After 3 Tough Years In Utah, Can Trey Burke Finally Break Out In The Nation’s Capital?
Trey Burke isn’t happy about how Utah treated him. In an interview with Josh A. Vinson of Washington DC, Burke said, “[Utah] couldn’t break me. That’s what they tried to do.”
Burke was handed the reins from the beginning. The Jazz wanted him, even traded up to get him. They gave him every chance to succeed, but Burke failed to seize the opportunity.
It’s difficult to hold someone back who refuses to proceed with any pace. Burke often leisurely brought the ball up the court, using up much of the shot clock before initiating play, as he had done for the Michigan Wolverines under Coach John Beilein. This stifled the Jazz’s offense. They took the second most shots in the final 7 seconds of the shot clock both years Burke started, and the most shots in the final 4 seconds his sophomore year.
Burke also lacks the size and defensive prowess to guard the NBA’s elite point guards. According to sports writer Jake Larson of isportsweb, “The problem that Burke has had is fitting into Quin Snyder’s defensive minded system. Burke is a smaller point guard who has speed but lacks the size necessary to defend in the post.”
After Burke broke his finger in the preseason of his rookie year and missed the first 12 games, he became the starting point guard in just his third regular season game with the Jazz. This was the first time in Jazz history that a rookie point guard was named the starter this early in their career. Even the great John Stockton came off the bench for 2 seasons before starting. Deron Williams also began his career on the bench behind Keith McLeod, only starting 47 games as a rookie.
During his rookie season, Burke averaged 12.8 points and 5.7 assists on 38% shooting, including 33% from three, in 32.3 minutes as he led the Jazz to a 24-46 record. However, in Burke’s sophomore season, which was Head Coach Quin Snyder’s first season with the team, Burke’s shooting dropped to 36.8% including 31.8% on three pointers. Utah went 14-27 when he started. Burke began pushing the ball up the court less and less. As we see now in Coach Snyder’s system, moving the ball into the front court quickly is vital in order to have the movement that creates the mismatches the Jazz try to exploit every play. This, combined with a lack of any skills that are above average at his position, sent Burke to the bench.
Dante Exum took over as the starting point guard on January 21, 2015, and the Jazz finished the season 24-17. While Exum struggled to score his rookie season, his defensive prowess combined with his willingness to get the Jazz into their offense early led to more victories.
Burke spent the 2015-16 season behind Raul Neto, a rookie out of Brazil, and Shelvin Mack, acquired from Atlanta before the trade deadline. Burke’s shooting improved to 41.3% and 34.4% on threes. He figured out how to score in the NBA, but still struggled to get the offense moving. Burke brought an offensive punch off the bench and had success against other bench players.
In his three years playing for the Utah Jazz, Burke did not live up to his or the team’s expectations, but it wasn’t due to being held back or the team trying to break him. It was due to Burke’s poor shooting, slow play, and limited defensive ability. Perhaps he’ll develop into a better player in Washington, but he has yet to show that he has what it takes to be successful in the NBA.
In his first 6 games as a backup in Washington, Burke is averaging 2.5 points, and his shooting has dropped back down to 36.8%.
Burke carried himself professionally through his ups and downs with the Jazz. He never complained publicly about his playing time or changing role. He was a good teammate who worked hard to help the team.