Recently I read a fan post that compared Alec Burks to other players taken between the 10th and 14th picks. Its author suggested that we should lower our playing time expectations of Burks due to this historical success of late-lottery players.
Over 33% don't remain in the league.
A single All Star emerged.
Most are rotational guys at best.
Forgive me if you read my response to the post, however, I wanted to go more in depth with my thought in the hopes that other Jazz fans can appreciate what we have in Burks, what he may become, and how he could be so much more than he currently is.
While the historical argument is worthwhile to consider, I believe we have to look at it slightly more in a Jazz context. When Kevin O'Connor drafted Burks in 2011, we had just come off an abysmal season of 39-43. Corbin finished up the year for Jerry Sloan. Derrick Favors was shipped to Utah.
The shooting guards on that roster were Raja Bell and CJ Miles, neither who had an efficient year. For starters, Bell was brought to Utah to set his feet and knock down jumpers while locking up opposing team's best wing players. Remember, he bailed on Kobe Bryant's personal helicopter ride and returned to Utah. But Bell couldn't guard a quadriplegic on life support and he couldn't drop the basketball in ocean from a helicopter hovering the epicenter of the Pacific on a windless day. He refused to dribble the basketball. Basically, and I wish there was a statistic for this, Bell was good for an entry pass to Big Al Jefferson.
Miles was Miles--erratic, streaky, and selfish with the ball.
The following year, Burks sat to both of them who combined for around 43 minutes per game. Bell's shooting percentage improved. Miles' plummeted to unfathomable depths. Neither could guard anybody. And Gordon Hayward found out that he was a SG. Burks was buried in the rotation.
The two knocks on Burks was his decision making and his shooting. He also struggled defensively to stay with his man. But these are traditional rookie traits. Plus, it didn't appear that there was much to lose since the team was struggling to win games on a nightly basis and the Bell-Miles combination wasn't working. But Burks sat.
Last year we went out and grabbed MoFo, hoping that it would open up space for Jefferson and Paul Millsap. It worked. We hit threes for the first time in two seasons. Josh Howard wasn't around to shoot, thank goodness. Miles was in Cleveland, and Bell was---what the hell was Bell doing again?
Every coach preaches defense, including Corbin. However, Mo Williams made Devin Harris look like Rajon Rondo on defense. And Randy Foye didn't really defend anybody. So for all the points that MoFo put up a game (nearly 24 a night), we had no defensive presence in the backcourt, which left our undersized, slow-footed big men guarding PGs. A catastrophic combination.
Burks improved his defense. He actually looked pretty damn tenacious out there. Burks improved his jumpshot. Burks improved his decision making. Burks became a tremendous rebounding guard, which is a staple in getting easy buckets in transition.
Then Mo went down with injury and Corbin saw more value in giving Watson and Tinsley the time at PG. I don't think a comment is necessary here.
So, I'm not entirely sure where this fits in David Locke's over-dipped or under-dipped Oreo theory. However, meanwhile in San Antonio Spurs land, Kawhi Leonard received double the minutes Burks did on a team with better wing players and also an old-fashioned way of doing things. And he got that playing time with Richard Jefferson and Stephen Jackson on the team, albeit not together.
Both years the Jazz were in Win-Now mode, which is understandable to me. So the question becomes: how did the Miles-Bell or the Foye-Tinsley-Watson combinations give us a better chance to win now?
How did Leonard go from the 14th pick in another "weak" draft to being one of the best contributors in one of the best and most memorable Finals in a long time? Was he the rightly-dipped Oreo?
The thematic elements surrounding Burks have been unfortunate. Hes sat to players who have been old and slow, guys who couldn't guard anybody, to me-first and shot-happy chuckers, and to guys whose best attributes didn't make up for their overall games.
So, as Burks heads into his third year, let's be clear: we have no idea what we have in Alec Burks and that's unfortunate.