To be perfectly fair, there really wouldn’t be a "Positivity Week" if I didn’t get a chance to run down our roster. I had a lot of medical appointments during the pre-season rundown of our team and was unable to participate then. Which sucks. So all in all, doing this is going to make up for it to a certain point.
After the jump – Three reasons why I love Alec Burks
#1: His Spot-up FG%
There were concerns that Alec Burks, a slasher who lived at the line in college, would not be able to consistently spread the floor at the NBA level. I honestly did not have an opinion on this as I don’t really watch NCAA ball (unless it’s for a team that hired me previous to consult on some of their injured players, one team did previously). I did know that Burks went to the line 495 times in 68 games, which is 7.3 times a game. Conventional wisdom suggests that jump shooters don’t get fouled like that; therefore, Burks can’t be a shooter. Well, and I know it’s a little early to bring his name into the discussion, but Dwyane Wade also had the ‘limitation’ of not being a great shooter and he seems to do okay now. Thankfully in today’s NBA we can actually look into things a little more than just throwing names around and hoping.
According to MySynergySports Alec Burks is scoring 1.07 points per possession (ppp) on Spot-Up attempts. And he’s scoring 50% of the time, while shooting 51.3 fg%. This isn’t some ratio that doesn’t exist on the court, this is the real data. When Burks has his feet set he’s making the jumper. Period. What about spreading the floor? We thought Burks couldn’t spread the floor. Nope. Chuck Testa
Off of Spot-Ups Alec Burks has gone 5 for 7 from deep, hitting 71.4 3pt%. The Key to this NBA is understanding what things a guy can do. You can’t build a team of guys who can do everything, you need to find complimentary parts. Burks, as we’ve seen his penchant for getting to the line translate to the NBA level, can slash at this level. Here we’re seeing that he can play off the ball too – and drain jumpers. His particular hotspot is, obviously, the corner. Watching his shots from there in Synergy is a delight. This was supposed to be something he would struggle with . . . Jimmer Fredette is shooting 45.0 fg% on spot ups, and shooting worse from three point range on spot ups as well. So, yeah, think about that. Our non-shooter rookie is hitting that money ball shot exactly where we need him to hit it from – and so many people said he couldn’t do that.
Out of the entire NBA, Synergy ranks Alec Burks the #68th best guy on Spot-Up possessions this season. What does that mean? That means that, on average, there are ONLY TWO GUYS on every team better than him at this. And he’s a rookie. And he’s not supposed to be able to hit this shot at the NBA level. I love it.
#2: His Pick and Roll Defense
Over the last few seasons our team has been very poor at defending guards. This season alone they are a huge problem. A major problem for this is the fact that we have pitiful dribble penetration defense. As the HTML links suggest – yes – I’ve written extensively on these two subjects before. Burks was also supposed to not be able to defend at this level immediately. Furthermore, some draft websites listed him as a questionable defender.
That worried me because a) I didn’t do any scouting myself, and b) had to rely on some of these guys with their websites for information. I see that the issue of his man defense was grossly overblown. When Alec Burks defends the ball handler in a pick and roll sequence (which seems to be almost all of the time he’s on defense), the opposing ball handler gets only 0.63 ppp. His man shoots 33.3 fg%, and scores only 31.7%. This simply isn’t a sample size thing at all, as Burks is constantly having to fight through screens and still be responsible for defending the ball handler. It’s happened so much this season that Burks is ranked the #22nd best defender of ball handlers going through a pick and roll in the entire NBA this year. He’s not shabby on defense anywhere (save for maybe post ups, but to his credit, he’s only defend two post ups this year), and he’s faced a lot of different types of players. But the point remains, 32.3% of all of his time on defense is defending a P&R Ball handler. And he’s doing it way better than anyone else on our team is. And that’s something we SORELY need. (As a point of reference, this season Raja Bell ranks at #103 in defending this play, and his man gets a 42.1 fg%, and scores 39.3% of the time)
The most astounding thing I’ve seen is that while Burks does this he’s not just sagging off to prevent penetration. He’s only been burned by going behind the screen once (and that was in his first game of his life in the NBA). He fights through the screens and he is aggressive. It seems like Bell is teaching him a lot, because watching their plays in tandem via Synergy seems to support the master/apprentice theory I’m developing in my mind. His athletic ability, aggression, and instincts have caused the other team to turn the ball over quite a bit. The vast majority of Burks’ steals this year are passing lane thefts; however nearly 20% of them come DIRECTLY from defending his man in a pick and roll situation. We haven’t seen that kind of tenacity in years.
#3: Superstar Ability
His quickness and athleticism are just barely still on the chart. That’s how off the cart they are. They had to make a bigger chart to just fit him in. He gets to the line like crazy as a rookie. He gets a lot of steals and plays both sides of the ball. And there are times where he just explodes and pours it on. Ask the Defending NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks about that. Whatever "it" is, Alec Burks has it.
And invariably, what it is, is Superstar ability. Teams only advance behind a superstar. You need a Top 15 player in the NBA to make noise in the playoffs. Right now if I was a betting man I’d put my money on Burks to be that guy for the Jazz. Offense. Defense. Athleticism. Shooting. Gets the respect from the refs. And he’s only a rookie?
Even Tyrone Corbin loves this guy, even though he doesn’t play him much. I love him too. And I know we all do as well.