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The Burks of Being a Wallflower

Utah Jazz Player Previews

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

If you polled every Jazz fan with the question "who is the best scorer of the young Jazz guys," Alec Burks might be a very popular answer. Up until this point in each of their young careers, Burks has scored the basketball the least efficiently compared to Hayward, Favors and Kanter. Burks isn't far behind, but his 0.86 points per play last season and 0.88 ppp from 2011-12 are far below league average. It's not that Alec Burks is the wrong answer to the question, "who is the most gifted scorer?," but he seems to be the best at creating his own looks in isolation, although that is the one of the worst ways to produce efficient scoring.

Wallflower to Homecoming King?

There are extenuating circumstances surrounding Burks' first two seasons. Even more than any other young player, Burks' role and minutes have been uncertain and probably have contributed to his poor numbers. However, no one, including Alec himself, can escape from the fact that he has not produced in his limited and inconsistent time on the floor. Opportunity and circumstance have only been complicated by Burks' spotty performances. The great news is that Burks will have the opportunity to show what he's got this season, and most of the "what ifs" and blame will fall squarely on his own shoulders, for better or for worse. And if the first 3 games are any true indication of the season, Burks may have many opportunities to showcase his shot creating skills when the offense stagnates.

Does Not Play Well With Others

One thing Burks will have to overcome, is his innate selfishness on the court. Burks probably comes by it honestly from his time in Colorado, where he was basically asked to create and carry the offense (his sophomore year, Burks took 23% of the teams' shots and scored 26% of the teams points). His time at point guard, forced as it was, may have benefitted Alec in learning to look for his teammates and he certainly has shown ability to make great passes, but ultimately, he will have to learn to play a team offense if he wants to be anything more than a change of pace scorer off the bench in his career. This is best illustrated by watching Burks during a handful of Jazz possessions and seeing what he is able to do when the ball is not in his hands. The results are a little disheartening, although they are a big improvement from his rookie season.

Finding a Balance

The good news is that players who can create their own looks are valuable in this league, even if not the most efficient. And there is always the outside chance that Burks becomes a decent shooter. While Burks was never a very good mid range or long distance shooter in college, he was able to make about 80% of his free throws. In the NBA, he has hovered around 72% at the line and that number is quickly heading south. For someone who can create contact at the rim as well as Burks can, improving his free throw shooting and being able to hit even 33% from behind the arc, would make a world of difference in Burks' offensive game.

In His Defense

In preseason and the early games of last season, Burks looked to be a much improved defender, especially when posted up by opponents on the block. Over time, it has become more and more apparent that Burks' defensive problems are somewhat tied to his offensive ones. His one on one defense is much stronger than his team and help defense. Burks has the athletic ability and less "pasta-like" body to be able to be an adequate defender in the league, but he will have a lot of work to do. There is no reason he shouldn't be able to be a main contributor to a top defense in the league someday, with a little concerted effort and the right teammates alongside and behind him.

2013-14 Projection Based on Per 36 Minutes