It must be a rough transition for players like Alec Burks who have overnight experiences that take them superstar to bench warmer. Since being drafted 12th overall in the 2011 NBA draft, Burks has routinely not known how many minutes he would play on any given game night. Then he found himself in a foreign position when the Jazz had no other option but to play him at point guard.
Recently though, things have been more consistent for the 21 year-old Burks. With the entire Jazz roster healthy, I whole heartedly thought Burks’ minutes would be cut once again. 48 minutes of basketball is all an NBA coach has to divide in one game, and the Jazz have a plethora of wing players to choose from. Unlike past stretches where Burks plays, then doesn’t, then plays, then doesn’t, it seems head coach Ty Corbin has begun to trust the young guard.
Based solely off of body language, one can conclude that Burks isn’t lacking confidence in his ability to play the game of basketball. He will hoist contested jump shots without hesitation and never seems to back down from guarding the best opposing wing while he’s on the floor. “That’s how I play: I’m a confident, fearless guy,” Burks said to the Salt Lake Tribune last year after playing the Los Angeles Lakers. “I’m proving that when I get out there, I’m fearless.”
As Burks rose to throw down a monstrous dunk earlier this month in Milwaukee, he was absolutely stymied by the NBA’s leading shot blocker, Larry Sanders. While the play ended up being an offensive foul against Burks, it once again showed that this young player doesn’t back down when it comes to challenging the best.
So the question remains, why hasn’t he got more playing time until now? Are Marvin Williams, Demarre Carrol, and Randy Foye that much better than him? Do they deserve the lions share of the minutes? At times, maybe. But undoubtedly Burks has a ceiling that has yet to be reached, while the other three, for the most part, have found their potential.
In one and a half NBA seasons, Burks is averaging a mere 16.9 minutes per game. In college he played over 75 percent of available minutes and took more shots in 68 games as a collegiate athlete than the 110 games he’s played in the NBA.
Something that Burks has, and it seems will always be good at, is getting to the free throw line. In his limited playing time he gets to the line .8 less times than Al Jefferson who plays double the minutes. This characteristic is one that could be the difference in a young player finding time on the court, and not. Along with his ability to draw and sell contact, he also absorbs it with some excellent body control. Using contact to his advantage can make up for his sometimes poor shot selection and low shooting percentage from the field. Although, more minutes could improve his shooting percentage because it would allow him to get into rhythm. In college he shot 49.5 percent from the field, so it’s entirely in the realm of possibility for his 42.1 NBA percentage to improve.
While it looks as if the playoff hopes are slipping and the team has entered the continuous cycle of mediocrity, there is still hope that remains. That hope comes in the form of players like Alec Burks who will eventually gain the playing time needed to bring the Jazz from the middle of the pack to the top. Because after all, it’s hard to tame players who are fearless.