The Utah Jazz took SG Alec Burks with the 12th pick in the first round of the 2011 NBA draft in an effort to bring in some athleticism to the guard position that pretty much went to the wayside with the trade of Deron Williams.
The expectation from fans is that maybe this kid could push his way into the 2-guard spot that is such a glaring weakness on this team. The current strike is derailing those hopes.
Longing for the Days of Jeff Hornacek
The Jazz haven't had a true outside shooting threat at that spot since the days of Jeff Hornacek, who forced teams to come out to the perimeter because of his deadly outside touch and accuracy. Hornacek's defense was underrated as well; he was never a liability until his knees went south.
As it now stands, nobody on the Jazz really brings that quality to the position, and in fact, Raja Bell is the only true SG on the current roster. Bell was a great defender and three-point shooter in his first tour with the Jazz, but he's on the back nine of his career teeing off on 17. Enter Alec Burks.
What Alec Burks Brings to the Jazz
Burks has good height (6'6") for the position but could bulk up from 193 lbs for the strength of his game, which is attacking the rim. He is an athletic freak with a nearly seven-foot wingspan. He's a solid free-throw shooter (82 percent) who gets to the line (7.9 times a game last year). He is outstanding at creating his own shot.
What should Jazz fans expect from Alec Burks this season?
His biggest weakness is his outside game, where he shot under 30 percent from three-point land last year and has a career 31 percent average. This is where the Jazz could use a big improvement in his game.
Raja Bell, at age 35, brings experience and smarts to the game and still plays fairly solid defense, but my gut says the only thing that saves him from coming off the bench is the strike. This team is in overdrive on a youth movement, and Burks has an opportunity to be a key addition to that end.
No training camp or preseason definitely hurts Burks' opportunity to get going with this team. Burks only brings two years of college experience with him to the pro game, but his athleticism and aggressiveness around the rim (he's also a solid rebounder) are hard to ignore.
What the Jazz Will Do with the Guard Position
If and when this season begins, Jazz fans should expect to see coach Ty Corbin experiment with a rotation of Devin Harris, Earl Watson, Raja Bell and Ronnie Price while swinging Gordon Hayward between the 2- and 3-spots (depending on matchups) to get an outside game going.
If we get a chance to see Burks in spurts, like beanpole Jeremy Evans who always does something that wows the fans when he gets his chance, expect Burks to do some things that will get fans excited on the offensive side of the ball that we won't see with Raja Bell at the 2-spot.
There won't be much of a defensive drop-off given Bell's age, except maybe with smaller quicker guards, but look for the Jazz big men to pick up those guards that might sneak by an Alec Burks. Otherwise, this kid has a lot of potential, especially if he can get a more technically sound jump shot and an outside game going. The key will be: How quickly can he pick up the offense, and at what pace will Ty Corbin bring him along?
Because of the strike, Jazz fans should expect to see Burks in snippets unless injuries mount up, as they will bring him along slowly without having had training camp or preseason. If he picks up the offense fairly quickly, he could push for more playing time than just a couple of minutes a game. One thing that helps him as opposed to Evans is there isn't near the talent or depth in front of Burks on the current roster as there is in front of Evans.
Be patient, Jazz fans. The youth movement is in full swing, and if all goes well, Alec Burks will have a big role in it somewhere down the road.