How Utah Jazz Can Ensure Trey Burke Is Ready As Starting Point Guard

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistJuly 16, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 27:  Trey Burke (R) of Michigan poses for a photo with NBA Commissioner David Stern after Burke was drafted #9 overall in the first round by the Minnesota Timberwolves during the 2013 NBA Draft at Barclays Center on June 27, 2013 in in the Brooklyn Borough of New York City.  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 Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

It looks like the Utah Jazz's 2013 lottery pick Trey Burke has a lot of work to do between now and the start of the regular season.

His dismal performance at the Orlando Summer League showed it may take a bit longer for Burke to adjust to the NBA than many had hoped.

Jazz fans and executives were rightfully excited when the team made a draft-night deal to acquire the 2013 National Player of the Year from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

But the honeymoon phase ended pretty quickly when Burke posted four-game averages of 4.0 assists and 8.8 points on 24 percent shooting (including 1-of-19 from three-point range) against NBA hopefuls in Orlando.

Obviously, the summer league isn't a surefire projection of how a player will fare in the regular season. But as with any scrimmage, these games show where improvements can be made.

And for Burke, it looks like timing is where he can make the most improvement.

In a recent chat on ESPN, the young point guard talked about the different pace in the NBA, saying, "Things were a bit quicker. The guys were quicker. And the shot clock. That's a big difference. Everything has to be quick so you get a shot off in time."

Burke's struggles with the speed of the NBA game were on display in Orlando. He often looked hurried and took a number of tough shots because of it.

Trial by fire may be the best way for Utah to address this problem.

It's tough to classify any rookie point guard as "ready" to be a starter from the first tip of the regular season. But if Burke learns from mistakes early in the season and adjusts to the faster pace, he can be ready by the All-Star break.

Starting him from the get-go could either accelerate the learning process or prove to be a confidence-crushing setback.

Burke has shown enough strengths over the last year (summer league included) to suggest that it will be the former.

Playing less than 30 minutes a game, he still averaged a respectable 4.0 assists and 3.5 rebounds, while limiting his turnovers to 2.2.

And let's not allow four exhibition games in the middle of July cause us to forget the way Burke torched not only Big Ten defenses but just about everyone he faced last year. He averaged 18.6 points and 6.7 assists while hitting 46 percent from the field.

His shooting woes were cause for concern, but not enough to suggest he can't break out of the slump. In the same ESPN chat, Burke blamed his flat shot on not having his legs under him. Getting in shape during training camp should take care of that. And there isn't a single player in the NBA who can claim to have never had a shooting slump.

In addition to throwing him to the wolves and hoping he emerges in one piece, Utah can help Burke by entrusting a couple veterans with more responsibility this year.

Gordon Hayward was fourth on the Jazz in assist percentage last year (behind the team's three point guards) and has averaged over three a night each of the last two seasons. It may not fit into a pick-and-roll-heavy offense right now, but Hayward has the size, vision and handles to play a little point forward.

Alec Burks could also take some pressure off the rookie Burke, as he logged some minutes at point guard last year and should have a bigger role this season after the departure of Randy Foye.

Taking Burke off the ball should only be done occasionally, but could help ease the transition for the former Michigan Wolverine.

Ultimately, it's just going to take time. Very few prospects are truly NBA-ready before ever playing in the league. Burke may not be one of those rarities, but that's OK. He's on a young team and should be given plenty of time and opportunities to grow and adjust to the speed of the NBA and the responsibility of being a starting point guard at basketball's highest level.


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