Several months after the Utah Jazz traded two draft picks for the right to snag Trey Burke, fans are starting to see why. Not only was Burke the collegiate player of the year while at Michigan, he led the Wolverines to the final four. Now, after several starts in the NBA, it’s clear that Burke has what it takes to be a legitimate NBA starting point guard.
He has played in just eight games but has improved with each one. While his game is rising, so do the Jazz when he’s on the court. Before his return from a fractured finger suffered late in the preseason, the Jazz were 1-11 on pace for a whopping seven wins. In the eight games he’s played, the Jazz have managed to win three including a stretch where they took home three of four. Two of the five losses came against top tier NBA teams in the Thunder and Pacers. The Jazz are 3-1 when Burke plays 30+ minutes.
He’s improving game after game, but Burke would be the first to tell you that he’s still learning and there’s a long way to go before he’s reached his potential. Perhaps that self-awareness is part of why I believe he has what it takes to be a really good starting point guard in the Association.
“Everyday is a learning curve, I’m learning more and more everyday from my teammates, to what plays to call in transition, what coach Corbin wants me to do in certain situations,” Burke said. “I think I can’t do anything but continue to watch them and get better.”
While he works to get better each day, it helps that he’s developing chemistry with Derrick Favors and Enes kanter. The former big is going to be a mainstay in the Energy Solutions Arena paint for years to come so seeing them work together in an easy, natural way means a lot for the future of the Jazz.
“He does a good job out there controlling the offense. He takes a lot of pressure off of myself, off of Gordon being a facilitator and scorer,” Favors said. “A pick and roll type player, if I set a good enough screen he’s going to get a shot or I get a shot.”
Jazz fans know just how deadly a potent pick-and-roll offense can be. While Burke is working to master the offense and relieve Gordon Hayward of so much responsibility, he’s also trying to fit into Utah’s defensive scheme. His defense is far from flawless, but he is getting better very quickly at understanding his assignments and recognizes where he can improve.
After Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers he said they can do a lot better at off the ball defense. While his 6-1 frame is something he’ll have to overcome to be a truly great defender, he’s already on the right path by playing smart.
In just eight games Burke is already earning the trust of the Jazz coaching staff. They’ve indicated that and Burke has noticed the freedom as well.
“I think the coaches are trusting me more to make plays for this team. Not only make plays for myself but to hit that pocket man (Kanter and Favors),” Burke said. “They’re trusting me, they’re putting the ball in my hands, they’re expecting me to make plays so that’s what i try to do.” Burke has also made the team better shooters. Since he joined the lineup the Jazz are shooting nearly 46 percent from the field and about 39 percent from three. The Pacers caused both those numbers dip, but Burke still played a very clean game. He is averaging less than 1.5 turnover per 30 minutes on the floor.
It’s still way too early in his career to tell if it will last, but so far Burke hasn’t had an issue adjusting to the NBA 3-point line either. Shooting 41.9 percent from long range, the only complaint might be that he should let it fly a more often.
All-in-all Burke is an exciting player that makes the Jazz better. Whether it’s the eye test, statistics or wins, the Jazz improve in every way when Trey Burke is on the court. He’s young, and teams haven’t had much opportunity to scout him yet, but all the same there are plenty of reasons to be bullish about the the future of the Jazz rookie point guard.