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Utah Jazz vs Minnesota Timberwolves: Overtone

Revisiting the draft night trade between UTA and MIN, Trey Burke for Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng

2013 NBA Draft

As per custom, I must announce that I am a Trey Burke homer. So much so that leading up to the 2013 NBA Draft I didn’t even bother scouting him because I had watched most of his NCAA games and knew that there would be no way possible for the Utah Jazz to snag the player of the year at #14.

Ohio State v Michigan

But on draft night Dennis Lindsey, with the help of Kevin O’Connor’s contacts, found a way to trade the #14 and #21 picks for the #9. Shabazz Muhammad, Tyrone Corbin’s combine pick for the late lotto, went over 12 months of media scrutiny and didn’t even show up to the green room. Dieng was a project from Africa.

This was a homerun for the Jazz who needed a starting point guard. Somehow it just didn’t work out that way.

Burke, who would finish the season 3rd in Rookie of the Year voting, and thrice be the Western Conference Rookie of the Month, had an up and down year. He missed the beginning of it after getting injured in preseason. After hand surgery he found making shots (shots he made all the time during March Madness the year before) difficult. And while he got the playing time he never seemed to make as many shots as needed in order to make up for the defensive problems he faced as a small guard in today’s hyper athletic league.

And that off-season the Jazz drafted his apparent replacement in the even younger, but athletically gifted, Dante Exum.

2014 NBA Draft
Photo by Jesse. D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Over his three seasons with the Jazz he would see himself play fewer and fewer minutes per game, finishing up his third year in the league with a collection of DNP-CDs. That’s really not the trajectory you’d want from your NCAA stud who averaged 12.8 ppg / 3.0 rpg / 5.7 apg / 1.6 3PTM / 0.6 spg while shooting .380 .330 .903 as a rookie. But that’s what happened.

Over in Minnesota we had Shabazz, now of a determined age, having to make adjustments as well. Minny wasn’t at all like sunny Southern California. He was a bench player every year with the Wolves, and was also somewhat drafted a year before someone playing the same position who was younger and had a higher upside was selected. (In Bazz’ case: Andrew Wiggins.) While Wiggins was the future of the franchise (until Karl-Anthony Towns joined), Muhammad didn’t look like he had much of a future at all. His rookie season saw him play in only 37 games, and 7.8 minutes per game. He shot .273 from deep and rarely passed the ball (6 total assists as a rookie). His 3.9 PPG mark all but made this Trey Burke trade look great for the Jazz.

But Muhammad didn’t quit, he kept working on his game and found a place in the NBA. The next season was another injury plagued one where he would play in only 38 games, but his PPG jumped up to 13.5 (from 3.9 the season before), and he shot nearly 40% from downtown. He was attacking the rim as well and became a legit rotation player in the NBA. In his third year player he would suit up and play in all 82 games, while averaging double digits in PPG for the second straight year.

But Muhammad’s improvement and offense are just the cherry on the top of this trade, with Gorgui Dieng being all-around an unpolished gem. In his first few seasons Dieng didn’t see the floor much because of Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Garnett, Ronny Turiaf, Derrick Williams, Thaddeus Young, Anthony Bennett, Dante Cunningham, Justin Hamilton, and Adreian Payne were all competing against him for playing time. He still battled his way to NEAR the top, going from 13.6 mpg (rookie) to 30.0 mpg (soph) to 27.1 mpg (third year player) — and playing between 60 and 82 games a year.

Dieng has been a force inside with his rebounding, shot blocking, free throw making, expanding range, and nifty finishing ability. Now that he’s hitting threes he’s effectivelly a younger Serge Ibaka — and a great PF/C who can slide over and guard smaller guys or taller guys, and make it work for Minnesota.

This season Trey is with the Washington Wizards, traded away for a 2021 2nd round pick. He’s resurrecting his career a bit by drilling 47.1% of his three point attempts (only 1.1 a game), but he’s playing more off the ball than battling guys like John Wall and Tomas Satoransky for point guard playing time.

Shabazz’ scoring has gone down below double digits for the first time in three seasons with the added load of Zach LaVine, but he remains capable off the bench in a limited role. Gorgui is one of the league leaders in minutes played this year and is nearly averaging a double double while making a quiet case for more national media attention.

Utah Jazz v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Now 3 years, 6 months, and 12 days since the 2013 NBA Draft, a night were Jazz fans were over the moon (Rudy Gobert and Raul Neto too!), it looks like the Jazz got the “L” on this one. I don’t know what’s going to be the ultimate fate of Dieng, Muhammad, and Burke. But I do know that we can’t close the case on this trade until that 2021 pick’s fate is figured out.

But for now, it looks like the Wolves won. 14+21 is greater than 9, after all.