Waiting With Bated Breath for Trey Burke’s Return

November 19th, 2013 | by Laura Thompson
Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Jazz fans have been getting rumblings that Trey Burke is close to returning, which is such welcome news for a team that has severely struggled at the point guard position in Burke’s absence. Alec Burks has spent some time at point guard, sometimes playing solidly, and but most times neither passing nor shooting all that well, though at least possessing the height to keep opposing players from posting him up or shooting over him consistently. John Lucas III has shown why he’s played fewer minutes in his NBA career than Burks (for reals). Jamaal Tinsley, while he was on the payroll, tried his best to be a stopgap, but not having a training camp or preseason to get into game shape probably hurt his play more than we realize. Diante Garrett provided a breath of fresh air in his first game in a Jazz uniform, but as some have joked, once he learned the offense, his play went downhill. Still, at times he’s been the best option at the point on the floor, and his 6’4’’ frame has helped on defense.

Because of the point guard struggles, Gordon Hayward has been given the ball in his hands, leading the Jazz in assists per game at 4.4. Looking at some of the new, fancy SportVU stats and throwing on a couple of filters—playing 9+ games so far and averaging 20+ minutes per game, Gordon Hayward is in the top 25 of assist opportunities (passes by a player to a teammate in which the teammate attempts a shot, and if made, would be an assist). Who are the forwards in that top 25? Gordon Hayward and LeBron James. While that’s been made necessary by the lack of good point guard play, it also shows how well-rounded Hayward’s game has become, as he’s been filling up the stat sheet. When Burke comes back, having two very good playmakers on the floor can only help an offense that has been bogged down with too few passers.

When your starting point guard (counting Lucas, since he’s started more games at PG than anyone else) has fewer assists per game (1.8 APG) than your starting power forward (Derrick Favors, 1.9 APG), you’re going to have problems on offense. Admittedly, Favors plays more minutes per game (34 MPG), but that’s still a glaring stat. I don’t care how good of a passer a power forward is—and the Jazz had several here through the years, with Malone, Boozer, and Millsap each being excellent passers out of the post—a starting point guard should never be anywhere close to their assist numbers.

Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

You know it’s bad when everyone is waiting with baited breath for the rookie point guard who hasn’t shot well yet since making the jump to the pros—the same one who shot 1-19 from three and 24.1% from the field in summer league. But what Trey Burke gives up in shooting abilities (though his TS% as a sophomore was 56.9% and his eFG% was 53.0%), he can hopefully compensate by bringing his playmaking game. His freshman year at Michigan, he averaged 4.6 assists per game, and he increased that to 6.7 assists per game his sophomore year, even though he played slightly less each game (36.1 mpg to 35.3 mpg). His assist percentage started at 28.7% his freshman year and shot up to 37.3% his sophomore year, tops in the Big Ten. With his playmaking abilities and assuming he finds his shot better than Tinsley, Burks, Lucas III, or Garrett—and I think it’s safe to say that shouldn’t be too hard of a task—we’ll start to see a better offense once gets back into game shape and gets up to speed. At the very least, things can only look up, right?

Laura Thompson

Laura Thompson

I grew up in California, but have been a Jazz fan pretty much since I was in diapers; I went to Karl Malone's basketball camp when I was 11 and I flew up to Utah in 1997 to go to Game 3 of the Finals. After graduating from BYU in 2008, I moved back to California to work in Marketing and have been doing that for the last five years. My favorite things in life are the Utah Jazz, basketball, food (whether cooking or consumption of), reading, church, black Labs, and the beach (though hopefully not in that order).
Laura Thompson

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10 Comments

  1. Firehawksel says:

    Give the process the needed time and we will see what happens. Go Jazz!

  2. Spencer says:

    Sort of unrelated, but after watching the Demarcus Smart show last night, I am just wondering about the possibility of getting two top five picks. Probably impossible, but I’d give up Burk, Burks, Golden State’s first round pick and next year’s first for a chance at both Parker and Smart.

    Think of it! Smart, Hayward, Parker (or Wiggins),Favors and Kanter. That is a team with two possible superstars and three possible multiple-all stars. And the versitilty everyone can play at least two positions.

    Please tell me there is a chance!

    • Joe says:

      The only real chance of getting two top 5 picks is an avalanche of injuries for GS. I don’t think there are going to be any teams trading unprotected 2014 draft picks, especially not if the teams have a legitimate chance of having top 5 picks.

      Also I don’t think that the Jazz have anything that is worth Wiggins or Parker or Randle.

    • Aaron says:

      There’s not. Like, at all. No one is going to be trading a top-five pick unless they get a blockbuster offer. Trey and Alec are good, but not All-Star-level players. I would be perfectly happy with Wiggins or Parker and a new deal for Hayward. Our starting five would be set for years to come.

    • Brent says:

      I may be in the minority here, but I’m not sold on Marcus Smart. He shoots a low percentage (he’s ok from 2pt but not so good from 3pt), isn’t a distributor (3.3 ast this year, 4.2 ast. last year) and he turns the ball over (3.4 TO/game last year). I know he brings defense, size and rebounding but generally when I think of a point guard, I want someone who initiates the offense and generates good looks for his teammates without turning the ball over. The defense is nice and the rebounds are nice

  3. Spencer says:

    Get 2-3 good bench guys after that and life will be perfect until Salary Cap issues come around.

  4. John Bell says:

    Do the Jazz own its first round pick for the NBA Draft in 2014? Or does it belong to someone else?

  5. Brent says:

    Trey can NOT be any worse than JL3 even if he shoots like he did in Summer League, which judging by all of the games he played in the last 2 years, was an aberration. He also doesn’t turn the ball over, which is something that has also been killing the Jazz.
    Plus, he’s bigger and stronger than JL3. Trey is 6′, 187 lbs, 6’6″ wingspan. Lucas is 5’9″, 154 lbs, 6’0″ wingspan). That should help on defense too.

    All of that being said, it’s going to take Trey some time. He’s going to have his ups and downs.

    • Laura says:

      Agree with so much of this, Brent. What’s amazed me is that Trey has only had one turnover in the last 89 minutes. And he’s a rookie!

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