Does Trey Burke’s Future Depend On Him Becoming A Spot-Up Shooter?

Though it’s still quite early in his career, Trey Burke hasn’t quite developed as the Utah Jazz would have hoped. The Jazz drafted Burke with the belief he’d grow into a starting point guard, but he’s struggled to adjust to the rigors of playing the one at the NBA level. While the Jazz can still afford to be patient with Burke, they may no longer be necessary. They drafted Dante Exum last year, who showed flashes of brilliance in his up-and-down rookie season. He’s a better athlete than Burke, and seems to have picked up the nuances of point guard play quicker as well, specifically the pick-and-roll, the hallmark of all great NBA lead guards. Raul Neto, another former Jazz draftee, joins the team this year, and will probably challenge Burke for the backup spot.

Is Burke’s future as the Jazz’ primary ball handler finished? It seems likely. But that doesn’t mean his NBA career will necessarily fizzle out. As Kincade Upstill of the Utah Deseret News reports, Burke could still be a valuable contributor if he adjusts to a different role on the team.

In catch-and-shoot situations, he averaged 46 percent from two and 35 percent from three, which are very solid numbers; but on pull-up jumpers he only shot 40 percent from two and 18 percent from three. The highest percentage of his shots comes from pull-up jumpers that require playing one on one, which is not his strength.

Burke’s been the primary ball handler for his entire career, not just with Utah. He was the man bringing the ball up the court and initiating the offense at the University of Michigan and every stage before that. Shifting to a role where the ball isn’t in his hands all the time is far from simple. Further, while Burke may benefit from playing off the ball, the Jazz’s offense might not.

Scoring is not the only metric by which we evaluate a point guard’s worth. Exum flashed his terrific potential in his rookie season, but he also displayed the typical rookie troubles – among them, turning the ball over at a high rate. The Australian point guard had a turnover percentage of nearly 16. Burke’s, by contrast, was 8.1. Even if Exum does a better job holding on to the ball in his sophomore season, which he should, the Jazz’s other options backing him up would be the rookie Neto and Bryce Cotton, neither of whom are safe bets to keep the turnovers to a minimum. Burke, for all of his scoring faults (and those can improve as well), is a more than capable ball handler. Shifting him away from the ball simply to up his scoring would likely damage the Jazz’s overall offense.

Burke is still young. Maybe he won’t be the franchise point guard the Jazz hoped, but he had a bit of renaissance as a back up/sixth man. This is the reality of the NBA. Not every player will fulfill their considerable potential, and not every team, no matter how sound their approach to building may be, will reach the promised land of the NBA title. Yet, not becoming the player the team — or the player — originally envisioned is not the same as failing. If Burke’s future is as a quality sixth-man/backup point guard, that’s still a win for him and the Jazz — provided, of course, Exum develops as he should.

An altered destiny can still be a successful one.

(Via Deseret News)