Sunday, July 7 marked the NBA Summer League debut of Utah Jazz rookie point guard Trey Burke. One of the most highly regarded prospects in the NBA, Burke had eyes glued to him as he looked to make a strong first impression.
While it may not have been the most memorable outing, Burke overcame a poor shooting performance to display his versatility.
Burke played 32 minutes and 12 seconds in his debut, finishing with eight points, seven rebounds, five assists and a steal. Unfortunately, Burke also shot 1-of-12 from the field and 0-of-4 from beyond three-point range.
A well-rounded statistical output marred by the inconsistencies of Burke's jumper.
Even still, Burke was effective.
Burke wasn't bound by his poor shooting, but it instead motivated him to contribute in other areas. No one in their right mind would tell you that his performance was strong, but it displayed one very important truth.
Even when his jumper falters, the rookie point guard is capable of stepping up in the clutch.
Burke was selected No. 9 overall in the 2013 NBA draft, as the Minnesota Timberwolves added to their deepest position. Within moments, trade rumors commenced, talks soon followed and Burke ended up as a member of the Utah Jazz.
Even as he struggled in his Summer League debut, Burke showed why he's the draft's most prized point guard.
Burke is one of the most efficient players in the nation, which suggests that these performances will be few and far between. When Burke struggles to score, however, he proved that there are other areas of his game worth noting.
Specifically his ability to thrive as a playmaker.
Burke is one of the nation's most revered open-court distributors, as he thrives in getting out in transition and finding slashing teammates. In the half court, Burke thrives in running the pick-and-roll and hitting the dive man.
He did just that in his Summer League debut.
Improving Defensive Range
As poorly as Trey Burke performed as a scorer, he did an equally impressive job as a defender. While on-ball and team defense have never been his strong suit, Burke put on quite a dazzling show on that end.
Matched up against another top college point guard, Myck Kabongo, Burke forced turnovers and routinely closed out shooters in an ideal manner.
Burke stands at 6'1", but he's proved more than capable of using his 6'6" wingspan as means for defensive range. While he'll never be amongst the NBA's best ball hawks, his ability to remain in front of his man is a valuable trait.
So much so that his offensive production is of little relevance to his ability to put on a strong performance.
Against Kabongo, Burke displayed flawless footwork as he played the pick-and-roll. By using his length to cut off the passing lanes, he forced Kabongo to become a jump shooter, thus resulting in an 0-of-4 shooting performance.
When you shoot poorly and hold your opponent to an equally as disappointing performance, you're doing well.
Taking Care of the Basketball
During the 2012-13 college basketball season, the Michigan Wolverines were the most responsible team in the nation, ranking No. 1 in turnovers committed per game. At the heart of that efficiency was Burke, who posted a usage rating of 28.3 percent.
Burke proceeded to lead the nation in win shares and thus become the consensus National Player of the Year.
Burke isn't just a decorated college player, but an intelligent point guard who knows how to manage a game. Even as his shot failed to fall during his Summer League debut, Burke committed just two turnovers.
A shockingly low number in Summer League action.
In future games, Burke will only be as effective as his jump shot permits. He's a reliable player with upside as a defender and efficiency as a facilitator, thus making Burke one of the most attractive prospects in the NBA.
Regardless of what the numbers may tell you, his Summer League debut was a step in the right direction.
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