The main objective for the Utah Jazz going into the 2013-14 season was centered around trying to find the pieces that will be with the squad as they continue their rebuilding process. While that state-of-mind basically killed off any playoff aspirations, this 82-game stretch was still extremely important in terms of determining the pieces that will define the Utah Jazz for the new generation.
Even before the 2013-14 season started, that potential franchise-changing core of players were pretty much spoken for. The Kanter/Favors duo would replace the departing Jefferson and Millsap, while Hayward and Burke would help define the perimeter for the near future. While that “core four” has been at center stage for the majority of the season (possible exception being Enes Kanter), former top-15 pick turned 6th man, Alec Burks has been that somewhat hidden diamond in an otherwise rough season.
As Gordon Hayward has been holding onto that starting SG spot, Burks has fit into his role perfectly as Utah’s 6th man. While Burks has always been an extremely solid player, his overall skill-set makes him into an ideal 6th man. As mentioned in a recent piece on the Salt Lake Tribune, Burks makes the majority of his impact on his ability to move past his perimeter defender and cut to the basket. Not only is Burks able to utilize his solid athleticism to move to the paint, he’s able to be effective in terms of finishing around the rim. By utilizing that ability to near perfection, Burks has turned into the atypical high-energy 6th man.
Even though that label isn’t totally ideal for a former 1st-round pick, the 6’6 Burks has the potential to be a transcendent 6th man going forward. While the 22-year-old Burks is still an extremely young player who has yet to reach his prime, he has quickly developed an extremely solid passing instinct for a player at his position. His 17.0 AST% is a pretty solid indication of his overall impact on the reserve and is a pretty solid improvement over the previous season (13.0 AST% in 2012-13).
By utilizing the same traits that has made him into an elite cutter, Burks is able to move the ball around to perimeter players as he’s making his way towards the paint. While he won’t replace Trey Burke or Diante Garrett as Utah’s main distributor, his continued improvement in that aspect of the game should elevate his overall value as a player.
While a top-10 lottery pick is bound to make its way to Salt Lake City, a potential building block could be on his way out. As we stand, starting shooting guard Gordon Hayward could be on his way out via restricted free agency. While the potential of drafting an upper-echelon forward in the lottery would push the team closer to the ultimate goal, it could also push Hayward out the door. The addition of an extremely talented wing alongside the continued improvement of Alec Burks could be enough to push Hayward out of Utah.
While Burks wouldn’t deny the opportunity to take the reigns as Utah’s starting shooting guard, it may not be the best move for the Jazz. As previously mentioned, Burks fits into that 6th man role so well because of how he’s able to control Utah’s offense. His high-energy approach and superb ability to work around the rim is a trait that has become effective because he’s the main ball-handler in the 2nd unit.
Does he have the abilities of a starting NBA shooting guard? Absolutely. However, the jury is still out on how Burks would be able to work as the 3rd or 4th offensive weapon in the starting lineup. Could he be as effective as an off-ball guard in an offense that’s lead by Trey Burke and Derrick Favors as he has been as the featured option off the bench?
That’s the question that will have to be answered to determine the future of Alec Burks with the Utah Jazz.