trey Burke (3) drives against Louisville Cardinals guard Russ Smith (2) during the first half of the championship game in the 2013 NCAA mens Final Four at the Georgia Dome.  Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

It's true. You can actually improve your draft stock and skills by going to college for more than a year.

Trey Burke confirmed this theory in 2012-13, after he decided another season at Michigan was a necessary step to take.

We saw Burke evolve as a player, both mentally, physically and fundamentally. He grew as a leader, an athlete and a point guard.

Aside from guiding his program to a national championship appearance, Burke's individual performance throughout the year was flat-out spectacular. He averaged 18.6 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting, a fairly efficient number for a primary ball-handler.

Offensively, he expanded his shooting range, making more threes per game at a higher rate, up to 38.4 percent from 34.8 percent.

But the most impressive stat of all was his 6.7-to-2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio. Burke improved as a floor general, balancing his scoring with facilitating while keeping the ball secure.

A few question marks have kept Burke from gaining elite status as a prospect. Despite Marcus Smart's return to Oklahoma State, Nerlens Noel's ACL tear and Ben McLemore's uninspiring NCAA tournament, you rarely hear anyone mention Burke as a potential candidate to go No. 1 overall.

Physically, Burke is somewhat underwhelming. He doesn't have that explosiveness that the new wave of point guards seem to have. John Wall, Russell Westbrook, Eric Bledsoe, Derrick Rose—these guys have superstar upside because of their ability to play above the rim.

The position is evolving, and from a physical standpoint, Burke falls on the wrong side of the divider.

At 6'0'', Burke is undersized and isn't much of a high-flier. He's athletic in that he can swoop around defenders and knock down acrobatic, off-balance shots. But finishing at the rim shouldn't have to be an adventure. Sometimes Burke takes a beating when he attacks the basket. The most high-percentage shots he attempts actually come out on the perimeter.

His physical tools don't project strongly on the defensive side of the ball, either.

I'm not saying he won't be successful because of it, but it lowers his upside to NBA scouts.

Because of Burke's physical limitations, his worst-case comparison will be D.J. Augustin of the Indiana Pacers.

For the record, Augustin put up very similar numbers to Burke in his sophomore year. He averaged 19.2 points, 5.8 assists and 38.1 percent shooting from downtown.

And like Burke, D.J. Augustin is also an under-the-rim point guard at just 6'0''. He isn't a guy who's going to attack the rim and score over defenders. He'll beat them with dexterity and touch, a more low-percentage approach.

Augustin has a job today because he's quick off the bounce, crafty with the dribble and can knock down open shots. It actually wasn't too long ago he averaged 14.4 points and 6.1 assists for the Bobcats.

But looking at his full body of work, Augustin has shot below 38.6 percent from the floor in three of his five NBA seasons.

This was a college stud who has struggled to make the transition because of his physical limitations.

If Burke can fight his way around these obstacles, we could be looking at a best-case comparison (at least in terms of value) as Ty Lawson of the Denver Nuggets.

Lawson, like Burke, makes up for his physical limitations with floor-general qualities. He's got the ability to command the offense and control the tempo.

But what really drives their value is their breakdown ability. Both Burke and Lawson have extremely creative handles with sickening stop-to-start quickness. They understand how to manipulate the defense, draw help defenders and find the open man they freed up with the dribble.

These guys are a nightmare to defend off ball screens. Both Burke and Lawson can step up over them and knock down shots off the dribble anywhere from 12-to-26 feet away.

They also have a mean hesitation dribble that keeps defenders on their heels, forcing them to either give up the drive or the pull-up, leaving one of the two open.

But with natural point guard and passing instincts, both are capable of facilitating the pick-and-roll and hitting the screener. They can quarterback the offense in the half-court and set the table for the scorers. This is an area where a guy like Kemba Walker struggles, another potential Burke comparison.

Lawson is deadly in the open floor because of his speed and quickness, which is something Burke will need to take advantage of as well. He might not have the same half-court success rate in the pros that he did in college. Getting out in transition will play to Burke's strengths where a slow pace can expose his weaknesses.

If Burke can convince scouts he's got Ty Lawson upside, than there's no reason he can't be a top-five pick in this year's draft.

However, everything will ultimately depend on the Orlando Magic's logic.

If the lottery plays out the way the odds say it should, the Magic will get the first pick in the draft. And Orlando's biggest need just happens to be a point guard.

Based on fits, it shouldn't be out of the question for Orlando to take Burke No. 1 overall. He's a fairly safe play and fills a need at the point—Burke just lacks the upside of a typical first pick.

If Orlando passes, the next plausible destination could be New Orleans at No. 5, depending how much they value Greivis Vasquez. If not New Orleans, it would be hard to imagine the Sacramento Kings passing at No. 6, though I've seen them do crazier things before. Detroit should also be considered an option if he does get passed six times.

Either way, Burke has put himself in the mix here with some of the top prospects in the country. He should have plenty of suitors in the upper-echelon of this draft.

I'm leaning towards Burke making a Lawson-type impact as a starting point guard in this league. If Orlando took him No. 1 overall in this draft that's filled with uncertainty, I wouldn't knock the pick.


    NBA All-Star Starters, Captains Announced

    NBA logo

    NBA All-Star Starters, Captains Announced

    Alec Nathan
    via Bleacher Report

    Where, When to Catch All-Star Draft Results

    NBA logo

    Where, When to Catch All-Star Draft Results

    Scott Polacek
    via Bleacher Report

    Full All-Star Voting Results

    NBA logo

    Full All-Star Voting Results NBA Communications
    via NBA Communications

    Report: Afflalo Suspended 2 Games for Fighting

    NBA logo

    Report: Afflalo Suspended 2 Games for Fighting

    Adam Wells
    via Bleacher Report