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Turns out Trey Burke Can Be a Good NBA Point Guard After All

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Turns out Trey Burke Can Be a Good NBA Point Guard After All
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Progress is progress. Even if it's painstakingly slow.

And after months of sharing nothing but my doubts about the Utah Jazz's Trey Burke, the gradual progress he's shown in the last couple weeks is difficult to ignore.

The initial pessimism toward Burke was founded in some pretty startling evidence. And he hasn't completely shaken the demons yet.

Even still, that painstakingly slow progress is pointing toward a future that could one day make the ugly present a distant memory.

Right now, Burke's shooting is bad. And that's been the cause of a lot of the worry and criticism since the NBA Summer League. In four games at the beginning of July, he shot 24.1 percent from the field against fellow rookies and NBA hopefuls.

But you can't judge someone on a Summer League performance, right?

So everyone waited patiently for the preseason. Unfortunately, things didn't get much better. Before suffering a broken hand, Burke averaged seven points while shooting 30 percent from the field.

But now, a quarter of the way through the regular season, things are starting to turn around.

He's averaging 12.9 points and 4.2 assists while shooting 37.6 percent from the field. Obviously, the shooting is still bad, but we'll get to that later.

Let's focus first on the good things.

Overall, Utah is 4-19 (.174), but they're 3-6 (.333) with Burke as the starting point guard. Not a winning record, but the percentage is twice as good.

And the numbers overall in the last nine have been better: 

Burke's Impact
Points per Game Turnovers per Game FG% 3P% +/-
First 14 Games 89.6 17.8 42 29.8 -11.6
Last Nine Games 96 14.7 44.3 37.7 -8.3

NBA.com/stats

Burke doesn't deserve all the credit for the improvement, but the difference in having an actual 1 has been obvious.

Before Burke came back from injury, coach Tyrone Corbin had gone with John Lucas III (an inefficient shooting guard in an undersized point guard's body) and a shell of Jamaal Tinsley.

Combined, those two shot 31.8 percent from the field. Lucas has averaged 1.6 assists per game. Utah wasn't just without a floor general; they had a gaping hole at the position.

So, the upgrade to Burke has been a big one, even with the bad shooting. If he can get that under control, he has a chance at a bright future.

Right now, he's taking the same shots he did in college as if defenders aren't better at this level. He's unable to separate for jump shots or get to the rim as frequently against more athletic competition. And on the occasions he does get to the rim, the forwards and centers awaiting him are much bigger and more explosive.

That has led to Burke taking a bunch of contested shots, and the results have not been pretty.

NBA.com/stats

In case you were wondering, the red means the percentage in that spot is below the league average. Fixing those percentages could be as simple as cutting out the bad looks.

Burke needs to make a concerted effort to improve his shot selection, and I have a tip: Generally, if there's a bigger guy directly in front of you, it's not a good shot.

As a point guard, Burke needs to be probing the defense and looking for opportunities to distribute. If a wide-open look presents itself, then by all means, take it. Otherwise, pass first.

Two or three fewer shot attempts and two or three more assists per game is the kind of progress that would benefit everyone. But getting there is going to take time. 

 

All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference or NBA.com unless otherwise noted, and are current as of Dec. 10, 2013.

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

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