During his first few seasons, Alec Burks experienced the requisite ups and downs common to young players in the NBA. His rookie season showed great flashes of promise–slashing, athletic play that excited the Utah Jazz fan base. His sophomore campaign, however, seemed to be less “wow” and more pedestrian as he was asked to assume a less natural back-up point guard role. Naturally the media and fans’ perceptions of Burks ebbed and flowed during this time. Last off-season, some questioned whether or not Burks could be a long-term cog in the Jazz machine and in some cases, whether he could be a long-term NBA player. Most felt that he was the most expendable of the young core players.
Flash forward several months and things are very, very different. Burks is showing that he may not only be a piece to the puzzle, but could very well be one of the main ones going forward.
Before the season began, Utah Jazz coaches and front office personnel repeatedly lauded Alec Burks for his off-season efforts. By all accounts, the third-year pro had put in a lot of work, even taking a trip to Spokane with new teammate Trey Burke to get tutored by the one and only John Stockton. While he encountered some rough patches early on, Burks has shown more and more his improvement, his abilities and his potential. He has certainly been a bright spot for the Jazz, demonstrating solid consistency.
Here are his statistics month-by-month, displaying the progress he has made.
And after his stellar 34-point, five-assist, one-turnover outing versus the Denver Nuggets, here are his numbers the past two games, both starts:
There is a lot to like about Alec Burks. First and foremost, he has shown more confidence and better decision making this year. He is not forcing things and is much more cognizant of when he is needed to create for himself and when he is needed to create for others. Burks was quick to shoot as a rookie, more reticent to do so as a back-up point guard his second year. He seems to be putting it together, becoming a more well-rounded offensive weapon.
Credit should definitely be given to head coach Tyrone Corbin, who moved Burks to his more fitting shooting guard position alongside Trey Burke and Diante Garrett (and less with John Lucas III, with whom Burks had to handle a majority of the ball handling responsibilities). This takes advantage of his creative, slashing talents, while emphasizing his talents as a secondary facilitator (gone from 13.0 AST% in 2013 to 16.9 this year, while cutting his TOV% from 14.3 to 12.6).
Burks is coming into his own as an offensive force. While his shooting still has a way to go, he has moved to a respectable .522 TS% (up from .507 last season). In that point guard role, he was more reliant on 3-pointers. This year, his 3PAr has dropped from .237 to .163 and he’s still shooting them at a decent level (.343). His ability to get to the line (.363 FTr) is a big boon to an offense that can sometimes stagnant.
Burks has scored in double digits in 15 of his last 21 games, including four games with over 20 points and two 30+ outings. In the Denver game, he was clearly the best player on the floor, repeatedly making great play after great play. He has some star qualities about him.
As a personal admission, I too was one who was apprehensive about Burks being a major part of the core. Now, I think he is certainly one who should be part of the foundation going forward, despite what may happen between now and the NBA Draft. Count me in as a Burks believer.