Quincy Lewis, DeShawn Stevenson, Sasha Pavlovic, Kirk Snyder, C.J. Miles, Morris Almond. What do all of these players have in common? They all broke my heart. Each of them were selected by the Jazz with first- or early second-round draft picks, arrived in Utah with the promise of bringing athleticism, sharp-shooting, or some combination of the two to the Jazz wing rotation, and I bought in every single time. Alec Burks was drafted a little bit higher than any of the guys above, but the same danger abounds. I want to get excited about him, and it’s easy to do when he fairly consistently does amazing things, but I haven’t quite overcome my previous baggage yet. (Note: the lone exception to this legacy of heartbreak is Ronnie Brewer, who was the best. Long live Ronnie Brewer.) I find myself bracing anytime I hear a questionable story about him or hear something that might be an indictment on his level of maturity or work ethic. I think that he works hard and is going to be really good, but I’m still scared. Will we find out if he’s the real deal this season? Unlikely, unless injuries give him a more prominent role in the rotation. For now, he’ll still be Utah’s high-flying enigma, capable of doing amazing things and full of awesome and terrible potential.
Offseason Accomplishments: Rained down doom on the unsuspecting Orlando Summer League, leaving Evan wholly unable to describe him without using Once and Future King references.
Stat to Watch: Three-point field goal percentage. Burks just placed fifth in the NBA through the preseason by shooting 63.6% from beyond the arc (7 for 11… Small sample size, but still). If he can keep that number in the high thirties, he will secure the position of most dangerous wing scorer on the Jazz. This would be huge. If he could balance his amazing ability to get to the basket with good enough range to demand attention outside from defenders, then watch out.
Three Potential Outcomes of the Season:
1. His preseason outside shooting turns out to be a legitimate addition to his game and before we know it, Alec Burks is freed. He gets 25 minutes a night off the bench and provides valuable surges of scoring on Utah’s already formidable bench. He plays good defense and averages 15 points a game, getting a little bit of traction going for a Sixth Man of the Year campaign (which he ultimately loses on account of playing in Salt Lake City).
2. Between Hayward starting at SG and Randy Foye, all of Burks’ potential minutes disappear. He keeps putting up 15 minutes a game until, to everyone’s immense horror, he is subjected to a couple of totally unwarranted “Did Not Play – Coach’s Decision” box scores. There are riots on the internet streets and @FreeAlecBurks finishes the season with 1,000 followers and the movement pops up in TrueHoop’s morning bullets a handful of times throughout the season. The Ty Corbin approval rating suffers.
3. Strangely enough, the point guard experiment works and Burks emerges as a change-of-pace floor general that makes plays excellently in transition and locks down opposing point guards on defense. His assist to turnover becomes decent and a few “Alec Burks is the Point Guard of the Future” articles start popping up here and there. Then, in June, when we have Golden State’s draft pick (#9) everyone secretly hopes that we draft a small forward instead of a point guard so that Burks can start at the 1 and we can play some of the tallest lineups of all time. Seriously: Alec Burks (6’6″), Gordon Hayward (6’8″), Marvin Williams (6’9″), Derrick Favors (6’10″), and Enes Kanter (6’11″). Wow.