Trey Burke's Growing Pains a Stepping Stone Toward Unlocking Potential

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterDecember 25, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 20:  Trey Burke #3 of the Utah Jazz walks off the court during a timeout in the game against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on December 20, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There was a lot of debate surrounding Trey Burke as a prospect out of college. To some, he was the National Player of the Year and kid who just led Michigan to the Final Four. To others, he was an undersized and physically outmatched NBA prospect. 

The Orlando Magic, New Orleans Pelicans, Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings—teams who could have used point guards at the timeall passed on him in the draft.

It seemed as if Burke's stock took a dive following last year's NBA combine, where his athletic test results disappointed. But you didn't need an athletic test to recognize Burke lacked the above-the-rim explosiveness that typically drives NBA upside. 

And that inability to activate the extra gear could limit his easy baskets.  

It's contributed a bit to his inconsistency early on, as Burke hasn't been able to pick up many uncontested buckets at the rim. If he had one weakness at the college level, it was finishing in traffic. And so far in the pros, that's been his toughest challenge early on. 

Burke is just 35-of-77 in the paint for 45 percent—below the league average.

But this is an area he can grow in. 

A lack of sharp physical tools hasn't stopped guys like Tony Parker or Chris Paul from registering above league average in terms of finishing percentage in the paint.  

There's going to be a lot of trial and error with Burke over the next few years—like recognizing when to float it or take it strong and how to draw a foul. Adjusting to the new size and length of the defense is going to take some experimenting.

Via Dawk Ins

But in Utah, where he'll have an endless leash and minimal pressure, Burke appears to be in a promising position to develop.

"I feel like I’m in the right spot," Burke told Aaron Folk of the Salt Lake Tribune said. "We have a growing team. We’re really young. I feel like we’re going in the right direction."

Fundamentally speaking, Burke certainly has the skill set and confidence to eventually thrive as a quality starter.

At Michigan, he sported one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the country. Through 19 games with the Jazz, he currently ranks No. 6 in the league in that department. Burke has a good command of the offense, and he runs the pick-and-roll like a pro. 

He's a natural point guard out there, with the ability to think pass-first, as well as facilitate for teammates. Check out Burke's vision on this pick-and-roll at the top of the arc:

Via Dawk Ins

Dawk Ins

Dawk Ins

Dawk Ins

A pure shooter, his pull-up jumper has been a major weapon for him at both levels. Burke's ability to stop and pop off the dribble has helped make up for his lack of explosiveness towards the rim, as he's able to get more balanced looks in the mid-range than he is recklessly challenging interior defenders.

Via Fox Sports

Burke has an NBA-caliber game—it's just going to take some time for him to figure out how to compensate for his limitations.

He's averaging 13.5 points, 4.9 assists and 3.4 boards on 39 percent shooting and 35 percent from downtown. His field-goal percentage is the obvious blemish here, which relates directly to his trouble identifying good scoring chances from tough ones, as well as picking up easy buckets in the half court. 

But these are standard hurdles and struggles for 21-year-old starting point guards. 

Expect some growing pains along the way—just don't let them change your perception regarding his future NBA outlook. I'd put my money on Burke evolving into a solid floor general for the Jazz by his third year or so in the league.