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Utah Jazz combo guard Alec Burks can help this team . . . but will he step foot on the court again this season?

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A big part of this team has been missing for big parts of the last two seasons

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz had two lottery pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. The previous year they added Gordon Hayward and Jeremy Evans, and traded for Derrick Favors (and Devin Harris and future picks). One of those picks turned into the #3 pick in 2011. They selected bigman Enes Kanter to round out their inside foursome behind Big Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Today only one of those four bigmen remain on the team. The Jazz had another lotto pick in 2011, the #12 pick. Utah selected combo guard Alec Burks and for much of his career he has been "out of sight / out of mind."

As a rookie he was a part of a congested wing rotation that featured Gordon Hayward, Raja Bell, Josh Howard, C.J. Miles, DeMarre Carroll, and him. It was a lockout shortened season and his club was in a #playoffpush -- and made it as the 8th seed -- so there were not a lot of developmental minutes for this lotto pick.

In his sophomore season he would see 6,000 wing minutes go to Randy Foye (2.2k), Gordon Hayward (2.1k), and Marvin Williams (1.7k). In what was left he had to stave off DeMarre Carroll in a contract year where his agent had the ear to the head coach Tyrone Corbin. The D League call up would play only 26 fewer minutes as the second year lotto pick.

Foye, Bell, Howard, Miles, and Carroll all did not play for the Jazz much longer after getting minutes over Burks. Most of those guys were on the court only for a year before moving on -- taking with them minutes that could have instead stayed with the franchise if they were instead invested in one of their lotto picks.

Things turned around quite a bit in his third season -- a season where the combo guard would finally even get to start a game! (He would start 12 of the 78 games he played that season, the first few at point guard, because why would he ever get to play shooting guard?) Burks had a breakthrough season where he would play 2.2k minutes and average 14.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.7 apg, 0.9 spg, get to the line 4.8 times a game, while shooting 35.0% from deep. This was an encouraging sign because a) he was finally getting a chance to play because the front office and coach didn't find another "one and done" guy to play ahead of him, and b) he was playing well.

He wasn't perfect. Advanced stats give him mixed reviews. And he was making mistakes a third year player should not -- but a big part of that was that in terms of on-court experience he was actually quite behind other third year players from his draft level. (Other teams don't usually draft a guy in the lotto, only to decide to play one trick ponies, guys trying to stay in the league long after their productive careers have ended, and NBA D League guys ahead of him. But other teams don't have all the NBA Championships that the Jazz do, so our front office is beyond reproach. Oh dang. Utah doesn't have any titles to justify the off-the-wall ways they've gone out to systematically reduce the value of our lotto picks.)

If we allow bygones to truly be gone (and I don't allow that), it's fair to say that Utah had a nice developing player in Burks. He was talented, and showed flashes of being a legit NBA player, but he still wasn't quite there after year three.

And then in year four (last season) and five (this season) he has missed massive amounts of the season to two, non-connected, acute injuries -- the second of which necessitated putting pins into his body. (E.g. the surgery wasn't just for repair, but for correction.) And as a result, the guy who used to be "out of sight / out of mind" because his brilliant head coach (currently as employed as an NBA head coach as I am) was brilliant is now "out of sight / out of mind" because of injuries.

     2014 2016 Alec Burks Games Missed Fuzzy Table

Don't bother zooming in on that, it just represents how many games he didn't play in over the last two seasons

It is a shame because Burks is a talented player who can help our team do some of the things this team isn't so hot at. He can create his own shot, which is an NBA level skill many of our wings do not have the quickness nor athleticism to reliably do at an the NBA level. He's also a foul magnet (which also means he does get beat up), and gets to the line reliably, regardless of minute fluctuations. And most surprisingly, he's one of the team's best three point makers, shooting .359 .350 .382 and .387 from deep over the last four seasons. In a season where the team has been forced to rely upon Chris Johnson, Joe Ingles, and bit players (Elijah Millsap, J.J. O'Brien) at the wing it's clear that he has been missed.

Here's what he did earlier on against Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat:

And who can forget the abuse he gave the Phoenix Suns ' Jon Leuer?

And it almost seems like an eternity ago when he crowned the Los Angeles Clippers bigman DeAndre Jordan:

Acute injury has knocked him out of games, and the Jazz are absolutely the lesser for it. Here's how much he has played for the team over the last three seasons (well, 2.8 seasons):

Games Minutes MPG
Season Alec Jazz % Alec Jazz % Alec Jazz %
2013-2014 78 82 95.12% 2193 3956 55.43% 28.12 48.24 58.28%
2014-2015 27 82 32.93% 899 3941 22.81% 33.30 48.06 69.28%
2015-2016 28 67 41.79% 760 3261 23.31% 27.14 48.67 55.77%
Totals 133 231 57.58% 3852 11158 34.52% 28.96 48.30 59.96%

So, first things first, he played in 95% of the available games in his break-out season, only to play 27 and 28 in the next two. That's less than 30, and it brings his average down to fewer than 60% of the possible games. Not being in the games hurts his total minutes. He was someone who played 55% of the available minutes for one player on the court -- and he's played less than a quarter of the possible minutes these last two seasons. The one play where you see some stability is that WHEN he is healthy enough to play he does play. How much? About 60% of the available minutes for one player on the court, which is about 29.0 mpg (rounding up).

It makes you think of the "what if?"s that a healthier Burks could we speculate about.

What if . . . he played in 80% of the games he could have, instead of 58% (rounding up?) That means he's playing in about 65 games a season instead of the 44 he's currently at. That's just 21 more games a year but it would end up being an additional +609 minutes per season of Alec Freakin' Burks. And instead of a guy who has played in just 3,852 / 11,158 minutes (34.52%) it would be 5,070 minutes (45.44%). That 45.44% is a lot closer to the 59.96 actual % of the minutes he plays per game. Having him play in 45.44% of the possible minutes per season would be a downgrade from a 1:1 expectation, but it still would be so much more than the 34.52% he has been available for over the last three seasons.

What if . . . he played in 85%? That's 70 games a season, and would be +77 more games than he actually played. That's almost an entire extra season of him (seeings how he played in 78 in 2013-2014). And that's really how much we've missed.

More Alec means more excitement. But more than that, it means more synergy with his teammates. Few people have actually written about how he and Gordon Hayward ARE a good fit and their strengths compliment one another. We didn't get to see it enough this season, but he also helps Trey Burke out off the bench (back when he used to play). Trey was more effective out there with someone else handling the ball and creating open shots for teammates. I don't think there's a conflict, because if he can play well with both Hayward and Burke he could also slide in next to Rodney Hood. Quin Snyder thinks so as he used to play all three of them at the same time, like when they went out there and beat the Atlanta Hawks in their gym, in overtime, at the end of a four game road trip.

His unorthodox style may not scream "winning basketball" to some fans . . . but they don't win this game without him.

But for me Alec is more than just a guy who attacks the basket and gets to the line. Offensive he's a guy who has worked hard on his spot-up ability (something our team's wings all seem to have trouble with at times), but his penchant for going to the basket creates a vacuum effect that sucks in defenders -- allowing him to make nifty passes to the bigmen. Check out his some of his passes to Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Trevor Booker here:

As you see, all of these videos are from THIS 2015-2016 season. I don't know if we're going to see him again this year, but we're supposed to. The NBA media reports still list him as OUT, as opposed to day-to-day. The gambling websites still feel as though he's a week away from returning to practice. There are only 15 games left this season, so it's almost now or never. And that idiom is as comforting to Jazz fans as the other Burks-specific one is, "out of sight / out of mind."

It gets worse when you compare him to his own Draft Class and Rookie Class. A few of these guys received their rookie scale extensions and first big contracts (including Alec). But not all of them have performed on the court. Alec has, but hasn't been healthy or out of the dog house enough to be 'up there' in total minutes. Still, for all the people who were rookies in 2011 he ranks #22 in total regular season minutes. But if you order the Top 30 players from 2011 with the most minutes by draft spot you see that Alec is the odd man out.

Player G Min MPG Rd # Year Player G Min MPG Rd # Year
1 Kyrie Irving 296 10,056 34.0 1 1 2011 16 Iman Shumpert 281 7,207 25.6 1 17 2011
2 Derrick Williams 362 7,728 21.3 1 2 2011 17 Tobias Harris 288 8,040 27.9 1 19 2011
3 Enes Kanter 358 7,597 21.2 1 3 2011 18 Kenneth Faried 342 9,114 26.6 1 22 2011
4 Tristan Thompson 372 10,630 28.6 1 4 2011 19 Reggie Jackson 338 8,066 23.9 1 24 2011
5 Ricky Rubio 263 8,299 31.6 1 5 2009 20 Norris Cole 347 7,893 22.7 1 28 2011
6 Bismack Biyombo 350 7,426 21.2 1 7 2011 21 Cory Joseph 270 4,730 17.5 1 29 2011
7 Brandon Knight 321 10,555 32.9 1 8 2011 22 Jimmy Butler 306 9,482 31.0 1 30 2011
8 Kemba Walker 348 11,725 33.7 1 9 2011 23 Shelvin Mack 260 4,077 15.7 2 34 2011
9 Jimmer Fredette 235 3,148 13.4 1 10 2011 24 Chandler Parsons 338 11,273 33.4 2 38 2011
10 Klay Thompson 370 11,979 32.4 1 11 2011 25 Jon Leuer 242 3,242 13.4 2 40 2011
11 Alec Burks 256 5,928 23.2 1 12 2011 26 Lavoy Allen 312 5,779 18.5 2 50 2011
12 Markieff Morris 359 9,079 25.3 1 13 2011 27 E'Twaun Moore 301 5,159 17.1 2 55 2011
13 Marcus Morris 323 7,852 24.3 1 14 2011 28 Isaiah Thomas 350 10,177 29.1 2 60 2011
14 Kawhi Leonard 314 9,343 29.8 1 15 2011 29 Lance Thomas 227 4,121 18.2 -- -- 2011
15 Nikola Vucevic 317 9,557 30.1 1 16 2011 30 Donald Sloan 204 3,450 16.9 -- -- 2011

N.B. #5 Jonas Valanciunas, #6 Jan Vesely, #18 Chris Singleton, #20 Donatas Motiejunas, #21 Nolan Smith, #23 Nikola Mirotic and others funk up this table because they were all 1st rounders who didn't play a lot of minutes either.

So that sucks. Now that there's finally a Jazz coach who wants to play him, he's injured. This draft glass is going to get mixed reviews, and it's crazy to me that even though he's been in and out of the league for a while now, Jimmer is still someone who has logged enough minutes to beat out 51 other players to be #30 in total regular season minutes. As an aside, all the guys who have played at least 10k minutes (in now their 5th year in the league, and thus surpassing my my 2k a year theory -- and Kawhi will get there this season, not including all of his playoff experience) seem to be the best players in this Rookie class. But hey, there are bound to be some exceptions to my hypothesis.

Injury history aside, I think Alec is as good as many of these other lotto picks. He's also better than the vast majority of these 30 players. But one thing they have on him right now is that they (for the most part) are healthier and ready to ball today. I do seem to point out how behind Alec is, and you don't have to agree with me on that point. I think what we all can agree on is that we want to see this guy out there on the court playing for our Jazz as soon as possible.

We can only speculate on how many games he will ever play a season with his physical / high degree of difficulty style of play. I, for one, am still hoping to see him play THIS season though. Who else better to help our team go on their #PlayofPush than the Corner Pimp? He may have been the most misused and abused lotto rookie in franchise history, and while he's out of sight / out of mind, he's not out of our hearts. We miss you Alec!

Please return soon!

I'd like to thank Basketball-Reference.com for the stats and YouTube.com for all the videos.