Can Alec Burks be a starting shooting guard in the NBA? Can he be a ‘good’ starter? Or is he just relegated to being a starting shooting guard on a losing Utah Jazz team? I’m an unabashed supporter of Alec, one of the few who have always been in his corner. But I will put that aside in an attempt to use NBA history and the power of math to determine the answer. I looked at the last three decades of Utah Jazz starting shooting guards (31, if you include this year); and broke down all the data. At the end of the day you want a player who is reliable enough and healthy enough to get in almost every game, and in those games be someone the defense has to worry about. Comparing Alec to the 1984-2015 data set of Jazz shooting guard history some obvious pieces of evidence come to light, and hopefully this analysis can further the discussion we’re already all having.
[Ed. Note: You may just want to skip reading this section – the TL;DR version is that there are many seasons used. This season (’14-15) and the 30 before it. There are fewer than 30 different guards though because many times a guard started more than once.]
The data set is every starting shooting guard from the 1984-85 season till the present season in 2014-2015. I have selected but one guard per season. In the case of some seasons a guard was traded midseason meaning someone else was the starter when the season ended. Other seasons also exist where no clear starter was agreed upon until approaching the playoffs. In both cases I have selected the shooting guard starter on who the team was starting regularly at the end of the season. An exception exists with the case of the Malone / Hornacek trade in 1993-94, where Malone had played in and started in every game that season for Utah, and that value was greater than 60% of the total games the team played that season. Additionally, sometimes the team just finished the season starting two small forwards, the more ‘guard like’ in offensive ability was then used as the SG starter, regardless of defensive assignment. And last, if a clear cut starter was apparent, but finished the season injured, they were selected as the representative starter for that particular Utah Jazz season.
So the data set is for 30+1 seasons, and thus, 30+1 different player seasons were used to form the data set. Because some guards started more than once in the timeframe there are less than 30 total guards that comprise this study. They are: Alec Burks, Bob Hansen, Bryon Russell, Calbert Cheaney, Darrell Griffith, Derek Fisher, DeShawn Stevenson, Gordan Giricek, Gordan Hayward, Jeff Hornacek, Jeff Malone, John Starks, Matt Harpring, Raja Bell, Randy Foye, Ronnie Brewer, and Wesley Matthews. So the number of guards is n=17, and the number of seasons is n=31.
There are a bunch of groupings that I’ve sliced the data into, in order to make it more manageable.
- The first is the full set, so that’s from 1984-2015 – from Darrell Griffith to Alec Burks.
- The second is just the last 15 years, so everything after Jeff Hornacek, and it starts from John Starks to Alec Burks.
- The third set is the previous five seasons before this season, 2009-2014 – so an idea of what Wes, Raja (x2), Randy, and Gordon Hayward were able to do as the starter.I find that comparing what Alec is currently doing this season against those three slices will be important to determining how we view his current rate of production and on court performance.
The fourth group is the actual control group. And that control group is a baseline of what I expect for a starting shooting guard. This is the "Amar theory" of what I personally think a starting caliber guard should be – and some of the requirements are way easier than others. I get that. The critical components for my theory can be expanded upon, if asked. And yes, I have concepts of what I’d want from a starting level point guard, small forward, power forward, and center too. When you compare my control group values against the values of existing starting shooting guards on other teams you will find that I’m not asking for the moon. I’m just asking for something that is better than the average Jazz starting shooting guard over the last three decades.
I split the information down into five factors. Getting in the game, scoring, doing more than shooting, calculations, and analytics.
- Getting in the game: How many games they started and played in that particular season. What percentage of time did they start? What percentage of all the possible Jazz games did they play in? And, obviously, how many minutes did they play, per game?
- Scoring: How much did they score, and how did they score? How many shots did they take? What was the breakdown of their offensive shooting stats – balance or unbalanced?
- Doing more than shooting: This is all the other normative stats that show up in a box score. Clearly rebounds and blocks aren’t primary responsibilities for shooting guards, but passing and steals are.
- Calculations: Most of the formulas I make are related to simple stats, and as a result I’ve put them here under calculations. This would be BARPS, BARPS / minutes, and the new one, BARPS / foul. And, just a reminder, BARPS are Blocks + Assists + Rebounds + Points + Steals. On the other hand, GO Rating (Gestalt Offensive rating) is more of an analytics thing as it looks at related rates and is measured against larger NBA performance trends; but it’s still something that only I use. So I’ve put it in this section.
- Analytics: This is your hodge-podge of Analytic stats. PER. USG%. Off RTG. Etc. If you have any questions ask. A critical one here that we’re going to use is Win shares / 48 minutes. (WS/48). It helps illustrate some interesting points to this discussion.
Everything is pretty easy to understand, though; so let’s get to it.
1. Getting in the game
For the most part these guys who started all a) started a lot of the games they played that season, and b) played in a lot of the games the Jazz did that season. That’s the perfect mix, I guess. It supports the idea that the best guy for the job is starting, and that he wasn’t injured or there was stability in the lineup / rotation. In reality, shooting guard depth and quality were not things the team has historically had. Most of the time the best man for the job had a higher value over replacement, even if they weren’t ubiquitous or household names. Also the opposite happens at times where a guy starts but doesn’t play a lot. Often this is because of the rare occasions where there is depth, other times because the head coach is searching for someone to play out there.
A classic example of a guy with a low value over replacement who still started – but only played 20.49 mpg, is Gordan Giricek. But that’s just a passing thought. (Which is ironic, because we like to imply that Giricek never thought to pass.) But for the record the 31 season accumulated averages suggest that the starter IS the starter for 87.7% of the games he plays in, and plays in 91.8% of the games that season. (N.B. reason why I went with % here is that there were a few lockouts during this time frame, not every season was 82 games long.)
While there wasn’t a place for this in it’s own section, I’d like to also address the age, height, and weight changes over time. The Jazz have started someone 25 or younger at shooting guard seven times in the 31 seasons – and five of those seasons are in the last ten: Ronnie B x2, Wes, Gordon, and Alec. That may or may not be interesting to you. The average age of the starter has been 29.2 years old. The average height is 6’5.0", and 201.5 pounds for weight. So in the period where we saw guards become Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller, Kobe Bryant, Mitch Richmond size we’ve been going smaller and weaker. Now I wonder why the DRTG for a lot of these guys is horrible?
Anyway, you see in the cases of Alec and Gordon (the previous season), these cats played a lot of the available minutes per game. I honestly think this is a combination of the high value over replacement, and specifically because the replacements have been quite dodgy. Jeff Hornacek didn’t play a ton of minutes, and it wasn’t just because of age. Guys like Shandon Anderson were legit rotation players. Guys like Brandon Rush and Joe Ingles? Jury is still out.
Focusing just on Alec, so far this season he is healthy enough, missing just two games. But his Game% could drop quickly if he remains injured. (An injury few know details about) But for now he satisfies the qualities for a starting guard in his ability to play a lot of games, and play more than 30 mpg.
When your position title is ‘Shooting guard’, and your bigger picture role description is "guard who is not the point guard, as in, the guy who is there who is supposed to look for his shot" scoring becomes a large factor to discuss. And within scoring, there are a number of factors. How much do they score? How many shots do they take? Are they good shots in line with the offense? Are they actually good at shooting? Where do they shoot from? This section is actually incomplete because I did not locate shot data info for the early 80s. (Thankfully, for my sake…) Still, there are plenty of things to look at.
There are some bigtime scorers, some threats, some role players, and then some non-scorers in this group of "Shooting Guards". Griffith and Malone both went for 20+, of course, only Malone was able to do it without ALSO having to take 20+ shots a game. Jeff was a very effective shooter / scorer. He got to the line and made the most of it, and was a killer midrange shooter and moved well without the ball. He was that prototype shooting guard in the 80s. He did not have three point range and didn’t take three pointers, which is why his kind went obsolete in the 90s, specifically in the playoffs. That necessitated getting Jeff Hornacek, who is as "yes, shooting" shooting guard as you can get. He didn’t take as many shots as Dr. Dunkenstein , but was actually a better three point shooter than Griffith, even if he never got the green light. Horny’s Points per shot (PPS) value is epic.
The Post-Hornacek years are a wasteland, for the most part. The full data set has averages of 12.68 ppg, .470 / .366 / .817, with an eFG% of .501. Post-Hornacek it goes down to 10.70 ppg, .445 / .350 / .781 / .485. Yes, the Post-Hornacek group shot a little less, but also shot worse. They could make threes for the most part (just not, you know, D-Steve, Ronnie B, or for that season, Gordon); but the canary in the mine shaft is the PPS. It went from being above league average (1.22), to below league average (1.20). For those who don’t know, for the sample sizes we are talking about here (2,233 games, and 23,136 FGA) it takes a lot more misses to move the needle on that gauge to that extent.
Ronnie B couldn’t make a three, but he was very efficient with the types of shots he could take. He killed it as the 4th/5th option on a team that started Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, and Mehmet Okur at the other four spots. Had he actually played shooting guard in any other non-early 80s era he probably wouldn’t have looked that great. I’m not trying to take anything away from him; but we all saw how he was left alone like an untouchable caste member in the playoffs whenever he was outside of 10 feet from the basket. He was a super min-maxed Jeff Malone in that case. Greater inside than out. Brewer also got his starting role on defense, but we’re not talking about defense in the scoring section.
Griffith, Hornacek, and Malone were traditional guys who could have their number called and drop 20 when asked. Gordon Hayward had a big year last year, but did so on a really bad team as the first option. It should be noted that guys like Griffith, Malone, and Hornacek did what they did on playoff teams – and did so on a team that also had Karl Malone scoring 30 a night. And, I guess, you’ve got to also admit that playing with John Stockton might have a positive effect upon your performance, or at least a greater one than if you were starting next to Raul Lopez or John Lucas III.
Alec is an interesting case here. Generally his supporters feel like his performance isn’t what it should be. He "should be" getting to the line more, playing more aggressively, and shooting a little better than he currently is. There is some evidence that supports that, and some evidence that contradicts that. He has clearly worked on his shot, as his fundamental shot (the free throw) is up to 84.4 FT%. So he has improved on some things. But last year if you got rid of his halfcourt heaves, his 3pt% was closer to 39%, this year it’s "only" at 35%. Frankly 35% isn’t good enough for a starting shooting guard in my books. I don’t think that’s like asking for all the tea in China or whatever. Of course, 19 of the 31 data points failed to shooting 36% (one more % than what I feel isn’t good enough). I do take some solace in the fact that he is shooting better from 3pt% and ft% than max player Gordon Hayward did as the starting SG last year.
The main complaint is that while 35% isn’t that far off from 36% or whatever, the fact that he is only shooting 40.4 fg% is a big deal. I don’t like some of the shots Alec takes, if they go in they are still bad shots. Specifically I don’t like the high confidence shot in the half court that is in one on one defense where he just dribbles a few times and takes a jumper from 20 feet. Kobe Bryant does this. Carmelo Anthony does this. They are both chukers. Please don’t become a chucker, Alec. I don’t remember other Jazz starting SGs doing that. But then again, I don’t remember any other shooting guard on the Jazz who absolutely has to score off of one on one moves as much as Alec. Matt Harpring made a living off of that Harpring curl. I never remember him (except in low shot clock situations) where he took Alec Burks-type shots. Then again, Alec is better than all of the guys on this list, not named Ronnie Brewer, at finishing crazy layups. Hornacek was brilliant because he could finish while being fouled due to his accuracy. Brewer was great because he was tall, fast, had a 40+ inch vertical, and a 6’11 wingspan. Burks appears in the middle somewhere between skill (Hornacek) and athleticism (Brewer). If he can translate that to more of his scoring game than just layups he may be one of the best starting shooting guards in history. But if that happens remains to be seen.
3. Do more than shooting:
When you look at the actual calculated averages and the control group (the Amar theory of starting SGs) you find some agreement. To be a starter you have to contribute in more than just shooting – that’s why teams didn’t start guys like Steve Kerr. Things like defense, and passing matters. And this is the case for every player out there – if you are mainly an offensive player (like Burks is), there will be games where your shots just aren’t falling / you’re not getting the calls from the refs. It is imperative for you to prove your worth to your head coach by doing other things than just shooting to help your team win; or else you’ll be sitting.
For the 30+ year average, again, not an average of averages, but the actual nuts and bolts average for all the players for all the games for all the seasons, is for a starting Jazz SG to get 2.99 rpg, 2.50 apg (1.68 A:TO ratio), and 0.99 spg. Is that good enough? I don’t think so. Part of this could be the offense, the personnel, or a combination of both – but I was surprised by how infrequently our starting shooting guards assisted. If you remove Hornacek, the only guys who have had 3.0 or more apg as the starter are: Darrell Griffith, Derek Fisher, Gordon Hayward, and Alec Burks. Just a reminder, this data set is for 31 years, where the position player plays 29.2 mpg on average, and has started 87.7% of the games they play in. In a league were point guards shoot more it’s only necessary for shooting guards to pass more. Well, while Alec does pass more than the average the issue here is his turn overs as a starter. His assist to turn over ratio is only 1.35 to 1.00, which is below the ratios for the full data set, the post-Hornacek years, and the five seasons directly before him. This hurts in him other ways as well, because a turnover HE creates probably ends up being a transition scoring attempt for the other team. (My guess is a turn over for a guard is either on the perimeter (inside of it) or on a drive or pass; a bigman’s turn over is 94 feet away from the other basket, and is less likely to be a transition leading turn over.) So for passing Alec is better and worse than his peer group.
Rebounding? Al has you covered. There are only two guys who have rebounded better from the starting shooting guard spot, and they were displaced small forwards (the other small forward who started that year next to them) in Matt Harpring (Andrei Kirilenko) and Gordon Hayward (Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams). Burks is pulling down 4.50 rpg, which is great and just what this team needs – more gang rebounding. But because I will nitpick, his offensive rebounding is down this year as a starter. Part of that is the Xs and Os where the emphasis is on getting back on defense, especially as a wing player, and not crashing the boards. Still, overall, I like what I see from Alec on the glass.
Numerically I’d rather that he was getting 4 apg and 3 rpg, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Defensively, I am not crazy about what I see. Starting shooting guards with the Jazz don’t foul a lot, only 2.15 fouls per game. (Again, play some defense, get some fouls, make it hard on the other SG, please!) This season’s Jazz team is very low on forcing turnovers, and getting steals. This year’s Alec fits that bill as he is getting two steals every three games on average (0.67). This is below the value for each of the variable groups and the control group. Last year Gordon (with his alligator arms) managed 1.48 spg. It’s a stark contrast from year to year, between these two players with respect to steals. I think part of the reason for this is that Gordon plays defense with his arms, and Alec plays defense with his feet. For Alec it’s about position and placement, and with Gordon he’s just a bigger guy (6’8 vs 6’6) who grew up swiping on D, and on help D. I’d be okay with Burks fouling more, even if it’s on steal attempts. As the Detroit Pistons of the Bad Boy era said "the refs can’t call every foul." (As an aside, that’s the Chris Paul defensive theorem for sure, as the refs look the other way on his ‘steals’ all the time.)
Overall Alec does some things that justify him being on the court when he’s not scoring. But he’s not quite there yet where I believe he would have a free pass to shoot something like 2/16 and play 30+ mpg AND not contribute elsewhere. His defense could be a lot better, and I’m surprised that he doesn’t block more shots. (That could be a defensive feet vs hands thing again…) If Alec can reduce his turn overs, or get more assists, I think he’ll be on the right path to deserving that starting spot regardless of scoring. Part of that could be playing with a little more control on offense, or on this team, having more guys just make shots. (I’d give a kidney for a more robust score keeping that includes assists attempted.)
These are the "Amar Stats". I’ve been using BARPS more this year and last year because of one simple reason: it’s easier to calculate. Also it’s more useful for a game by game, or smaller sample size issue. Things like game previews are better served with BARPS when the season is only 20 games in. GO Rating is prohibitively complex for even me. And it’s only for one side of the ball. Still. There are both useful.
Yes, the pre-Karl Malone version of Darrell Griffith is the "Hide yo kids, Hide yo wife" version of Jazz shooting guards. He put so much pressure on the defense by being a dude who was scoring a lot, shooting a lot, shooting frequently, and a threat to score all over the floor. For a frame of reference, guards who are in the 100+ GO Rating range (historically) are guys like vintage Brandon Roy, World B. Free, and a young Paul Pierce. Jeff H and Jeff M (this is what their nicknames would have been like had they been in the Ronnie B and Ronnie P era) are both amazing, but they were not a force of nature like Dr. Dunkenstein was that one year before Karl. And yes, Griffith quieted down quite a bit in his 30s.
But back to Hornacek and Malone, those guys were anywhere from the 50s to pushing on 90s, but mostly in the70 to 80 range. Who are the frame of reference players for that range? They were guys who were first options on bad teams, or second options on good to great teams – Yao Ming, Patrick Ewing, Gary Payton, Kevin McHale, Chris Mullen, Reggie Miller, James Worthy, Tom Chambers, Reggie Lewis (RIP), Peja Stojakovic, Manu Ginobili, Joe Johnson, Scottie Pippen types.
To put it delicately, there were some really good starting shooting guards on the Jazz. The cumulative full data set GO Rating is 47.96 for everyone from 1984 till today. A 50 is about third option material, but decidedly better as a good fourth option. "Fifties" get you someone like Sean Elliott, or Mehmet Okur . . . but if you look at it as a real sub-50 value you get into the "high specialist range", where you have dudes like Tayshaun Prince, Josh Smith, and Brad Miller types. Good fourth options. So offensively, by Go Rating the starting shooting guard for the Utah Jazz has traditionally been a "good fourth option". Wow, tell me something I don’t know?
To put it less delicately, when you go to the Post-Hornacek (which is also Post-Griffith and Post-J.Malone) the cumulative Go Rating is . . . uh . . . .35.74. So you telling me that the players Utah was forst to start at shooting guard after Jeff were actually 5th option material on offense? Again, tell me something I don’t know. A 35 is WORSE than Derek Fisher, who as fate would have it, actually got to start at shooting guard for the Jazz during this Post-Hornacek period. Fish was a specialist though, but was really not a guy putting pressure on the defense when he was out there. For the most part, neither were guys like John Starks, B-Russ, Calbert Cheaney, and Raja Bell – all guys with sub-30 GO Ratings.
The top guys post Hornacek are, obviously, Hayward (65+), Ronnie B (50+ in two years in a row), and Alec (40+). Gordon, obviously, on his way to being a great offensive player – and had the ball in his hands all last season. A 65+ is at vintage Danny Granger (Indy days). A 50+ for Ronnie B is a product of his efficiency and opportunity. He put the pressure on the defense because he was so good at the limited things he did on offense, and he only got a chance to excess at those limited things because of the guys around him for the most part. Still, 50+ for a Jazz SG is noteworthy. Good job.
What about Alec’s 40? I don’t think that’s quite high enough. LAST SEASON (off the bench, but still playing 28.12 mpg) he shot 45.7 FG% (way higher than this season), and had a GO Rating of 57.01. That’s Ron Artest (before Metta World Peace) / Danny Manning level. Effing Danning Manning. Off the bench. The Millsap Doctrine suggests that Burks shouldn’t be this poor as a starter. And this is the crux of the argument here, is he a starting shooting guard? Or is he better as a higher number option on a worse team / off the bench? Or is he just in a slump? Or is this related to the quality of the team? Or something else. His performance this season is lower than my expectations when it comes to GO Rating.
Wow. I talked so much about GO Rating is there even space for BARPS? Alec is above 20, which is above every variable group. The guys who have gone for above 20 are Griffith (x1), Malone (x4), Hornacek (x5), Ronnie B (x1), G-Time (x1) and Alec. The guys who went for 25+ are just Griffith (x1), Malone (x1), Hornacek (x1), and Hayward (x1). Part of this is being on the court a lot, and being a big part of what your team does on the court. The average BARPS / min is 0.66, which removes the big fishes who play a lot of time from looking better than they actually are. In this respect Alec is at 0.65 this season. The five seasons before him the value of BARPS / min was 0.59, so he’s better than dudes like Wes and Raja . . . and better than the post-Hornacek value of 0.61. It’s just not in the same range as the "good SGs", those players were in the 0.70+ range. What about BARPS / foul? Burks doesn’t foul a lot, so his value is quite high compared to the rest of the groups. It’s not as high as guys like Griffith, Malone, Hornacek, Brewer, and Hayward though. Methinks those five players are going to come out on top of Alec right now, when all is said and done.
When I do all the number crunching the Amar theory SG has a GO Rating of 51.34, and gets 20.20 BARPS per game. If you round off the edges the control group is a player who can go 50/ 20 here. And 12 of 31 guards did that. Alec would be there (he’s at 42 / 22) if his Go Rating was anywhere close to where he was LAST season (57 GO Rating).
The last section went on too long, so let’s do this one slightly less long.
We know what PER is, 15.0 is average. If you are above that then great, if you are below that then you are not helping your team. The average is 13.6 (average of averages here, I didn’t hand calculate per for a three+ decade data set, seriously, forget you for even suggesting I do!) – which is below average. Only 12/31 have been above 15.0 with PER. Alec is not this year, at only 12.0. Silver lining? The PER for the five years before Alec was 11.3. So, uh, improvement? A little? Maybe?
The rest of the Analytics discussion is quickly going to evolve into a "Jeff Hornacek is amazing" parade. He deserves it. The only other cats who bear mentioning are: Griffiths pre-Malone USG%; Gordan Giricek 15+ AST%; Matt Harpring REB%; Ronnie brewer ORTG / NET RTG / Win Shares; and Gordon Hayward’s inherent qualities being overshadowed by just how awful the guys directly ahead of him here.
The most awesome thing here is Alec Burks’ DRTG / NET RTG / and Win shares / 48. He is the worst starting shooting guard in all three of those values. By direction comparison to fellow Starter this year, Hayward at the SF, he gets a DRTG of 112, a NET RTG of 0 (not -14), and 0.117 WS / 48 (not 0.018). The Win shares thing worries me more than the DRTG – our team isn’t defending well at all this season, regardless of who is on the court. Last season Alec’s WS/48 was 0.070, which is >>> than 0.018. It’s over 200% worse this season. And I guess the argument to be made is that . . . . maybe LAST SEASON’S Alec Burks is a starting shooting guard, but so far this season’s version is more of a question mark?
Alec still does some things in the Analytics department well, he’s one of the best rebounders in three decades (tied for 4th best), and his AST% is still above average (10th best). Hornacek skews the data by being a 20/20 guy with a great PER, who was spectacular and made a good team great when he was on the floor. If you compare Burks more against his contemporaries things look better.
Comparisons of the different groups:
I’ve kind of mixed my terms up so let’s do a good run down of what the data we care about is, and where the different groups stack up. We have three experimental groups – 1984-2015, 2000-2015, and 2009-2014; and wish to compare that against Alec Burks’ performance this season so far. And all FOUR of those groups are compared to the Amar theory of what a starting SG should be like (again, baseline minimums, not saying a starting SG can’t score more than 12.0 ppg here guys).
Alec doesn’t look so bad, especially not against the 2009-2014 group – his most immediate contemporaries. I should put out that he is TOPS in some things across ALL groups, though.
He’s the right height (according to me) and bigger than average. But he’s just too light. I guess that helps his aerial assault, but I think that holds him back on defense. A stronger, heavier Burks would probably not self destruct on every screen he has to run through. I will point out that the Post-Hornacek years are beefier because of Harp and Ronnie B. But in terms of getting in the game, Alec satisfies that criteria right now.
He doesn’t take enough threes, and his shooting isn’t what we hope it one day can be. Part of that is shot select and offensive play type (he scores more points than almost anyone else on this list as a product of his one on one game, not on curls, or cuts, or spot ups, or whatever). That doesn’t mean he is a pure ISO guy like some NBA players – it just means against the Jazz idea of how a SG scores he’s different. He’s active, not reactive. And our playbooks don’t know how to deal with that just yet – historically the Jazz SG has been a 4th option except when Griffith, Hornacek, or Malone were playing. It is cool to note that he’s actually WINNING in FT% -- which as previously established is a big part of his game.
If Alec can dime a bit more, or turn the ball over a little less, he would be the best "other stats" guy in the group. I would be okay if he fouled a little more, at least this means he’s learning to use his hands on defense.
What about the Amar stats? He’s not a 50/20 guy yet, but he’s MILES AHEAD of the post-Hornacek and previous-5 groups.
Analytics aren’t where he shines, but he’s still better here than the post-Hornacek and previous-5 groups – except for DRTG (and thus NET RTG) and Win shares. His numbers for LAST season are much better here and more in line with those two groups than what’s happening this season.
Overall I think Alec is already (if he can sustain his performance) one of the better shooting guards in the last few decades. That says a lot about some of the guys on this list more than it does about Burks though. Alec also appears to have regressed in some important areas. He’s less of a threat on offense (GO Rating down by 17 pts), and his WS and DRTG are both really bad – worse than last year. If you combine that with the fact that he’s only shooting 40 fg% it’s easy to poke holes in the idea of Alec Burks as a starting shooting guard based on the data.
"So we just about done here, I have a meeting to get ready for, Amar…"
I think my idea of what we’d want from a starting SG isn’t asking too much, heck Jeff Hornacek exceeded all of the stringent requirements save for BPG (he was off by 0.01 BPG) in one of his seasons here. And as my idea is just a baseline of what we’d want obviously there has to be a give and take. It’s not wrong to want someone better than average, especially when history points out that save for a few bright spots the starting shooting guard position has been nothing short of disappointing over the last few decades.
Griffith, Malone, Hornacek, Brewer, and Hayward were all very good shooting guards for their time periods. Griffith was a high volume guy who put a lot of pressure on the defense. Malone was a run around the screens and shoot guy who was so efficient it was like he came out of a German auto-manufacturer’s blueprints. Jeff Hornacek was the best, period. Brewer was an anomaly, like a high MPG version of Jeremy Evans. Hayward was the first SG in a very long time who was the first option, and was tasked with so many responsibilities, and responded with a great season.
Against those five cherry picked player / seasons it’s easy to see that an Alec Burks who is not himself is not ground breaking. But against the larger groups (or even the most recent one) he holds his own. Thus, like with so many other concepts of this seasons’ Utah Jazz, I think we feel as though a better version of Alec would be satisfactory for what is going on right now. Can a better version of Alec exist, though?
I think so. After all, he’s only 23 years old, and is still on his way up in the league (he’s pre-peak Alec right now). Can he ever become good enough to fulfill my crazy ideas? With better shot selection, and improved confidence in playing off the ball and doing catch-and-shoot things I’m sure his scoring numbers and percentages could improve. But the big bugaboo for him, and the majority of our team this year, will be defense. If Alec can step up on defense (and he has the physical tools to do so, save for strength) then everything else will be water under the bridge.
Alec can be a starting shooting guard in this league, and technically already is one. But he can also be one of the better shooting guards in recent Jazz history as well. He’s not the hottest girl at this dance (that’s Jeff Hornacek), but if he plays more like he did last year (in terms of per production, not performance) then he can surely be one of the Top 5.
Also Randy Foye, beyond the threes thing, sheesh. Man. Sorry.
DVD Bonus Feature:
If you are a crazy person you will enjoy the FULL DATA SHEET below . . .
And thank you to Basketball-Reference.com. There’s a reason why I buy ads on your site and donate money every year – you guys are such a big part of my analysis, I feel like I owe you money. Furthermore, Jazzfans, if you like this type of thing and want MORE of it then a) rec this post, and b) tell me you want more. Or, alternatively, if you would like to know more about my theories on what are the baselines for a Jazz starting PG, SF, PF, C, or a bench role ask! I could compare a player or players against a similarly exhaustively large data set too. (E.G. Is Enes Kanter a starting PG? Or is Trey Burke a starting PG?)
Personally, I'm an Alec homer, but I see his warts. I've watched him enough to know which ones are for real, and which are just temporary. I believe in him, and I believe his his offensive abilities are both alien to our fanbase, but will prove their utility when we are making our climb into contender status in a few seasons. The starting SG spot for the Jazz may never be anything other than a 3rd option at best, but in these cases it's best to have players you can rely on to score when their number is called. And numbers aside, few teams have feared the starting shooting guard of the Utah Jazz in recent seasons. Alec could change that.