What A Difference A PG Makes

December 3rd, 2013 | by Laura Thompson
Melissa Majchrzak / NBAE via Getty Images

Melissa Majchrzak / NBAE via Getty Images

It’s amazing what a difference a point guard makes. Since Trey Burke has been in the starting lineup, the Jazz are 3-2. But what’s even more incredible is how quickly this looks much more like a team that knows how to play basketball.

We saw this coming, too. Two weeks ago, I wrote this at the end of a post about Burke’s return:

“With [Trey Burke’s] 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?”

I know we, as Jazz fans, have been so incredibly spoiled over the years, mostly thanks to John Stockton and his effective, efficient point guard play. We’d grown accustomed to solid, consistent play from the point guard position, so much so that we probably didn’t even think too often of the point guard position, or realize it was that hard, until we saw others trying to take the reins. Deron Williams did a decent job, at some points better than others, but was not the pass-at-all-costs point guard we were accustomed to. Devin Harris, Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson and Mo Williams were brought in to fill in the gaps, and now it’s John Lucas III and Dionte Garrett’s turn. None of those interim options have yielded ideal results (unless a top pick in the 2014 draft is high on your list).

David J. Smith shared some stats last night that really jumped out to me. Here are Trey Burke’s last four games: 17.0 ppg, 41 FG%, 48% from 3, 100% FT (6-6), 4.0 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.25 SPG, 1.5 TO. Considering the numbers we had been getting by our point-guard-by-committee, those are a welcome sight. On the year now—which, admittedly, includes all of seven games for Burke—his eFG% is 45.5% and his TS% is 47.8%, much closer to his college numbers (53.0% and 56.9%, respectively) than his summer league numbers, and for that we are grateful. Hopefully, as he gets more comfortable playing at the NBA level, those numbers will continue to increase.

What really impresses me with those stats are Burke’s rebounding numbers. For a small point guard, he rebounds well. Remember last year, how we had the worst-rebounding starting backcourt in the league? Mo Williams averaged 2.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, and so far this year Burke is averaging 4.8 rebounds per 36 minutes. Randy Foye averaged 2.0 rebounds per 36 minutes last year, while Hayward (currently starting at the 2) is averaging 5.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. That is a significant upgrade on an important backcourt stat.

(Side note: Have you noticed that Mo, like Burke, is also perfect from the line so far this season? 11-11.)

(Side side note: Burke reminds me a little bit of a rich man’s Mo Williams: undersized, score-first mentality, fearless, with a lot of swagger)

Another stat that has seriously impressed me was one first mentioned (I believe) in a Tweet by @NBAGuru: “Trey Burke has turned the ball over 1 time in his last 89 minutes.”

Dang. For a team that has also struggled so far this year with a high turnover rate, that’s a much-needed number to see, even if it’s a turnover rate we may not see consistently. But it’s even more impressive coming from a rookie who missed a decent chunk of time with a broken finger.

Random thoughts:

I’m not quite understanding Enes Kanter’s minutes lately. Are we trying to keep his stats down so we can afford to extend him in the offseason? Will he be able to develop if he’s playing about a quarter a game? Because he logged fewer minutes last night (12:45) than he averaged in his rookie season (13:14).

Derrick Favors has been doing what he does best, quietly turning in yet another solid performance, rendering Dwight Howard ineffective. Favors was perfect from the field and the line last night, going 6-6 from the field and 2-2 (!) from the line, for a line of 14/13/2. Solid and understated, per usual.

The Favors/Kanter combo. If this season is all about the season of discovery and the development of players, surely there can be plays created that can find ways to incorporate both Kanter and Favors on the floor at the same time, utilizing each of their strengths, right? Considering Kanter’s ability to hit the outside shot and Favors’ growing arsenal in the post, it just seems like there’s plenty of talent to work with here.

Kanter has now played almost half as many minutes as he did all of last year.

Jeremy Evans was 1-4 from the field. GASP.

Alec Burks was unbelievably efficient last night. He was 7-11 from the field (including 3-4 from 3), 4-5 from the line, 21 points, 4 assists (!), and three rebounds.

Bottom line: This Jazz team is a lot more fun to watch with a good point guard running the show. It’s amazing the difference a point guard makes.

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
Laura Thompson

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5 Comments

  1. matt says:

    You undervalue deron. He was an amazing passing and scoring point guard

    • Laura Thompson says:

      Eh. I guess it’s as simple as saying I disagree. Even more importantly, do you want the Deron of the last few years? And his contract?

      • Aaron says:

        No, Laura, it’s not as simple as saying you disagree. I know it’s not in vogue to praise D-Will in Utah the last couple of years, but he was an All-Star, and for a couple of years it was a legitimate argument whether he or Chris Paul was the best PG in the league. Asking whether we want his contract is disingenuous. He performed spectacularly most of his time in Utah. Far beyond “decent”. He had many a game where he singlehandedly willed the team to victory. And no Jazz fan can say otherwise unless their hatred of the way things ended has blinded them.

        Aside from that, really good article, and absolutely right on the money.

    • segababa says:

      Agreed. As a Rockets fan, I still have scars from what those Deron-led teams did to us in the playoffs. If Burke eventually has the kind of production Deron had in his prime (19 pts 9 assists for several seasons), Jazz fans should be ecstatic.

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