I'm willing to die on that hill of "Trey Burke is a solid NBA player who can be and should be a rotation player in a system that uses his talents," but even I have to see the writing is on the wall. The Utah Jazz are just going to have to trade Trey Burke -- after all, he is now currently on a team that features George Hill (veteran of many NBA Playoff wars), Dante Exum (still going into this 2nd season), Raul Neto (too good to simply be a 3rd stringer), and Shelvin Mack (on a non-guarantted contract); while simultaneously being a franchise that holds the draft rights to three more point guards: Olivier Hanlan, Marcus Paige, and Tyrone Wallace. Last season Quin Snyder just stopped playing him just because he wasn't one of "Snyder's guys," which is a coach's prerogative. It does make the player harder to trade when they are piling up DNP-CDs like Burke did to end last season. But that's GM Dennis Lindsey's problem.
A bigger problem seems to have been actually getting a deal done. The NBA Rumors surrounding a Burke departure have been swirling for about a year now. Let's revisit this timeline:
- [July 2015] The Utah Jazz and Raul Neto finalize discussions to bring over the 2013, #47 NBA Draft pick, leading some professional writers to speculate on Burke's future. David Pick pointed out that "Trey Burke isn't getting much love from Utah," and feels as thought he is now tradable.
- [July 2015] Despite the decision to bring over Neto, local Jazz beat writers regurgitated the line they were fed saying that the Jazz were happy with Trey and there is nothing to see here.
- [January 2016] The Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News, KSL, Basketball Insiders, and more are all confirming chatter they hear saying that Trey Burke is a) on the block and b) being shopped
- [February 2016] It spreads like wildfire that the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets are involved in a trade that starts with Trade Burke and Ty Lawson changing teams
- [February 2016] Everyone from ESPN's Marc Stein to local beat writers are on this bandwagon -- up to hours before the NBA Trade Deadline
- [February 2016] The Utah Jazz PR "break the rules" by continuing to sequester Trey Burke, even after games and practices, and do not allow him to be available to the media, you know, despite there being rules about this.
- [February 2016] Talks break down between the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz, as per Yahoo! Sport's Adrian Wojnarowski -- Trade hawk local media put their tails between their legs.
- [February 2016] Dennis Lindsey pulls a Kevin O'Connor on if he did or did not tell Trey Burke's camp that he was going to be traded at the deadline, "no comment."
- [February 2016] The Utah Jazz and the Atlanta Hawks come out of nowhere and complete a deal that brings back 3rd stringer Shelvin Mack to the Jazz. Later on this would become a three team trade that also included the Chicago Bulls and Kirk Hinrich.
- [February 2016] Another trade deadline passes and Burke is still on the team, but this time the team added yet another point guard to push him further down the depth chart.
- [February 2016] When finally allowed to talk with the Press, Burke said, "Now that it's over with, I don't have to think or worry about it. We can just focus on the Wizards and make that playoff run . . . the process felt like last year, I felt like I went through the same thing. The first time I was drafted I was traded. SO I've gone through this a few times before."
- [February 2016] Rodney Hood, interrupting Burke's media face-to-face time grabbed a mic and said "We happy to have Trey Burke, man. We love Trey Burke, baby."
- [April 2016] Burke asked again about his role after rotation demotion says "I know if I do go somewhere else I"m going to make the most of it. If I stay here, I'm going to keep fighting."
- [May 2016] Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey on Burke, "He's under contract . . . clearly he wants to play and have a larger role. He's been the utmost professional; I'm actually really proud of how he's handled the situation. And we're not a malicious group -- that's just not in our DNA. Quin and the staff treated him well."
And here we are today. Reading between the lines it seems like after Trey lost his starting spot to Dante Exum waay back in 2014 they had looked into trading him at the 2015 trade deadline. The 2016 deadline passed with him still on the roster. The Jazz failed to move him on draft nights in 2015 or 2016 as well. And didn't move him during 2016 NBA Free Agency. If they were shopping him -- which it seems like they were -- they haven't found anything they wanted in return, or anything at the price they were willing to pay.
Part of the problem is that Burke, even though he was a Top 10 lotto pick, doesn't have an expensive contract, even today in his terminal year it's still worth under $4 million dollars. The headaches other teams want to be rid of all seem to be much more expensive. The other part of the problem may be trying to return to previously held potential value. Trey Burke was traded up for on the 2013 Draft night, with the Jazz giving up the #14 (Shabazz Muhammad) and the #21 (Gorgui Dieng) to do so. I don't think the current market value for Burke is two 1st rounders anymore. But surely there could have been an actual market value for Trey Burke that the team could have sustained.
Going for the 2016 Utah Jazz #PlayoffPush featuring special guest "Ya boy Shelvin" didn't actually result in the Playoffs, while further diminishing the recency bias related perceived value for Burke.
So we're on the eve of another Free Agency period, and yet another media cycle where the trade winds blow meekly for the former NCAA Player of the Year, and three time NBA Rookie of the Month. It's truly a remarkable thing for a lottery team, who remains in the lottery for years in a row, to be able to devalue their own assets during their rookie contract. That's not usually how that works. (But it is the Jazz way!)
The majority opinion from fans appears to be that both parties -- Team Burke and Team Jazz -- can find an amicable solution. Burke can be traded to a place that will benefit from his abilities, and the Jazz will be able to simplify their point guard logjam, and perhaps even get something in return for it.
Fans, myself included, are all such sweet summer children though. The reality is that trades are harder to make in the NBA than they are among friends. And that the grim reality could be having to swallow up Burke's contract year that's on the books (or negotiate a buyout) that allows him to be an Unrestricted Free Agent this year. If that's going to happen I don't see the Utah Jazz actually doing that early on in Free Agency. They will try for a few months to make a deal happen first -- and a buyout (if one comes at all) may not happen until August. (Jazz have made late deals before, like the Steve Novak trade, as example.) Of course, by August a lot of NBA team may have already used a lot of their cap space, so yeah, fun stuff for Team Burke.
I guess the main takeaway here is that even if you are Prince Charming, the NBA is a business, and not a fairy tale. The next few months in Burke's life will really help determine his NBA future. While for the Jazz, the next few months will just determine how they use the nearly $30 million in cap space they have while trying to re-load for another #PlayoffPush.