Hope soared among fans when the Utah Jazz traded up to procure Trey Burke in the 2013 draft, perhaps higher than at any time since the Stockton and Malone era. Even the drafting of Deron Williams failed to achieve such unanimous celebration among fans; then, a sizable contingent preferred Chris Paul (understandably). Enes Kanter was a Turkish mystery man; fans booed Gordon Hayward. But near-unanimity held that Trey Burke was the guy the Jazz need at the time they need him.
It’s a lot to live up to for a 20 year old who could well be preparing for his junior year in college right now. Can Trey Burke really fill the shoes once worn by John Stockton and Deron Williams?
Some are beginning to doubt after a rough Summer League for the young point guard, where he shot 13 of 54 (24%) in 4 games. It is a mistake to put too much stock in these early returns, though. Burke got his first taste of the NBA game, with new teammates and a new system, and it appeared he was somewhat out of shape following a summer of measured workouts for teams. (Even Burke admitted afterward he didn’t quite have his legs.) With time to adjust and get into professional game shape, Burke will play much better.
Whether he lives up to the ecstasy he created on draft night is another matter. Can he possibly measure up to the hope he engendered? The answer to that question will depend a great deal on just how much fans demand of him. So what might be a reasonable expectation? If he does develop into this draft’s best at his position, then maybe examining his predecessors in previous drafts will be instructive. How do his measurables compare to the best point guards from the past ten drafts?
|Name||Yrs||Age Drafted||Height w/o Shoes||Weight||Wingspan||Standing Reach|
|Name||No Step Vert||Max Vert||Bench Press||Lane Agil||3/4 Court Sprint|
Is Burke clearly out of his physical class in this company? Not really.
His body is very close to the average, lacking only a single inch in height and wingspan, carrying two additional pounds, and with an identical standing reach. He hits the average exactly with his age as well, meaning he fits perfectly with this population of players in terms of physical development when they were drafted. According to this, his deficiencies of stature are minor, a matter of a single inch here and there; elsewhere, they are non-existent.
Burke is one of the shorter and less rangy players in this population, but he clearly belongs in this company physically. Athletically, however, he measures up a little less competitively.
He shows well when it comes to speed, which is odd considering this is the greatest criticism leveled at him other than his height. His lane agility was very slightly slower than the average, while his sprint time is actually a sliver faster. Anyone who tests as more agile than Mike Conley and faster than Chris Paul – and Trey Burke did – has enough speed to succeed in the NBA.
Where Burke may be at a disadvantage is in his leaping ability and, particularly, his strength. His verticals are good but still place him second to worst in this population of measured players. Burke’s good, but not stellar, jumping ability combined with his height sometimes will make it more difficult for him to get his shot off than some of these other players, but I suspect the disadvantage will be minimal once he adjusts to the NBA game. After all, Burke compensates for his vulnerabilities by possessing arguably the most fundamentally sound and skilled game of all these players coming out of college. I see his jumping ability as easily good enough to succeed in the NBA when combined with his refined offensive skill.
His strength is a greater concern. The three reps he put up on the bench press are easily the fewest among this population of measured players, and I do suspect that small guards like Chris Paul and Mike Conley are substantially stronger than Burke is currently. He will likely struggle against aggressive, strong, and physical guards in the NBA, especially if he doesn’t improve his own strength. Deron Williams will be a tough matchup for him, for example; Baron Davis in his prime would have been a nightmare.
That said, Burke’s solid weight of 187 lbs suggests his frame can support some muscle, and I believe he will get stronger. Plus, the bench press may be the single least helpful measurement in all of basketball assessment. Kevin Durant couldn’t put up a single rep when he entered the league, and he’s done pretty well for himself.
In sum, Trey Burke measures as average in most ways and a little below average in a few when physically compared to the top point guards from the past ten drafts. He certainly doesn’t look out of his league against these players, which suggests that the production they have generated as professionals should be a realistic general expectation for Burke. That production is outlined in the charts below. I’ve used per-36-minute numbers to try to create a more even comparison, so actual production projects as slightly less or more than this depending on actual minutes played.
So… what does this all mean?
Well, truth is, it suggests in an average season (not his rookie season, necessarily) Burke would score slightly more (+0.7 points) and assist slightly better (+1.1 assists) on exactly the same number of shots per game taken by Mo Williams this last season. His efficiency would be similar, as would his assist percentage, and he’d have a slightly higher usage. He’d be a little better on the boards and on defense, but not much.
All in all, the numbers suggest in an average year Burke would produce slightly better across the board than Mo Williams did for the Jazz last season. That isn’t exactly what many Jazz fans would consider hope they can believe in.
Other perspectives on this data are more encouraging, such as which players have put up this type of season in the past.
Assuming Burke were to generate 16-17 points and 6-7 assists per 36 minutes of game play early in his career, which I think is a reasonable hope, he would join the following list of players who have seasons with that per-36-minute production to their name: Andre Miller (age 32), Dave Bing (32), Mahdi Abdul-Rahman (28), Stephon Marbury (28), Kirk Hinrich (26), Gary Patyon (25), Ty Lawson (24), and Derrick Rose (20).
That’s a pretty good list of players, particularly the players who reached that 16-17 and 6-7 area early in their career. If Burke’s per-36-minute numbers in his first few seasons put him near a class with young Derrick Rose, Ty Lawson, and Gary Payton, I would find that very encouraging.
Another encouraging tidbit: seven of the ten on this list have made at least one All-Star game. Those who haven’t are Damian Lillard, John Wall, and Mike Conley. Not too bad for also-rans. If Burke really is the cream of his class at his position, the odds suggest he will make an All-Star team at some point in his career.
These statistics are rough tools, at best. But that’s one bright side of carrying the weight of a franchise’s future on your shoulders at only twenty: you still have a long way to go in who you become in order to carry the load. It’s far too early to declare for certain, but I’m not afraid to hope that Burke will be the name that succeeds Green-Stockton-Williams in Jazz history.