Can Trey Burke's Return Get the Utah Jazz Back on Track?

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Can Trey Burke's Return Get the Utah Jazz Back on Track?
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Turning around a 2-14 team is a lot to ask of a rookie point guard. Especially when said rookie has essentially done nothing to show that he can make the leap to the NBA.

That's the situation in which Trey Burke and the Utah Jazz find themselves.

Neither the player nor the team was expected to be great or even good this season. Yet, somehow, both are still floundering well short of offseason expectations.

The Jazz aren't just bad, they're historically bad. In NBA history, there have been three teams that have averaged less than 89 points per game while giving up more than 99: the 1997-98 Denver Nuggets, the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats and the 2013-14 Utah Jazz.

Fernando Medina/Getty Images

Sadly, Burke hasn't been much better. In the summer league, against NBA hopefuls, Burke averaged 8.8 points while shooting 24.1 percent from the field. In the preseason, that percentage skyrocketed to a whopping 30. Now in the regular season, Burke is shooting 33.3 percent in his four appearances.

I guess the progress is at least a little promising. However, if you actually watch the Jazz play and don't scratch your head over Burke's shot selection, you're probably more forgiving than you should be.

All the pre-draft worries that surrounded Burke are coming to life and haunting the Jazz like the zombies on The Walking Dead.

At 6'1", Burke is slightly undersized for an NBA point guard. That becomes painfully evident when he makes it to the rim on drives. Around big men at this level, he's almost entirely incapable of getting a clean look. Heck, even against Kirk Hinrich Monday night, he was often unable to finish.

On top of that, it's pretty tough for him to get to the rim in the first place. Because he lacks top-flight explosiveness, Burke's drives are often cut off shortly after they begin. When that happens, he throws up a contested jump shot rather than reverse the ball to the other side.

As a result, Burke has taken twice as many shots outside of eight feet (28) as he has within that range (14), and he's just 7-of-28 on those attempts.

NBA.com

Maybe this is all overly critical, but the facts are the facts.

Not to say that Burke can't improve. Obviously, he can. Experts and analysts who've never played basketball at the highest level putting an arbitrary cap on a player's potential is one of the silliest things in sports.

But right now, to expect him to lift this team (or vice versa) seems like a pretty big stretch.

It's going to take more than any one player to get the Jazz on track. In fact, it would take all of them—playing to their specific individual strengths.

Right now, few, if any Jazz players are doing that. And that's a coaching thing.

Gordon Hayward is not a No. 1 scoring option. They've tried it out, and it's not working. As the primary scorer, Hayward is posting career lows in both field-goal (38.8) and three-point percentage (30.8).

The other 2013-14 Hayward experiment is working though. As a distributor, he's excellent. Hayward has topped 10 assists three times this season, and the Jazz are 2-1 in those games.

He needs to focus more on creating for others and get his field-goal attempts down to around 10-11 a game like last season.

Can Trey Burke get the Utah Jazz back on track?

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Derrick Favors needs to focus on rebounding and defense and take his offense as it comes to him through offensive rebounds, running the floor and general hustle—much like Kenneth Faried or Jordan Hill.

Enes Kanter is one of the only guys who is playing to his strengths. He's the most skilled and consistent scorer on the team. He just needs the ball more.

Right now, he's having to get a big chunk of his offense by attacking the boards. He's 10th in the NBA in second-chance points at 3.9 a game. But when he does get the ball in traditional post-ups, he's effective. He has great touch on his mid-range jump shot and excellent footwork around the rim.

As for Burke, there really is no telling what his biggest strength is at this level. He hasn't flashed it yet.

Once he does, it will only be part of the equation.

 

All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference or NBA.com unless otherwise noted, and are current as of Nov. 26, 2013.

For 140-character pearls of wisdom from Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey, follow him on Twitter: @AndrewDBailey. 

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