Who is this guy?
Just a little over two years ago as a senior, Alec Burks was leading Grandview to the Missouri 5A state championship. Prior to that, at the start of his senior season, the University of Colorado had swooped in and recruited and got him to commit in November of 2008. As Tom Sensler of the Denver Post points out, the Buffs got a steal,
Had Burks not signed early, other suitors surely would have come calling, because Burks broke out during his senior season, averaging 23 points per game and leading Grandview to the state championship game in Missouri's largest classification. He was selected the state's Gatorade player of the year.
Burks would go on to win Big 12 freshmen of the year after shooting 54% from the field and 35% from three. Those numbers would take a dip in his sophomore year as he took on more of the workload.
He impressed scout and declared for the NBA draft even though he had two years of eligibility left and a lockout looming in the NBA. He had a good workout with the Jazz who ended up drafting him even if he didn't know who Tyrone (Coach Borbin) was.
Just as Colorado may have gotten a steal when they recruited him before his breakout senior year of high school, the Jazz may have gotten a steal in the draft. He'll be compared to former Jazz men Ronnie Brewer and Wesley Matthews. Though is poor shooting performance in the pre-season might suggest otherwise, he'll develop into a better shooter than Brewer. If he becomes the player that Wesley Matthews was, minus the three goggles, Jazz fans and the Jazz front office will be happy.
Expectations are being heaped up Burks going forward despite #12 picks not having a good track record. He'll be part of the core unit for the Jazz for at least the next several years and will be an integral part of the rebuilding process. He has high hopes for the team and the young guys. We can only hope he lives up to those expectations.
More after the jump.
Hopes, Dreams, and Deepest Fears:
The first I heard about Alec Burks was in the days just before the draft. Some people opined he'd be a guy the Jazz may end up with at the 12th pick.
Since that point, he's been more myth than Jazzman for me.
Supposedly he was a SG who couldn't shoot and had limited athleticism. Then a series of pickup/charity games made him look like his range was 30 feet, and he could jump the lights out.
It's funny, but I felt like I had a better feel for what Kanter could do right now than Alec Burks. At least with Kanter we had his showing against legit competition playing hard because they cared who won. That's not what got from the pickup/charity games we saw from AlecBurks.
And yet if you can shoot, you can shoot. It's harder with a dude in your face-but still if you can shoot, you can shoot. His college FT% gave some hope. And if you look deeper, there's another interesting trend: 36% from three as a freshman, dropping to 29% as a sophomore.
We all know who else had a trend like that: Gordon Hayward. The guy who shot 55% from three last February, March, and April.
So maybe Burks was undervalued. Which is a funny thought for a drafted in a year that was supposedly weak. And there are new whispers. Rumors that scouts call him the one guy with serious All-Star potential outside of the top five picks.
And so here we are.
What can we hope for from him. He's a 6'6" guy who put up 20 points on decent, but not spectacular shooting for a mediocre college team. Doesn't that describe about 70% of NBA hopefuls? Isn't that the profile for the most typical average NBA Joe. Wouldn't CJ put up those numbers?
But there are still those whispers. He's the one young Jazzman that actually has everyone excited: the fans, the local media, the national media, the scouts, the coaches, the front office. And even the pinnacle of basketball knowledge: David Locke. (In a related, but absurd note: if you follow to the twitter/internet universe, it seems more Jazz fans want him to start than Derrick Favors. Yeah.) And we remember: it doesn't matter that a 6'6" shooting guard is a dime a dozen. Some rise to the top and prove themselves great.
Alec Burks: we're hoping for something great.
How does he fit?
We thought we had it with Kirk Snyder. We thought we might have it with Sasha Pavlovic. Maybe Gordan Giricek? Morris Almond? It is a pure scorer at the shooting guard position and Alec Burks is the next in a long line of athletic shooting guards to grace the Jazz roster. The Jazz have historically been empty on the gas tank of scoring guards. Since Jeff Hornacek left the Jazz 11 years ago, Raja Bell 1000, might be the best scoring shooting guard the franchise has had. I mean, we are talking about a franchise that started Derek Fisher at the position for 61 games in 2006. Yes, that Derek Fisher.
So when a lottery pick comes along and the Jazz select a pure scorer, who can get to the rim and the line and hit 3 point shots, an entire fan base starts to get a little (over?)excited. Don't get me wrong, I am really intrigued by Alec Burks. He has the tools to be a 20 points a night scorer one day, with the way he draws contact and gets to the rim. I am just cautiously guarded, because this team sometimes seems like scoring guard dropout school.
Part of the problem, is the offense that we have run here the last several years. Many scoring guards rely on their ball handling and their dribble penetration and strengths in the isolation game to thrive. If you do that in the Jazz offensive system, you just let the defense recover from the disadvantage they had from the hard cuts and screens your teammates made. The Jazz system requires its wings to hit open shots and score off smart cuts and screens. The Jazz could always tailor their game to a great player, but ultimately, a guy like Dwyane Wade or Kobe Bryant, probably would have struggled in Jerry Sloan's offensive system.
I have high hopes for Burks. Partly because his moves are quick and precise and partly because he seems like a kid who loves to play basketball and is going to work hard to better the team. And from reports from camp, he sounds like a decent distributor of the ball as well. Burks' ability to be a passer will be one of the stories Jazz fans will have to watch for in the next few years, because the big question with Burks is "how will he fit on the same court with Gordon Hayward?" In my mind there are a bunch of scenarios that could be mostly positive.
1) Burks and Hayward play together in a two guard system where they are both able to take turns making plays with the basketball in their hands.
2) Burks plays the point, in a similar way that Lebron James or Dwyane Wade played point last season, in order to have the best players on the floor, when a "true" point guard wasn't one of the best players.
3) Burks and Hayward play the 2 and the 3 along with a traditional point guard and they both alternate taking open jump shots or making hard cuts and drives to the hoop.
4) They don't play together often. One of them is primarily a pure scorer off the bench a la Jason Terry. Burks could probably thrive in this role one day.
5) Burks could be known one day in the state of Utah as "that underachiever who should've been Jimmer."