This is part of a SLCDunk series of articles on players who we stanned for when they were drafted by the Utah Jazz or who we wanted to be drafted by the Utah Jazz, but never had the success we boasted they would.
Not too long ago I could be found telling my fellow Utah Jazz fans: “Alec Burks has more potential than Gordon Hayward.” I won’t take that statement back, but I will certainly acknowledge that I haven’t been able to say that for about 3 years.
In fairness, Burks isn’t a bust, at least not completely. So it’s hard for me to classify him as a “stunning failure.” But his shortcomings might be worse because we’ve actually seen what he could have been; instead of that potential not existing in the first place.
Getting drafted 12th doesn’t mean you are star material in the eyes of the scouts. But it’s nothing to sneeze at either.
Burks’ length (6’6” with a 6’10” wingspan), quickness and above-average leaping ability (36” vertical jump) were decent, but it was his skill set that likely caught the eye of then-general manager Kevin O’Connor.
Burks was a clear-cut star at the University of Colorado, averaging 19.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists in two years with the Buffaloes. He displayed great ball-handling and the ability to create his own shot, plus the aforementioned finishing at the rim. Some even thought he could play significant minutes as a point guard because of his passing skills.
Development for Burks at the time meant him adding weight to his 193 lb frame and improving his jump shot. If he could do that, he was a guy who could 20 points per game some day.
Early in his career, Burks was Dwayne Wade Lite. His around-the-basket finishing left me staring in a way only Kyrie Irving has done since. That finishing earned him several nicknames (some ridiculous) from the Jazz radio and TV crew, including the incredibly fitting “Houdini.”
Burks’ jump shot also started coming along in the 2013-14 season. He made a then-career high 42 percent of his shots from 10-16 feet and, if you excluded end-of-quarter heaves, a career-high 37.3 percent of his three-pointers. Sure, those aren’t world-beating numbers, but it was his third year.
Burks also flashed defensive potential. His length and quickness gave him the potential to be a great wing defender as long as he put his mind to it. At times he did and he looked like a future two-way borderline All-Star.
How it fell apart
The years 2014-2016 happened. Burks injured basically everything between his shoulders and toes. Of the 246 possible regular season games he could have played in, Burks only managed to play in 100.
Even before those years, Burks was hamstrung not by the basketball gods, but by the Jazz basketball devil, Tyrone Corbin.
When current general manager Dennis Lindsay opened the door for Burks to take over the starting shooting guard role in 2013, Corbin slammed the door by starting the ageless Richard Jefferson instead. Burks would still go on the have his best year to date, but Corbin never was able to fully utilized Burks. In a way, he was like Enes Kanter.
Burks can still turn his career into a respectable one. Sadly, it may take a move out of Utah for him if he wants to be anything more than a sixth man. And I don’t want to see him leave.