A Michigan Wolverine fan's perspective on Trey Burke

Hi all,

I contribute to the SBNation Pistons blog, and I'm a life-long Wolverines fan. I've watched almost every minute of Trey Burke's career at Michigan, and I think you'll be thrilled with Trey as a player and person. I had a post prepared if the Pistons selected Burke, so I thought I'd share it here in case there's interest.

Initial reaction:

Jazz fans should be thrilled with this pick. As a Pistons' fan, I was as excited as I've been about anyone the Pistons have drafted since Grant Hill. There's probably a lot of Michigan Wolverine homerism informing that excitement, but I'm okay with and honest about that. I've watched almost every minute of Trey's career as a Michigan Wolverine, and I've been pulling for him all year long. That I will continue to be able to do so makes the fan in me feel like a kid again.

More objectively, there are very good reasons for Jazz fans to be excited about Trey Burke. For a variety of reasons, he's a fantastic fit with any team looking for a long-term solution at point guard.

\ Up to this point in his career, Trey Burke has done everything you could want a point guard to do, especially on the offensive side of the ball. I'll dig deeper into his measurables, scouting reports, and statistical profile below, but I'll start with the things I've observed about Trey's game that set him up for NBA success.

Initiating the offense and distributing the basketball: Trey instinctually knows when to push and when to set up. He looks for his own shot when it's there and when it's needed, but he's equally comfortable initiating a set and ticking through all available options. And as Michigan's high octane demonstrated last season, when transition is there - off of defensive rebounds and steals alike - Trey can attack and facilitate with the best of them on the break. Furthermore, Trey is a fantastic and willing passer, in the half court and in transition.

Perimeter shooting: Trey can shoot the ball, and he's got plenty of NBA range. Remarkably, he shot over 50% on two point shots last season, and he increased his three point percentage by nearly five points from his freshman season, up to 38.3%. Trey provides the Jazz with the perimeter shooting that will open the paint for the rest of the offense, while putting consisten pressure on the defense.

Efficiency in the pick-and-roll: Jazz fans know what efficient pick-and-roll basketball looks like. No one has done it better than John Stockton and Karl Malone. Trye Burke isn't anywhere close to Stockton's greatness (yet), but he's patient and surgical in the pick and roll, and is equally deadly taking the shot or making the pass.

Taking care of the ball: Trey is one of the best in the country at avoiding turnovers even though he had the ball in his hands as much as any of his peers. If you don't like turnovers, you'll love Trey.

Age: Trey Burke won't turn 21 until November. If he develops along the trajectory I expect, he will be the point guard of the future for a decade to come.

I have two critical observations of Trey's already very polished game.

First, Perimeter defense: This is the biggest question mark in Trey's game thus far, and it's a legitimate question. Trey gets a respectable amount of steals, and he doesn't struggle to stay in front of his man in isolation, but pick-and-roll defense has been a challenge.

Even for a Michigan fan like me, it's hard to say whether this is on Trey, or if it's on Michigan's big men. Until the Big Ten Tournament when Mitch McGary emerged as a potential lottery pick himself, Michigan's big men played some of the worst defense in the Big Ten. I'm not exaggerating by saying that at times, it was Charlie Villanueva bad for several games in a row. Most likely, it was a little bit of both, and pick-and-roll defense ought to be on the top of the summer training and coaching list. A defensive-minded big man backing him up would go a long way toward alleviating those concerns.

Hero ball: Again, it's hard to determine what caused this, but at times, Trey tries to do to much. His assist numbers illustrate that he's a willing passer and an unselfish player, so I'm inclined to chalk this one up as a function of his role, namely, as the best offensive player on the floor for his team.

And now, on to the other very important details.


Height: 6' 1", Weight: 187 lbs., Age: 20 years, Position: PG ,Standing Reach: 8' 1.5", Wingspan: 6' 5.5", No step vertical: 29.5, Max vertical: 36.5

I have been saying this for his whole career, and the combine bears it out: his height won't be nearly the problem that some have suggested. He has good standing reach and a good vertical. He's got the body to play with the big boys. Would I like him to be 3 inches taller and 20 lbs. heavier? Sure, but he'll add that weight over time, and his hops and arms are enough to get it done.

Additionally, the scouts like him:

I lean heavily on statistical analysis, but seasoned eyes matter too.


The engine behind the #1 offense in college basketball, Burke was arguably the best pick and roll point guard in the NCAA this season, able to put incredible pressure on the defense thanks to the tremendous balance he brings between scoring and facilitating for others. The fact that he can make shots from anywhere on the floor, findthe open man instantaneously, or get to the rim makes him extremely difficult to game-plan against.

A highly creative passer, Burke can make plays for teammates in a number of ways, using lobs, bounce passes, kick-outs or dump-offs to find the open man confidently in the half-court or in transition. He sees the floor well, and is not predictable at all with the way he decides to attack the defense on any given possession, thanks to his tremendous versatility.

A fantastic ball-handler with the ability to create offense with either hand and also change speeds at will, Burke has terrific timing and patience in the half-court, not being afraid to use his body to seek out contact in the lane or put a defender on his hip in the mid-range area to create an advantage. He is an expert at stopping and using an extra dribble or two to force the defense to react, and then subsequently reading what happens, either finding the open man or pulling up off the dribble himself.

Don't underestimate how potent Michigan's offense was, and don't underestimate how vital Burke was to it. He was the number one reason that Michigan's offense led the nation, and second place was very distant second.

Chad Ford:

Burke was the college basketball player of the year and might be, along with Porter, the best player in the draft. He does just about everything well on the basketball court and plays with a moxie that coaches love in their point guards. If he were a little taller or a little quicker he'd be a lot higher.

The Pistons are hoping, for a third year in a row, that one of the top seven players on the board slides to them on draft night. However, it the draft holds true to form, look for them to try to address their backcourt at No. 8. The team believes Brandon Knight is more suited to play the 2 and would like to bring in a "pure" point guard to run the team. While Burke is a little undersized, he's highly skilled as both a shooter and a penetrator and has great leadership capabilities.

Burke has plenty of moxie to his game. And his measurements -- 6-foot-1.25 in shoes with a 6-5.5 wingspan -- were solid numbers for a NBA point guard.

Burke is roughly the same size as current NBA point guards Eric Bledsoe, Raymond Felton and Jeff Teague, but he's also taller than Chris Paul and Kemba Walker.

However, athletically, Burke's just not quite on the same level with any of those guys. His vertical jump numbers were on par (Burke measured a 36.5 inches max vertical), yet his lane agility numbers were the worst of that group (11.09 seconds). Athletically, he seems the closest to Teague, who posted similar vert scores and was just slightly faster in the lane agility testing.

Ford gets at what a lot of people seem to be overlooking: there are a lot of effective point guards in today's NBA that aren't that tall. Obviously, height helps, but it's a means, not an end, and Trey's physical tools compare nicely to plenty of successful NBA players.

Zach Travis of Maize N Brew saw the same thing I did last season.

3. What parts of the draft evaluation coverage about the prospect do you think is wrong or missing?

I know it is only natural, but I think people look too closely at his measureables, and not enough at how he affects and controls the game. His height is probably going to be a strike against him for some teams, and ultimately could push him down draft boards. I would say this is the wrong way to look at it. He has an excellent first step, a bevy of shots in his arsenal, and is very good at controlling the tempo. I don't know if there is any point guard in the draft more well equipped to run a fast break, and he is just as good in the half-court using pick-and-rolls to get openings for his shot or passes inside. If some team gets too caught up in him being "too short" for a top-three pick, that team is going to miss out on a really good point guard.

Statistical profile:

Wages of Wins analysis is mixed. Arturo Galleti's model insisted that Trey must be drafted, because he's very likely to be a successful pro, predicting a Wins Produced per 48 minutes right around .090, or fringe starter. I think his college production will translate better to the NBA than Arturo's model - when it's all said and done, something like a .125-.150 WP48 kind of guy. Offensively, I think he has enough tools to get there. Ari Caroline's model likes him too.

DraftExpress' Situational Statistics highlight just how crazy efficient Burke was offensively at Michigan:

Looking at the bigger picture, Burke's 18.5 possessions per-game, 0.999 overall points per-possessions (PPP), and 11.5% turnover rate all place him in the top-six of those respective categories ... but Burke's standing in both usage and efficiency are especially impressive considering the quality of defense he faced on a nightly basis in the Big Ten and the pressure associated with being the top threat on a National Championship caliber team.

Burke did his best work as a scorer in the half court, where he once again hovers around the top-five in usage and efficiency. More a facilitator in transition, Burke sports a terrific 4.3-to-1 assist to turnover ratio on the fast break.

Perhaps more so than any position in the NBA, point guards are defined by their ability to excel in one particular situation: the pick and roll... what is truly remarkable about his numbers in the two-man game is the degree to which he valued the ball. Turning it over on just 8.2% of his pick and roll possessions, Burke's command of the ball makes him the only player with a single-digit turnover percentage.

Burke ranks average to above average as a spot-up shooter, isolation scorer, and off screen threat ...His biggest weapon as a scorer is his pull-up jump shot, which accounted for a sample leading 46.4% of his attempts in the half court last season. Yielding 1.01 points per-shot, Burke's pull-up is on par withDamian Lillard's coming out of Weber State (1 PPP) and was almost more effective for him than a finishing opportunity, where his 1.052 points per-shot ranks below average.

James Brocato's Draft Model likes him as much as any model out there, so I've saved the best for last. At a +2 in James' system, Burke put up college numbers that usually translate into All Star numbers in the NBA. Yes, seriously.

My draft model, of course, projects Burke as a +2 in the league, which puts him in elite company, and suggests that he's the fourth best prospect in the draft - and the second best point guard. Chris Paul, of course, is one of the three best players in the league at six feet even with shoes on. And it doesn't end there: Rajon Rondo, Mike Conley, Ty Lawson, and Kyle Lowry are elite at the position - and they're all under 6'2″. Even Jameer Nelson, Raymond Felton, T.J. Ford, and Nate Robinson have had reasonable success in the NBA. And Burke has a case for being a better offensive college player than any of these guys. He has almost certainly been the best scorer of the bunch - shooting a 59% true shooting percentage while averaging more points per pace-adjusted 40 than all but Nelson (his senior year), who played against weaker competition. Plus Burke is on pace to average more assists per pace-adjusted 40 than every player on that list except T.J. Ford. Factor in turnover rate - Burke's is the best of the bunch - and what we have is an efficient, finely tuned offensive weapon who is still only 20.

The NBA season can't get here soon enough. I hope you don't mind if I adopt the Jazz for the next ten years.

And I'll leave you with this, because The Shot!

edit: embed isn't working, here's the link:

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.