Checklist for No. 9 Draft Pick Trey Burke to Thrive with Utah Jazz
Trey Burke can already check one item off the list of what he needs to be successful as a rookie. He's going to a team where there's a legitimate need at his position.
Perhaps more than anyone else taken in the 2013 draft, Burke will have a chance to play significant minutes immediately.
Utah had three veteran point guards in their rotation last year (Mo Williams, Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley), but not even Williams could solidify his status as a long-term starter, and all three are free agents this summer.
Burke was the 2013 National Player of the Year and the first point guard taken in the draft. He has a great chance to be the fifth point guard to win the NBA's Rookie of the Year in the last six seasons.
But obviously, that level of success isn't a given.
Going to a situation in which he'll play immediately isn't the only item on Burke's checklist for success. The 6'1" guard needs to improve his defensive intensity, shooting range and leadership ability as well.
This is a tough concept to define for an individual player, because so much of what happens on defense doesn't show up on a stat sheet.
So, judging a defender often comes down to the "eye test." And while Burke never failed that test, he also didn't ace it.
The reasons cited included a lack of elite athleticism and size. Burke is 6'1" with a 37-inch vertical. Those credentials were fine in college, but he may struggle against players like Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook.
Some of the same things were said of Kyrie Irving, and while he hasn't been a standout defensively, he gets by.
Burke will be fine if he plays team defense and uses his length (6'6"-inch wingspan) to cover up his deficiencies in size and athleticism.
According to DraftExpress, nearly half of Burke's field-goal attempts last season were pull-up jumpers. He averaged one point per shot on those attempts. That is a great conversion rate for Burke's main offensive weapon.
While his pull-up was great in college, he still needs to add a little range. The obvious reason is that the NBA three-point line is deeper.
The more subtle reason is that Burke was just an average finisher at the rim last year (barely over one point per shot). Things are only going to get more difficult in there against NBA big men. That pull-up needs to become enough of a weapon that defenders have to respect it no matter where he is.
One of the reasons Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry can get to the basket is the guys guarding them respect their jump shot to the point they cannot give any cushion on the perimeter, making it easier to blow by with a quick first step.
If Burke has that dimension in his game, it will open up those same kinds of driving lanes.
This is perhaps even harder to define than individual defense. There's really no stat that can accurately gauge how effective a player is at leading. Again, you just have to watch.
And anyone who watched Trey Burke in the 2013 NCAA Tournament knows his leadership helped the Michigan Wolverines get all the way to the championship game.
But there's a difference between leading fellow college students and leading NBA veterans. The Jazz are a young team, but every other player on the roster (with the exception of fellow rookie Rudy Gobert) has more experience than their incoming point guard.
All signs are pointing toward Burke starting from the get go. He's a top-10 pick on a team where everyone who played his position is a free agent. And he plays a position where he's expected to lead.
There's no room for timidness. If Burke plays aggressively and asserts himself on both ends of the floor, his teammates will naturally follow him.
He was one of the most talented and productive players in the nation last year. If he plays with intensity on defense, adds range to his already effective jump shot and leads his teammates with confidence, he'll be able to thrive with the Utah Jazz as a rookie.
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