So. Trey Burke has been struggling lately. And people -- fans, journalists, even his own coach -- are starting to invoke the dreaded "W" word: the rookie wall.
"Trey being a young guy, he just has to figure it out," coach Ty Corbin said. "His body is probably hurting in places he didn't think he had before."
In December, Burke averaged nearly 15 points, six assist and three rebounds a night. Over his last six games, he is averaging 8 points, five assists and two rebounds.
"You go through it, you learn," Corbin said. "Your body, you see things, you feel things. ... It takes a couple years to fight through it and learn what you need to do to get yourself ready [for an 82-game season]."
Trey has actually played in fewer games than most rookies would've at this point, due to his preseason injury. But his 36 games played so far are almost as many as the 39 he played last year at Michigan, including the NCAA tournament. On top of that, the college season is far more spread out than the NBA grind. So perhaps it's not surprising that Trey's lost a bit of his mojo.
Over the last seven games, Burke has scored in double digits only once. And the Jazz have a 2-5 record over that time. The losses are understandable, given the injuries other players have suffered. (And the fact that the Jazz just aren't very good.) But the scoring is disappointing. You'd think Trey would have taken over more of the load with Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward missing a few games. But that hasn't happened.
More troubling to me is Trey's shooting percentage. It's been a problem since that dreadful Summer League showing in Orlando. He's now at .372 for his career and .337 on three-pointers. His True Shooting percentage, which incorporates threes and free throws, is .467. That's below such backcourt luminaries as Raymond Felton, Austin Rivers and -- guess who? -- Mo Williams.
So, yeah. Trey's in a shooting slump. But it's not all bad news.
Burke's assist-to-turnover ratio is still a sparkling 2.75, good for 13th in the entire NBA and 9th among point guards averaging more than 30 minutes a game. Even over this poor stretch of the last seven games, his assist-to-turnover ratio is 2.54. So he still makes good things happen, even if he's not scoring the ball.
These numbers fit with the evaluation ESPN's David Thorpe gave Burke last week:
This is what makes Burke so interesting. He has been a phenomenal winner and player at every level, yet his athleticism for his position is average at best. And that is the secret to Burke and his future. When studying his game now, his poise, pace and steadiness jump off the screen.
Young players who are the primary ball handlers for their teams tend to play wildly, often allowing their athleticism to get them into problems. Because Burke is not that kind of athlete, he can't make those kinds of mistakes, but he still could play too fast for his team's good. However, Burke ranks in the top 20 among all point guards in turnover rate. It's one of the key areas that helps separate Burke.
His basketball IQ and his pace of play are far more like a veteran's. He just does not make the frequent mistakes that most other point guards make. Instead, he reads the game, making the easy pass or simple decision, rarely rushing into trouble and typically moving to avoid it. It's a subtle talent, but the dividends are enormous.
Thorpe goes on to say that the only evaluation that matters is whether a player helps his team win. And Trey Burke undoubtedly does that. He may never be as good as shooter as I'd like, but the Jazz are better when he's on the floor, rookie wall or not.
Here's someone else in a slump: Gordon Hayward. He's had quite the up-and-down season: he had to carry the Jazz in that early 1-14 stretch without Trey Burke, with mixed results; he dropped 29 on James Harden, 30 in a road win in Denver, and that spectacular 37/11/7 against Kevin Durant; and he's averaged less than 12 points a game in the last five games, on 12+ shot attempts per game.
So what should we do with Young Master G-Time? This is kind of cheating for a Downbeat, but I want to make sure everyone had a chance to read our own Diana Allen's thoughts on the issue:
Its hard to know why Hayward's field goal percentages are low this season. I do think that despite Hayward's consistent role maybe he doesn't have the right role. Maybe the offense that the Jazz are running doesn't compliment Hayward's skills. Or maybe Hayward will just never be a consistent player.
There are many outlying factors that influence how a player succeeds on a team and as a player. Hayward has had to deal with going from being drafted to one of the most stable organizations in the NBA with a HOF coach and an All-NBA point guard to having Ty Corbin as a coach and a roster full of young (underdeveloped) players and mercenary vets. A team that was designed to lose. Being the leader of a team like that would be hard for most players that aren't perennial all-stars. Gordon also has the disadvantage of being handed the keys to a team that has a lame duck coach looking for his next contract and a GM who said this year would be a year of development and discovery. Seeing that the head coach and the front office have different objectives makes it very difficult for a player to play to their potential and be a leader.
Diana's point is a good one -- it can't have been easy for Hayward to constantly adjust to a shifting role and dramatic roster turnover. At the same time, this is his fourth year in the league. If he really has the seeds of greatness in him, I'd like to see them more often than once every 10 games.
Here's Hayward's own take on his current slump, courtesy of Mike Sorensen of the D-News:
"I haven't shot the ball well - hopefully I'll shoot the ball better tonight,'' Hayward said before Monday night's game against Toronto.
He didn't, going 3 of 11, which came on top of a 3-for-13 performance against the Clippers, a 3-for-10 game against the Warriors, a 4-for-13 outing against Sacramento and a 5-for-14 game against Washington.
You can blame it on the injury or the time off, but that doesn't explain his 10-for-17 performance right out of the gates after sitting out for a couple of weeks.
Hayward acknowledges it's a confidence thing. He said a player can't stop shooting because he's in a slump and has to believe it's going to get better.
"You just keep shooting ... the next one's going to fall,'' he said. "I've been through rough patches before, so this one's not a big deal. Don't take any bad shots and if the shot's not falling, try to get to the free-throw line, get yourself going in transition, do the little things to help yourself.''
What do you think? How should the Jazz be using Hayward? Or is this season just too chaotic to know?
Here's Hardwood18 on that glorious day, drawing ever nearer: the 2014 Draft:
Let's assume that regardless of how bad we finish the season this year that the best pick we will end up with in this draft is the 6th pick. It's easy to dream that when we land a star this offseason that we are on our way to a championship, the fact is with Burke, Burks, Clark, Hayward, Favors, Evans, Kanter and Gobert returning, we only have Hayward with much NBA game time experience. Before looking forward to a championship, we need to improve our defense. We also need to get a couple of efficient scorers to help take the load off of Hayward. It makes sense to me to find guys that can score and work to improve defense as a team, rather than find defensive guys hoping they can score.
Click through to see his thoughts on possible targets for the Jazz.
Next up: Aged fan runs through some numbers to see if this year's Jazz team matches the previous stereotypes associated with the Jerry Sloan era:
In the D-Will era (someone with a longer statistical memory will have to comment on the Stockton/Malone era), the Jazz were notable statistically for such things as
-- heavy fouling
-- often going to the free throw line
-- reluctance to take and guard 3-point shots
-- very strong rebounding, particularly offensive rebounding
-- relatively high forcing of turnovers
-- average to more than average turnovers on offense
-- high FG%, though EF% a bit lower because of lack of 3-pointers
-- high assists
These characteristics were often attributed to Sloan's style, though of course player personnel plays into it. When Ty took over, I remember there many who hoped that he'd be able to change at least some of it (heavy fouling, non-attention to 3-pointers, esp.). So what do the Jazz look like this year?
And staying on the Jerry Sloan theme, anonymoussource shares a super-cool personal experience meeting the coach and the old staff:
The highlight of the trip for me, though, was getting a private dinner with the coaching/training staff. It was here that I finally got my dream of meeting Sloan. He sat across the table from me, and it took me a good ten minutes to muster up the courage to talk to the guy. It was during this conversation about tractors, Illinois, school, the Lakers, and a variety of other topics that I realized some of other reasons that I idolized the guy. He was just a very simple, kind, hard working man. He didn't know a lot about technology, but he knew heaps and bounds about harvesting fields and about coaching. He knew what he knew, and you could tell that he gave it his all. In many ways it felt like I was talking to my own grandpa.
Click through for some neat photos. Thanks for sharing, dude!
Sticking with Jerry Sloan some more: Here's the Tribune's Aaron Falk again, on Jerry's current role with the Jazz as he sees it:
Back working for the Utah Jazz this season - after more than two years away following his abrupt resignation in February 2011 - Sloan isn't about to make any long-term promises this time.
"I don't think it's a number of years thing," the Hall of Fame coach said Friday. "I think it's just a day-to-day thing, as far as the way I look at the whole thing. I'm Utah Jazz, I think everybody knows that. But the light gets a little dimmer as time goes by because I'm 71 years old."
For now, though, Sloan is enjoying being back in basketball, and he is working to figure out his new role as a senior basketball adviser to the team he led for 23 years.
"I'm just trying to find my way," he said. "I've never had a job like this before. I don't have any guidelines to go by."
So far, Sloan's job has consisted of some scouting duties and providing some insight to his replacement, Jazz coach Ty Corbin.
"I'm here to help any way they might ask me and to be out of the way when it's my time to be out of the way," Sloan said.
Falk goes on to quote Corbin as saying he wishes Jerry would give even more input than he has. Sounds like Jerry, being his humble self, staying out of the spotlight.
Of course, I think many here would join Corbin in wishing Sloan would step in more. For me, I'm just glad he seems to have put the flirtations with other head coaching jobs to rest.
This has nothing to do with the Jazz. It's just hilarious. It's a commercial that aired locally in Georgia during the Super Bowl. And it's AMAZING.