Right off the bat let me tell you, straight up, that yeah; Utah Jazz Guard Alec Burks, he of only 15.9 mpg last year, is the bomb. Or at the very least, he has all the right tools to be the bomb one day. Intrinsic motivation to get better, a chip on his shoulder from being picked in the late lotto, and the professional physiological training and off-season regime to get even BETTER. [Linguwo says: Sentence fragment.] You know who is the bomb right now? It's the Miami Heat Guard Dwyane Wade. He has two rings, and is the prototype athletic combo guard all other current generation combo guards need to model their game after. Wade can drive, dish, or finish at the rim with contact. He's fast, strong, and gets to the line. (Ask Mark Cuban) He even worked on his shot over his career and added a new weapon to his game.
Like I said, he's the prototype. And what I'm also saying is that Burks has the tools (and hopefully if Coach Tyrone Corbin plays ball, also the opportunity) to develop into the more advanced model. It's okay to have high expectations for Alec Burks. After the jump I'll explain why.
I'm a numbers guy. Numbers aren't subjective. Numbers will never tell the whole story; however, numbers give you the framework to tell you the important parts. We're going to look at numbers here, for it is in these numbers that we see striking resemblance between Wade and Burks. Is it unfair to compare the two? A green player with no playing time against that of a future Hall of Famer? On paper you'd think it would be unfair to do so. But if you actually look at the numbers on the paper you'll see that it is not. In fact, it is precisely the comparison we need to make. We should have high expectations for Burks, after all, he has high expectations for himself too. It's not just a confidence thing, or a 'swagger' issue. This is something based upon empirical evidence.
Burks isn't some Monta Ellis jacker. He's not a Westbrook (Russell gets to play PG after all, Burks doesn't). He is an athletic combo guard who can drive and get to the line. And he is Wade-like.
Here are the NCAA numbers, first off there are similarities. Marquette and Colorado aren't top recruiting schools. Secondly, they both played only two seasons. They were the 'main men' of their teams. And they both played about the same number of games.
Wade was better, but Burks was right there on all categories - and better in a few (FTA / game, PPS, and FT%). There is a strong correlation between these two data sets. In fact, aside from assists and steals, they are near identical in the big picture. Burks also has a larger sample size. Performing like Wade is not a fluke.
NBA Pre-Draft Combine Results:
This is kind of my field, so I do end up putting too much emphasis on this stuff. But it would be silly to say that the physical characteristics of your body do not have an affect upon the type of performance you are capable of as a professional athlete. After all, Shaq was dominant because he was huge. Ronnie Brewer gets steals because he's quick and has a 6'11 wingspan. And so on.
Alec Burks is taller, Wade has a 0.75" longer wingspan. Burks was more trim and Wade stronger and could bench for longer. Wade is faster and quicker, but Burks has a greater vertical and max reach. And again, these values are all nearly identical to one another. Wade seems to be more gifted, but Burks was working his butt off at P3 this summer. What you are by draft time is one thing. How much work you put on your body over your career is entirely another thing. Burks is a workout machine and has that chip on his shoulder. He wants to get better. He'll get stronger over his career, and become better at finishing with contact. He has already worked on his jumping ability at P3 and done a lot of quickness drills. Wade works out during the off-season as well, but I do not know if it is with the remarkable staff that P3 has. Burks is working out with them weeks after his rookie season ended. It would be ignorant to suggest that Burks isn't going to test way better right now than when he was tested at the combine.
But, again, these numbers are virtually identical. Burks can get up higher, Wade can move on the court faster. Burks was taller, Wade not even an inch longer. That's it. Period. Their physical signatures are identical. It translates to their games as well, some of Burks' layups are just Wade-like. You've seen it too.
NBA Rookie Season:
The largest difference we're going to see here in the numbers is the raw values. Why is there such a discrepancy between Wade and Burks here if their NCAA numbers and physical signatures are so similar? It's because of minutes played (which gives experience, and experience gives confidence). Wade is ahead of Burks here. It would have been more interesting to see how things would have gone in an 82 game season though. Burks played in only 59 of 66 games (89.4%); while Wade in only 61 of 82 (74.4%). If anything, Burks appears to be more durable. That could be an equalizer. However, until that happens the numbers for their respective rookie years are far from equal.
Burks did play less than half the minutes Wade did per game; but not all of his numbers are similarly less than half of what Wade produced. Beyond the stats per game, the percentages and metric stats (like PPS) are worth noticing. Burks did not perform as well as he did in college here. That's normal. Wade did not either. But Wade improved. So will Burks.
Still, you cannot escape the minutes issue. Let's try to make this apples to apples.
NBA Rookie Season Statistics Per 36.0 MPG:
Hmm, let's see what happens here, shall we?
Wade: 16.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 5.3 FTA/GM, 1.24 PPS
Burks: 16.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 5.5 FTA/GM, 1.19 PPS
I can live with that. It is encouraging and continues to support the theory that Burks is super Wade-like. In NCAA production he is. In physical characteristics he is. And his production rate per minute (or in this case, per 36.0 mpg) at the NBA level is the same.
It is okay to have high expectations for Alec Burks, and right now he's on the trajectory to be very Dwyane Wade like. In fact, he's been on this trajectory long before this season, since college at least.
Burks like Wade, or Burks a Wade-lite?
Well, Wade is the combo guard of our current NBA generation to model your game after. He can lead, he can work off the ball. He is clutch. And he has two rings. Burks looks a lot like Wade on paper. But what if he never becomes truly like Wade on the court, but only a Wade-lite? Well, that's still way better than what we've had starting at the 2 for over a decade of Utah Jazz ball. If Burks can work on his corner pimp three, up his FT%, and get stronger (so he can finish around the rim with contact better) then we already have the best SG we've had in a long while. The fact that Burks already IS a very solid ball handler (again, look at his Turn over numbers in Orlando Summer League vs. Blake Ahearn . . . smh), and will learn how to distribute better as he gets more experience makes me very encouraged for Burks future. Months ago I wrote about how Burks is a "gamechanger". He still is. He wants the ball in the 4th quarter, and is not afraid of crunch time. We saw it in Dallas, we saw it a number of other times this year. We saw it and loved it when he just burned by Kobe Bryant in LA, or his gravity defying offensive rebound putbacks. Even if Alec is only Diet-Dwyane it's still awesome.
And Alec doesn't want to be Diet-Dwayne, or Wade-lite. He's in it to be the best Alec Burks. The next, more advanced prototype combo guard. If Wade is any indication of how great someome can be, Burks' entire career similarity to Wade should tell us to have high expectations.
And that's okay. It's okay because Burks has high expectations of himself too. He wants to be better. Let's not hold him back by measuring him up to guys he's already better than. The coaches already held him back enough last year. (Thanks Raja Bell. Hope you have fun when you sign with the Boston Celtics in a few weeks.)