Focusing on FTr: Alec Burks and Trey Burke

July 29th, 2014 | by Laura Thompson


Rocky Widner - NBAE via Getty Images

Rocky Widner – NBAE via Getty Images

I was looking at some stats for the team, and what stood out to me was the discrepancy between Trey Burke’s free-throw rate (.126) and Alec Burks’ (.449). Burks has a FTr1 better than 3.5x that of Burke’s. I don’t mean to harp on Burke entirely on this one, but I think noticing the discrepancy illustrates both what makes Alec Burks unique—and potentially elite in one area—and how improvement in this area could elevate a young-and-improving Trey Burke from a below-average starting point guard (according to Hollinger’s PER ratings, he’s 52 of 712) to what could be an average to above-average starting point guard.


1 Gordon Hayward 23 2800 16.2 .520 .454 .369 .271 2.5 14.0 8.0 24.1 2.1 15.0 23.1
2 Trey Burke 21 2262 12.6 .473 .442 .126 .375 1.8 9.0 5.3 29.4 1.0 12.2 21.8
3 Richard Jefferson 33 2213 11.8 .573 .544 .248 .460 0.9 10.8 5.7 9.6 1.3 11.5 16.9
4 Derrick Favors 22 2201 19.0 .556 .522 .380 .001 10.1 23.7 16.7 7.3 1.8 12.9 20.8
5 Alec Burks 22 2193 15.8 .547 .487 .449 .172 3.0 10.7 6.8 16.9 1.7 13.0 23.9
6 Enes Kanter 21 2138 15.6 .523 .491 .239 .001 11.6 20.9 16.1 6.4 0.7 13.3 23.3
7 Marvin Williams 27 1674 14.0 .540 .519 .139 .445 5.5 17.9 11.5 7.7 1.7 8.7 16.7
8 Jeremy Evans 26 1209 16.2 .549 .527 .226 .006 11.1 18.7 14.8 6.1 1.8 9.9 15.3
9 Diante Garrett 25 1048 7.1 .459 .449 .045 .362 1.2 9.8 5.3 17.6 2.1 21.7 15.1
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/27/2014.


So let’s look at some numbers and comparisons and see where each player stands.

One of the things that was so tantalizing about Alec Burks’ game his rookie season was his ability to get to the line—a skill very few rookies have to that degree. His FTr in his first season was .401, which was third on the team that year behind Enes Kanter (.445) and Derrick Favors (.436). 3


Season Age Tm Lg Pos G MP PER TS% eFG% FTr
2011-12 20 UTA NBA SG 59 939 14.0 .506 .450 .401
2012-13 21 UTA NBA SG 64 1137 11.5 .507 .463 .332
2013-14 22 UTA NBA SG 78 2193 15.8 .547 .487 .449
Career NBA 201 4269 14.2 .528 .473 .409
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/29/2014.


How did that FTr compare to other rookies in previous years? I was curious what superstars had as their FTr their rookie seasons: Burks’ .401 FTr was higher than Carmelo Anthony, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James. Of the superstars I looked through, only Kevin Love had a higher FTr than Alec Burks in his rookie season.


Rk Player Season Age G MP PER TS% eFG% FTr
1 Carmelo Anthony 2003-04 19 82 2995 17.6 .509 .449 .358
2 Alec Burks 2011-12 20 59 939 14.0 .506 .450 .401
3 Anthony Davis 2012-13 19 64 1846 21.7 .559 .516 .333
4 Kevin Durant 2007-08 19 80 2768 15.8 .519 .451 .328
5 LeBron James 2003-04 19 79 3122 18.3 .488 .438 .308
6 Kevin Love 2008-09 20 81 2048 18.3 .538 .461 .488
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/27/2014.


Interestingly, Burks’ FTr dipped to a mere-mortal .332 in his sophomore season, possibly because opposing teams knew more what to expect, and also possibly because he was sometimes tasked at the PG position.  But that doesn’t explain how he was able to increase his FTr in his third season to an incredible .449. Given the improvement he made in his game last season, I’m intrigued to see what his FTr will be in 2014. With a new-and-improved offensive system and better spacing, will Burks be given the green line to attack the rim with reckless abandon? Burks has an elite skill in his ability to get to the line; what if he became the best in league in that area?

So what about Trey Burke? He had a very solid season for a rookie point guard, especially considering he broke his index finger in the preseason. We saw how much better the team was with him running the show instead of JLIII or Tinsley. We saw how careful he was with the ball (very low turnover rate). We saw how clutch he could be. But looking at his stats, his FTr is incredibly low. If he were a poor free-throw shooter, that might be a more understandable statistic, but given that he shot 90.3% from the line last year, why not attack the basket a bit more and make the opposing team pay for it by sinking the free throws?


Rk Player Season Age G MP PER TS% eFG% FTr 3PAr
1 Trey Burke 2013-14 21 70 2262 12.6 .473 .442 .126 .375
2 Stephen Curry 2013-14 25 78 2846 24.1 .610 .566 .252 .445
3 Goran Dragic 2013-14 27 76 2668 21.4 .604 .561 .381 .274
4 Tony Parker 2013-14 31 68 1997 18.9 .555 .513 .266 .073
5 Chris Paul 2013-14 28 62 2171 25.9 .580 .511 .397 .244
6 Russell Westbrook 2013-14 25 46 1412 24.7 .545 .480 .370 .271
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/29/2014.


Admittedly, the numbers above compare Trey’s rookie season numbers to star point guard’s numbers. But I think it’s instructive to show how much an increase in FTr and TS% (which will be bumped up by an increased FTr assuming his FT% stays stellar) could go a long way in helping Trey become a much better point guard. Chris Paul, someone to whom Trey was (unfairly) compared before entering the league, has a similar build and speed to Trey, but has learned how to use his body, how to use angles, and how to use his craftiness in order to get to the line, at more than three times the rate as Burke. Steph Curry has a FTr exactly twice that of Burke, while shooting almost nearly as well from the line (88.5%). What’s impressive about that is Curry takes nearly eight three pointers a game; he spends a lot of his time outside the arc, yet still gets to the line a decent amount. Dragic also went to the line at a rate three times that of Burke, which also helped contribute to his excellent TS% (60.4%). Of the star point guards here, Tony Parker had the lowest FTr at .266, which is still more than twice that of Trey’s. Russell Westbrook, considered a top point guard by Hollinger’s PER, had a FTr nearly three times that of Burke.

This is one area in which Trey could improve pretty quickly and fairly easily. He has the handle, he has enough speed and a quick-enough first step; I’ll be interested if he can develop a craftiness and some hesitation moves, a la Chris Paul, that enable to him to throw defenders off just a split second, enough to get them to foul him. Even though it’s nitpicking one stat, I think it’s one stat which, if improved, can dramatically improve other areas of his game. And with a new coach and a new offensive system, I think it’s very possible.

Laura Thompson

Laura Thompson

Laura was a Jazz fan since diapers, even growing up in California. Her favorite things in life are the Utah Jazz, food (whether cooking or consumption of), reading, church, black Labs, and the beach--though possibly not in that order.
Laura Thompson

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  1. LKA says:

    I think way too much was expected of Trey in his rookie season.. With a much better coach, let the guys who should start, do so, much better bench, and the idea that two older vetzz start because I say so I think you will see a much better team all the way around.. Last years stats should be thrown out and never be brought up again..

  2. IDJazzman says:

    Good article and analysis. I think there could be a few reasons to explain the low rate of going to the line for Trey. One, he takes care of the ball, turn overs occur at a higher rate when attacking the basket, but that is when a player draws fouls at the highest rate. Trey simply is not attacking the rim, hence a low turnover rate. I don’t think Trey has been attacking the rim for a number of reasons. One, rookie and lacks the confidence. Two, he is careful with the ball, needs to learn to be more aggressive. Three, last year’s system the middle was almost always clogged, especially from the top. Four, he really did try to fill the PG responsiblities and looked for others to feed the ball to. I look to see Trey improve a lot under the new system. Comparing him to Burks might not be fair. The Jazz truly do have an elite player in Alec’s ability to get to the rim.

    • cw says:

      Trey doesn’t attack the rim for athletic reasons. He’s too slow to get around his guy most of the time. Plus he’s pretty unexplosive, so he’s unlikely to make many shots and this seems like this prevents him from actually attacking. But you don’t have to make a lot of your shots at the rim to get fouled as evidenced by Gordon Hayward. He is a similar type athlete. Never going to make a lot of lay-ups but goes to the rack enough that he has a decent foul rate.

      Having a pg who can’t get to the rack is a huge drawback. Trey has some good qualities but so far it seems like this draft pick was a mistake for Dennis Lindsey.

      • da ThRONe says:

        Lindsey’s only proven mistake was retaining Tyrone Corbin one season too long.

        Burke is a slightly above average PG, but again so is Paul which is part of the reason he drew those comparisons. Burke lack of attacking was far more the system IMO than his lack of abilities. On Trey’s part he has to shoot better, but in a better system (which I think Snyder will provide) I think you see all of Burke’s stats especially his efficiency sky rocket.

  3. da ThRONe says:

    The one thing that jumps out was his insanely high rate of 3pt shooting considering his poor 3pt%’s. Clearly he settled for far too many 3’s.

    Trey has to be able to attack the defenses early. Like mentioned in the article he’s more in line with Kyle Lowry or Chris Paul athletically so he’s he needs option when he drives. Far too often under Corbin Trey would bring the ball up only to give it to Hayward. Gordon would initiate the offense and when the play failed the ball would find Burke late in the shot clock where Trey would settle for a 3.

  4. Rosscoach says:

    I’m excited about this team. With a starting back court of Trey Burke, Alec Burks and Hayward on the wings they should have the scoring they need. I won’t read too much
    into Burke’s rookie year, he should learn a lot competing with Team USA and come back even better in his Sophomore year. Alec Burks should get a
    good look in the starting lineup as well. He has a nice game and deserves a chance to shine, I also think having another scorer next to Hayward should allow
    Gordon to thrive in the other areas of his game instead of having to create every time.

  5. Clint Johnson says:

    Great piece, Laura. If the summer league can project anything about the regular season, I expect Burke to get to the line more. He didn’t shoot well once again in summer league, but this year, unlike last, he adapted when his shot wasn’t falling by attacking the hoop much more regularly. He finished a number of shots inside and got to the line a few times. I don’t know that it will be a drastic difference, but I think he will improve.

    As for Burks, I hope they make him the first perimeter option and let Hayward play as a playmaker and off-the ball, cutting, spot up scorer. I think it would maximize the effectiveness of both their games.

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