Death, Taxes, and Alec Burks is finally healthy again. Utah Jazz fans can almost set their watches to the annual Fall hype train of Alec Burks looking great in offseason workouts and being the Utah Jazz’s best “offseason acquisition.” Alec Burks never asked for this annual
apology tour hype train. The athletic product of the University of Colorado was supposed to have carved his niche in the NBA by now, but Burks’s career has been marred by a coach that preferred veterans to development, health, and just unlucky breaks whether those came in the form of more talented free agents being signed or just fluke injuries.
When Alec Burks arrived in Utah he was the 4th member of the now forgotten “Core 4” that included the now departed Gordon Hayward, disgruntled Enes Kanter, and Derrick Favors. That group was anointed by fans and some management as the next stage for the Utah Jazz franchise after the Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur era. He was athletic, full of swag, and fearless when attacking the rim. All of Burks swag and bravado could not prepare him for his biggest obstacle over his first 4 years in the NBA: Ty Corbin.
Ty Corbin after taking over for Jerry Sloan was tasked with the unenviable situation of fighting for the playoffs and developing a young team at the same time. Kevin O’Connor, current advisor to the Utah Jazz and then General Manager, was not looking to get into the tanking business. Ty Corbin, a first time head coach who had the unenviable task of following a legend in Jerry Sloan, believed that players had to earn their playing time. This resulted in players like Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks coming off the bench while Josh Howard, Randy Foye, Raja Bell, DeMarre Carroll, and Marvin Williams played in front of them.
Alec Burks during these years seemed to get the shorter leash due to his brashness during games. He was fearless when attacking and was known for breaking the offense and going for the acrobatic finish which, to his credit, he could convert. But that didn’t win the hearts of the coaching staff. Alec Burks main stints on the floor then were rarely at wing and usually at point guard when Utah’s guards were in foul trouble or injured. There were even those calling for the Utah Jazz to convert Alec Burks to a point guard.
By the time Quin Snyder came rolling into town in 2014, Alec Burks had spent most of his time either out of position or in Ty Corbin’s doghouse. Quin Snyder to those of us on the outside seemed to be Alec Burks’ knight in shining armor. Sure enough, Quin Snyder quickly threw Alec Burks into the starting lineup where he averaged 14 ppg, 4 rpg, and 3 apg. Then Burks’ next challenge begun: the injuries. In that same season, he suffered a season ending shoulder injury. It actually started at the beginning of the 2014 season and soon the Utah Jazz had to shut him down.
The next season Burks suffered a fractured left fibula. Fluke play on a layup. The next season the 6 year shooting guard battled nagging injuries in his knee and ankle. With newly acquired Joe Johnson, the up and coming Rodney Hood, and one of the most surprising starters Joe Ingles, Burks never made it into the starting lineup and rarely the rotation. When he did he looked like a shell of his former self.
Which brings us to the present. For the past 3 seasons Alec Burks has been billed as ready to overcome his circumstances and become the player the Jazz projected him as being when they drafted him, but now he’s in his 7th year. What precedence is there for a player suddenly turning into a solid player in their 7th year in the NBA?
Interestingly enough, Alec Burks’ mentor, Chauncey Billups, comes into play here. Chauncey Billups famously gave Burks the nickname of Corner Pimp—based on Burks ability to hit the open corner 3. Chauncey Billups in his first five seasons was moved from team to team and only played 295 games. While Burks has played 1 more season than Chauncey Billups, Burks is actually the same age as Chauncey Billups when Chauncey had his breakout season with the Detroit Pistons.
The stars might finally align with Burks this year. Reports have said that Burks FINALLY looks healthy and has been playing well in offseason workouts. The two names that come up frequently when asked about offseason workouts are Alec Burks and Dante Exum. While both are finally free of the ill effects of their injuries, it should be noted that Utah Jazz management could be saying those things to elevate their trade value. Alec Burks’ disappointing last few seasons even made his contract tempting for use with the stretch provision.
So is this just hot air or is this actually something substantial? Utah Jazz fans, coaches, and management hope that this is the year Alec Burks takes off because Utah will need a player like Burks who can create his own shot and get to the bucket from the perimeter. In an offseason where there are many question marks whether it be Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, Donovan Mitchell, or Ricky Rubio, the Utah Jazz would love to have The Return of The Return of The Return of Alec Burks finally be a success.