Hello Utah Jazz fans! Let me tell you that a super long post on the subject of Trey Burke is in the works (written over 2k words already). But before I can finish something like that I have to address one of the more premature issues facing the team today. Right now Trey Burke isn't making a lot of his jumpers. Is this the end of the world? No. If he did would the team be likely to have a better record today? Yes. But did we not agree that wins and losses don't count for this year? Yes, I know I did. Many others felt the same way before the games tipped off though.
Does Trey Burke missing shots right now mean he's not fit to be a starting point guard, or even a rotation player in the league over his career? Absolutely not. The 21 year old is going to be fine.
But let's quickly look at some of the information we have:
1. Trey is missing a lot of shots.
Sure, right now his FG% is .302, and his three point shooting is only .220, having gone 9/41 so far this season. Okay. That's true. But as a player who averages 30.8 mpg, he is still only shooting the ball 10.8 times a game. In fact, if you look at the full numbers, 246 minutes played, and 86 FGA, you can figure out that Trey takes one shot every 2.86 minutes on the floor. So once every 2:52 minutes on the floor Trey takes a shot. So while he isn't making a lot of shots, he's not gunning, or chucking.
2. Trey isn't taking shots out of the offense
You know that the #1 thing we're seeing from Trey is that he's missing open jumpers. Jumpers that are a product of dribble penetration (either from Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, or Dante Exum) or post ups leading to ball rotation (either to Enes Kanter or Derrick Favors) -- and not one on one hero ball. These open jumpers are taken within the flow of the offense, and after initial incursions into the paint are made. In fact, if Trey didn't take these shots he would be breaking the offense. These are precisely the shots that Quin Snyder's offense produces for guys outside the paint, and in order to space the floor these shots need to be taken.
It's just that Trey isn't making them right now. These spot up shots constitute 41% of all the FGA Trey has taken this year, the largest piece of the pie (compared to transition, or off of screens, or one on one, or whatever). This season he has gone only 8/35 from spot up jumpers -- a lowly 22.9 fg%. As all of these are threes, his three point percentage on spot ups is the same.
But last season this was something Trey could do well with, as he shot 114/313 from these exact situations. That translates to 36.4 fg%, 35.2 3pt%, and 51.1 eFG%. So these are shots that Trey made last year, that he so far has not.
3. Trey Burke was ready to blow up
In the Summer League he didn't kill it with his shooting, but his year to year improvement was noticed. His FG% went up from .241 to .304, and his 3PT% went up from .053 to .143. Improvement is improvement, even if he still didn't shoot well in the month of July. In NBA Preseason action this year Trey was a juggernaut. He was shooting 46.2 FG% and 47.2 3PT%. What's more important to you, dicking around in the summer (108 total minutes) or the NBA Preseason (206 minutes against actual NBA players)? I think it's clear, Trey was super hot when the games were about to start.
Sure, it was only preseason, but it was a larger and more important sample size than whatever happened in Vegas.
4. Sample Size is key
The Utah Jazz have played in 8 games, total this year. In that time Trey has gone 26 for 86, a very lowly .302, as we discovered. This is off of, you know, less than 100 shots. But you know what's bigger than 100 shots? The nearly 1,000 shots he has taken in the NBA over his career, where he is shooting (a combined, cumulative) average of .373 FG%. It's lower than his rookie year because this seasons' slump has affected it.
Similarly, Trey's 9 made threes look bad. But if you look at the larger picture of what he has displayed he can do on the NBA level he's shooting .318 3PT%. It's not great. It's hardly ideal. But the more data we have the more accurate we can be with understanding if a player can or cannot make a specific shot.
If you roll it back to an even larger sample size, and look at everything he has done (cumulative) from NCAA to the NBA -- this is what you get:
- A guy who has played in 161 highly competitive games,
- and in them plays 33.45 MPG
- And shoots 41.2 FG% / 34.7 3PT% / 80.3 FT%
That's a way larger sample size (161 games > 8 games; 5285 mins > 246 mins; 2,073 FGA > 86 FGA). And in my mind, it's a much more accurate representation of who Trey is as a shooter. It's far from ideal, but it's not as bad as his slump has been.
5. His current shooting isn't going to be his career shooting
Trey is 21 years old and starting his professional career. He has a lot of years ahead of him. If a dude like Jason Kidd can end up being a knock down jump shooter at the end of his career, and people used to call him Ason Kidd for the most of his career, then Trey -- if he works on it, will be way better.
Also, his current shooting isn't a death sentence. There are plenty of guys who went on to have successful NBA careers as point guards while shooting under 40 FG% and 35 3PT% in their first two seasons combined. You may have heard of some of them:
- Greg Anthony
- Jamaal Tinsley
- Chauncey Billups
- Raymond Felton
- Jason Williams
- Jerryd Bayless
- Mike James
- Sergio Rodriguez
- Bobby Jackson
- Howard Eisley
- Ronnie Price
- Sebastian Telfair
- Dajuan Wagner
- Dee Brown
- Jacque Vaughn
A lot of them bounced around to a few teams over their careers. Some of them made names for themselves as bench players. One of them, the obvious outlier, ended up becoming NBA Finals MVP. Not every PG under 6'4 who has poor shooting percentages is able to be Billups. But there was at least one who did. Most of the players listed above got good enough to at LEAST be back ups on playoff teams.
6. There's just so much time
It's November 11th, right now. I honestly wouldn't start worrying about this until January. Having a basis in Math tells me that slumps can happen at all points in a season. Psychology tells me that having one at the beginning of the season when 100% of the data is data from a slump, well, in that case people will over react.
7. Free Throw shooting continues to be Excellent
Trey Burke IS a good shooter. He's not Mark Price or Stephen Curry or Steve Nash . . . but as far as normal NBA players who play point guard, he is still a good shooter. His free throw shooting, a combination of practice, performance, and concentration tells us so. Using the combined stats from above (Just the NBA regular season stats), he's shooting 89 FT%, and in the smallest of sample sizes has gone 12/15. He may not miss another free throw in 15 attempts. We know he's just that good.
So it's not that he's got a kink in his shot. It's still pure. It's just not going all the way down on his jumpers so far this season.
8. We are a little bit spoiled by John Stockton
And it's okay to admit it. As a player to be happy about and cherish, he's great. As a frame of reference point to judge other players by (including 21 year olds), not so much. The Hall of Famer has CAREER averages for shooting of: .515 FG% , .384 3PT%, and .826 FT%. Deron Williams, in a Jazz uniform, managed 46 / 36 / 81. It's a step down, but I honestly don't think that Trey can't average that for his career here. John's numbers are untouchable. A guy like Deron's isn't.
And Trey's numbers right now aren't the numbers he is even going to finish this season with. It's impossible for Trey to finish the season shooting 30 / 22 / 80.
If we construct a frame of reference of his peers (and I have, that's in a future post) you'll see that Trey, while not shooting great, isn't in the danger zone or anything.
9. He is aware that he is not shooting well
And as a result, especially in the 3rd quarter of the Detroit game (one where he picked up two bad foul calls), it looks like he's trying to shoot a shot that will magically bump up his % in a non-linear way. I guess I mean he's trying to bust through his slump by over thinking about his slump right now. I feel like he is hurrying a little on the spot ups in particular.
He is a natural basketball player, and he needs to continue taking the shots as they come to him. This isn't an Xs and Os thing -- if you watch the offense the "shots he is primarily missing that he shouldn't" are shots that he SHOULD be taking. By letting the shot come to him in this case I mean his shot mechanics. And a big part of that is the mental one.
A shooter has to keep shooting, so I applaud that he is trying to defeat his slump. (The best way to keep him in one would be to tell him to stop shooting.) I want him to keep shooting. But I do want him to keep shooting like he is 0 for 0, and not 9 for whatever from three. The cumulative effect of being in a slump for 2+ weeks could be affecting his shot.
And that sucks.
10. He's not just a shooter, though
He didn't come into this league like a limited player like Steve Kerr. Trey is actually a basketball player and a leader. He makes clutch plays and hits clutch shots. If you don't think so go ask the Orlando Magic, or every opponent he faced in the NCAA tournament.
In his last game he had 8 assists and 0 turn overs. It was his worst shooting game of the season, but he still was a productive member of the 5 man units he was on the court with. Did you know that he leads the team in steals this year, with 1.3 spg? He's not the worst ever, even if there's a younger guy at his spot on the roster who is playing really well right now.
I cannot in good conscience proclaim the end of his career based upon 8 regular season games in his second season in the NBA. I cannot suggest that he should be replaced, traded, waived, or whatever. He's a late lotto pick who doesn't have any physical advantages -- yet despite all of that has made it to the NBA based upon who he is as the complete package. Allen Iverson, with all the speed and quickness advantages, only managed to shoot 42 / 31 / 78 for his career. Iverson was a scorer, not a high percentage guy.
I think Trey can be more efficient than The Answer. He may never be as dynamic, but he is more than capable of hitting the same types of big shots. And Burke's 41 / 35 / 80 (the largest sample size which includes NBA (all types of games) and NCAA stats) shooting indicates that what he is doing right now is JUST a slump.
Trey's going to be absolutely fine. He may not end up being Allen Iverson or Chauncey Billups. But he's going to be the first Trey Burke -- someone who is going to be good enough to play point guard for an NBA playoff team when our squad finally makes it back.