Alec Burks, On The Move
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It seems like the Utah Jazz have been lacking a game-changing shooting guard for years, so using their second 2011 lottery pick on Alec Burks made plenty of sense. After starting the season with sporadic opportunities to get on the court, Burks has received an uptick in minutes as of late. Let’s have a look at Burks’ successes and struggles in his rookie season so far.
What was a strength in college has not manifested as a pro. So far, Burks hasn’t spent much time in isolation situations, but when he has, results have not been good. He’s averaging only 0.52 points per possession in isolation according to mySynergy Sports, and his low shooting percentages are consistent across all of his isolation shots. Burks is shooting 29 percent on shots at the rim and 30 percent on jumpers outside the lane. The good news is that Burks is not settling for jumpers and is getting into the lane on over 60 percent of his isolation possessions. Based on his ability to finish in non-isolation situations and in college, Burks should eventually learn the nuances of dealing with NBA big men. He’ll need to learn this because his jump shot has been a weakness since college.
Coming out of Colorado, Burks was the second best rebounding wing in the draft class. So far, he hasn’t lit up the defensive boards, but Burks has made an impact as an offensive rebounder. His offensive rebounding rate is better than the average small forward, and he has done a good job turning those offensive rebounds into points. He ranks 39th in the NBA in points per possession on offensive rebounds. When Burks finds himself waiting on the perimeter, he doesn’t give up on the play if the pass doesn’t come. Instead, he has done a good job sneaking behind the defense to clean up errant shots.
Burks has been average on his possessions coming from off-the-ball cuts, but he has a knack for drawing fouls in these situations. This was a strength in college, and he’s been able to draw fouls on over 30 percent of his cutting possessions in the NBA.
While Burks has shown good court awareness off the ball while rebounding and cutting to open spots, he needs to improve his perimeter awareness when spotting up. About fifteen percent of his spot-up possessions are shots with his foot on the three point line. These mistakes aren’t caused by any defensive pressure, Burks just needs to do a better job setting up for his shot. He is costing the Jazz points by taking these unnecessarily long two-pointers. Burks hasn’t shot the ball well from three point range this year (it was a weakness coming into the draft, as well), but in spot-up situations, he’s shooting 43% on threes. Move back an extra inch and shoot the three, Alec.
Burks no longer dominates the ball like he did at Colorado, so he isn’t expected to create shots for his teammates in Utah. His assist rate is well below the average shooting guard. However, he has shown some of the court vision that he displayed in college, particularly in the pick-and-roll.
Alec Burks has a long way to go to become the player the Jazz drafted him to be. His struggles as an isolation scorer are new to him, but not many rookies are able to handle NBA help defenses with ease. What is encouraging is his ability to get to the paint and to make an impact off the ball.