After the expected departures of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap during the 2013 offseason, it was apparent that the Jazz were in the midst of an extended rebuilding period. While that chapter of the franchise was on the verge of beginning, they already had some key, young pieces that were set to become the pillars for the future of the team. Those names included a slew of former top 10 picks(Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors), who would to be looked upon to step up as leaders of an organization. However, in that same summer, that trio was met with a new partner, as they were joined by former Michigan guard Trey Burke.
By being the team’s first real young point guard since Deron Williams, the fanbase’s attention was immediately transfixed to the Michigan alum. Though before he was able to make his much-anticipated Jazz debut, Burke ran into a minor road block by suffering a bone fracture in his right index finger, which held him out for the first few weeks of the season.
Following his recovery and subsequent Jazz debut, it took a while for Burke to showcase those skills that pushed him to being the top point guard prospect in that years’ draft. Another aspect holding him was the fact that he was inserted into that starting role without getting a chance to develop chemistry with his new teammates.
As the season started to progress, it was apparent that Burke was starting to become more comfortable with the NBA pace and his role with team. As that comfort level started to increase, so did his chemistry with Utah’s first unit, as he developed an extremely solid pick and roll connection with Derrick Favors. During their first season together, that Favors and Burke duo successfully connected 67 times, which is bound to improve during the upcoming season.
Besides his chemistry with Favors, Burke was able to showcase himself as an extremely solid and efficient distributor. By utilizing that previously mentioned pick and roll connection with Favors, Burke was easily able to penetrate from the perimeter to open up a bevy of different possibilities. One of those potential options included making his way towards the paint to ultimately kick it out to one of his Jazz teammates on the perimeter. That effective playmaking ability was showcased by the fact that Burke had an extremely solid 3.02 Ast/TO ratio, which exceeded the likes of Kyle Lowry, Rajon Rondo and Ricky Rubio.
Apart from his continued improvement as an excellent distributor, Burke wasn’t able to maintain any level of consistency on the offensive end. While he has been able to showcase an ability to score from most spots on the court, Burke wasn’t really able to get into a rhythm because of the previously mentioned injury on his shooting hand. Even when he was able to use Favors’ pick-and-rolls to help create some open mid-range or perimeter shots, he just struggled to consistently knock them down. That lack of consistency is showcased by his extremely pedestrian 47.3% true shooting percentage, lowest among the players that were consistently in Utah’s rotation.
With the transition to his sophomore season, it wouldn’t be out of the question to see those offensive woes subside. While he struggled to consistently score, Burke showcased a certain amount of comfort in his offensive movements. He rarely looked over aggressive or tentative with the ball in his hands, a rarity for a rookie.
Transitioning over to the defensive end, Burke was the definition of a mixed bag. While he was consistently able to move swiftly on offense, Burke always appeared to be a step or two behind the opposition. Perhaps the main example of that are his struggles with defending the pick-and-roll. In those sets, Burke consistently looked tentative about whether to work over or under the offensive screen. As he gets more accustomed to defending NBA offenses, it should be expected to see those issues diminish, even though he’ll probably never be perfect.
When he’s in man-to-man scenarios, Burke has the appearance of being a solid and focused defender. Even though there are instances where quicker opponents are able to drive past him, Burke is consistently able to be in an ideal position, temporarily hiding those previously mentioned flaws.
As Burke looks to start his 2nd NBA season, there are some questions regarding his future with the team, after Utah selected Aussie point guard Dante Exum with their 8th overall pick. While it’s likely that the rookie guard will initially have a major role inside Utah’s rotation, because of Exum’s unique 6’5 frame, head coach Quin Snyder should be able to find a way to creatively combine Burke with the rookie.
Besides the previously mentioned concerns regarding his fit with Exum, the sophomore season of Trey Burke is going to be an extremely intriguing. While Burke’s skills as a facilitator will beimportant to the future of the players that surround him, he’s going to have become a more consistent offensive threat. Even though that consistency wasn’t showcased during his rookie campaign, Burke is going to be entering the upcoming season 100% healthy, a huge improvement over how he started his rookie season.
While there are a handful of clear flaws in Burke’s game that should diminish as he starts the upcoming season, the influence that he has on the future of the Jazz organization is massive. With Burke entering training camp at full strength, he’ll able to establish that necessary chemistry with his Utah teammates. That combination of team chemistry and Burke’s natural passing instincts should be one of the most intriguing things to watch for as we move closer to the upcoming season.