While You Weren’t Looking Trey Burke Changed His Game


Mar 28, 2015; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard Trey Burke (3) shoots the ball as Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (34) looks on during the second half at EnergySolutions Arena. The Jazz won 94-89. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Heaps of deserved criticism were piled on Trey Burke after he became an honorary mason versus a depleted Minnesota Timberwolves team a couple of weeks ago in Salt Lake City, going 4-22 from the field, mostly late in the game.

"“It’s hard because he’s handling the ball and whoever the options are on the court, he’s the guy who wants the ball.Even though he didn’t have a good night, he’s proven that [he can] in situations like that. It’s hard to second guess Trey even though he had a tough night. Obviously, if one goes done he’s a hero too and we’re sticking with him. The hard thing is to be in that situation and still want the ball. That shows a level of toughness on his part.”–Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder"

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While there was plenty of blame to go around for the Utah Jazz loss, something good came from it as well. Trey Burke changed his game as a result.

"“I feel like I kind of let my teammates down. I got some great looks, but I feel like I shot too many 3s. If we would have got the ball in the paint more, it would have opened more things up. That starts with the point guard getting in the paint, making the defense collapse.”–Trey Burke on his 4-22 shooting night March 23"

The missing piece for the Utah Jazz to get to the next level seems to be at the point guard position. A point guard has to not only want the ball, but make the right decision with which often entails excursions into the paint to collapse a defense, force their hand to free up the offense.

That latter has proven a struggle at the position for the Jazz, although Dante Exum finally breaking out of shell for a night was encouraging. Neither he nor Trey Burke have proven themselves shooters that a defense will respect, leaving little choice for them but to play more like traditional point guards and try to get to the hole.

In the five games since, Burke’s taking only 28.9% of his shots from three and 71.1% from two

While Burke’s three-point shot still leaves much to be desired, he’s spending more time in the paint, making up for it there. Since being relegated to the bench on January 22 through the fateful game against the pesky Timberwolves, Trey Burke was going to the free throw 1.9 times per game making only 66% of his rare visits.

Since laying 18 of 22 bricks, Trey Burke is making his way to the line 2.4 times per game making over 83% of the freebies. And that extra time around the rim has paid off in the 6’0″ point guard grabbing 5.0 rebounds per game, critical to the Jazz’s recent success.

From January 22 to March 23, Burke was taking 42.3% of his shots from behind the three-point line and 57.7% of them from two with a lot of low percentage mid-range attempts. In the five games since, Burke’s taking only 28.9% of his shots from three and 71.1% from two — with only 15 field goal attempts in the undesirable 16-24′ range.

Adding a floater in the lane isn’t the only thing Quin Snyder asked Trey Burke to improve on; he was also asked to pick up his defensive presence.

"“We’re playing at a high level, we’re playing together and, more importantly, we’re playing high-level defense, which is allowing us to get great offense.”"

Burke is often cited as a defensive liability, but that’s largely by reputation. The point guard’s defensive awareness and ability has made great strides, in truth. Since making the move to the bench, through March 23, Trey Burke’s offensive rating wasn’t what you want to see from a primary ball handler, at 100.6, but his defensive rating was a decent 97.3.

In the recent five-game tear of aggressiveness, Trey Burke’s offensive rating has been an exciting 107.5, but his defensive rating of 93.3 is eye-opening. He’s doing the things the Jazz coaching staff is asking of him to improve and be the kind of point guard Utah needs to get ahead in the bloody West.

"Being around the best players in the world for two years has also taught Burke quite a few tips and tricks. While he wouldn’t name specific players, he said that he has studied and duplicated some of the moves used by veterans he respects around the league.“I definitely look at guys I’m playing against and sometimes I do see certain things that I can learn from,” Burke said. “Guys who are older and have been in the league obviously have more experience, and they do certain things you can take and put into your game.”–Alex Kennedy, Basketball Insiders"

In the recent five-game tear of aggressiveness, Trey Burke’s offensive rating has been an exciting 107.5, but his defensive rating of 93.3 is eye-opening. He’s doing the things the Jazz coaching staff is asking

While Burke was hesitant to tell Alex Kennedy who he emulates, he confided in our sister site Hoops Habit. When asked what type of game suits him best, Trey Burke told D’Joumbarey A Moreau:

"Probably being a true point guard and getting those guys involved and scoring too. At heart that’s what I am. I’m a natural point guard, so I can get guys going. I can get 10 to 11 assists, and still score 20 points. I feel that’s the type of player that I can be, and they (the Jazz organization) know that.I’m a little taller Chris Paul. I’ve played against Chris Paul over ten times now. He just has a thicker frame, he’s a bit stronger, but he’s my size.He’s a guy who’s really elite at setting teammates up, and getting guys involved, and at the same times he’s an elite scorer. But I definitely feel like that’s the guy, he’s an eight-time All-Star. He’s basically still in his prime. He’s a guy who I look at when it comes to size. People tell me you can’t do this, you can’t do that, that’s a guy I look at.–D’Joumbarey A Moreau, Hoops Habit"

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Burke also mentioned John Wall as a guy he wants to take part of his game from, saying he wants to have “10 and 11 assist” nights. Both are excellent interviews with insight into Trey Burke and his goals.

With Dante Exum struggling to find his footing in the NBA so far, Quin Snyder’s decision to use both lottery pick point guards to push each other to get better has proven a smart one.

A consummate professional in a situation that would have frustrated many players, causing them to lash out or give up on their team, Trey Burke cites team first. And he’s showing it with his actions.