Trey Burke, acquired by the Jazz to fill a desperate need at the point guard position, spent the beginning of the season on the sidelines. The ninth overall pick suffered a fractured right index finger on October 12, causing him to miss the first 12 games of his rookie campaign. During that stretch, the Jazz went 1-11, ranking 29th in points, three-point percentage and assists.
After coming off the bench for his first two games, Burke has started every game since. His presence in the lineup contributed to an improved offense, but most importantly, wins. In Utah’s next 18 games, the team put together a 7-11 record.
“He can score,” says Head Coach Tyrone Corbin, “He’s learning a lot. He’s a guy that’s looking to get better every night he steps out there on the floor. He’s working his tail off to understand what we’re looking for from him and what gives us a chance to be effective, while we try and figure out what gives him a chance to be as effective as he wants to be on the floor.”
Asked if he expected Burke to be able to instantly contribute, Corbin says, “Yeah. He was College Player of the Year. The way the team is now, we understood we were going to have him on the floor a lot. We were going to demand a lot from him. He responded to it. As he picked things up, we demand more from him.”
Burke is averaging 13.2 points and 4.9 assists in just under 30 minutes. Although he is shooting under 40 percent from the field, many have noticed his innate scoring ability, which Corbin calls the most NBA-ready aspect of his game. “He can really shoot the ball. He can shoot it, so that gives you a chance. He’s a point guard by nature, who’s a scoring point guard, so some of those things allow him to be able to be on the floor and be effective on the floor because he can put the ball in the hole.”
“He’s done a great job of coming in, being ready to score. [Burke] spaces the floor for us pretty well and has knocked down some shots,” says fourth-year forward Gordon Hayward.
Already the natural scorer, Burke’s shooting percentages can be attributed to both his sudden immersion in the offense and the lack of double-teams drawn by Utah’s roster. Derrick Favors is currently the only member of the team averaging better than 50 percent from the field.
While the Jazz is a team in transition, Burke has quickly provided a spark for the offense and bright spot for the future.
Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague, who experienced a contrasting career trajectory to Burke’s, was familiar with the 21-year-old from his two-year career at Michigan. “I watched a lot of his college games, I’m a big college fan, so I know he’s a really talented player. He’s going to come out and play hard and do what he does best–he can score the basketball, he can make shots.”
While Teague started only 10 games in his first two NBA seasons, he is putting up career-high points and assists in his third straight starting campaign.
“He makes the right plays, he makes shots,” Teague says of Burke, “That’s all you can really ask for out of a rookie.”