Before the Utah Jazz’s Gordon Hayward posterized Joel Freeland for the dunk of the preseason in his team’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers last night, teammate Alec Burks made a strong submission of his own. And while Burks’ slam isn’t quite on the level of Hayward’s, yamming on Thomas Robinson is a bit more impressive than catching Freeland.
This is a very important year for Burks. He’ll be a restricted free agent next summer unless the Jazz sign him to an extension before October 31, a possibility that seems unlikely. Though the Colorado product has made strides each of the three seasons he’s been in the league thus far, Burks has yet to establish himself as a fixture of Utah’s future. The summer arrival of Dante Exum – a younger, cheaper, more potential-laden player that carries a similar physical profile – only cast more doubt on Burks’ position with the Jazz.
To be sure, there’s room on the Utah perimeter for Burks, Exum, and 2013 first-round pick Trey Burke. Hayward’s versatility means he can play small-ball power forward for stretches, and coach Quin Snyder would obviously prefer keeping a player with the sometime dynamism of Burks in the fold.
But his flashes of two-way effectiveness need to be less fleeting. Burks must improve in the pick-and-roll and continue to develop as a three-point threat to reach his ceiling, and make a more concerted, focused effort defensively. Burks’ raw talent to be an impact player, though, is clearly here – this dunk is just the latest example.
What do you think?
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