Utah Jazz 2015-16 Review: Alec Burks

Dec 13, 2015; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Utah Jazz guard Alec Burks (10) passes the ball while guarded by Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 13, 2015; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Utah Jazz guard Alec Burks (10) passes the ball while guarded by Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports /

For the second straight year, Utah Jazz guard Alec Burks fell prey to a major injury.

Utah Jazz wing Alec Burks is the most underrated talent in the league, at least, according to Miami Heat All-Star Dwyane Wade. Back in January, the three-time champion tweeted about Burks saying, “He’s out right now but he can play.”

The fifth-year guard was sidelined after suffering a broken fibula in December, making this Burks’ second straight season to be shortened due to injury. During those two years, AB played in only 58 games. That’s just barely 35 percent of the team’s total games.

Since being drafted by the Jazz with the twelfth pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, circumstance has hindered his trajectory. So, he has remained largely, as the three-time NBA champion observed, underrated.

Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

Insult and Injury

Burks came into the NBA prepared with an impressive ability to drive into the paint and attack the basket. Nonetheless, he spent his first few years in the NBA battling to play limited minutes under former head coach Tyrone Corbin. He was forced to wait on the bench behind players like DeMarre Carrol, Randy Foye, CJ Miles and others who didn’t stay with the Jazz for very long.

Quin Snyder replaced Corbin before the start of the 2014-15 season. And with a new head coach, AB stepped into a new role.

During his fourth season, the six-foot-six shooting guard was a regular in the starting lineup. He averaged 13.9 points, 3.0 assists, 4.2 boards hit and 40.3 percent of his shots. He started the first 27 games before being sidelined for the rest of the season, due to a shoulder injury that occurred against the Denver Nuggets on Dec 27.

This year, after surgery and rehab, Burks was eager to be back on the court. This time, as the first man off the bench, he was averaging 13.3 points and providing some much-needed offense in the second unit.

Burks’ impressive ability to aggressively withstand defenders and escape from tight situations earned him the nickname “Houdini.” In his limited playing time, he led the Jazz in points per game scored off drives. Additionally, he led the team in three-point shooting, at 40.5 percent.

The season was off to a good start for Alec, until he suffered a broken left fibula after driving to the basket during a matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec 26–almost exactly one year after an injury had ended his previous season.

Burks was initially expected to be out for 8-10 weeks and didn’t need surgery, but the Jazz later announced that he would go under the knife. The hope was that it would speed up the recovery process. Unfortunately, that wasn’t that case. It took Burks more than three months after the incident to return.

The Great Houdini

Finally, Burks made his return in time to face the LA Clippers on April 8. In just 13 minutes, he was 4-for-5 from the field and made three three-pointers. AB showed no fear. He did what he does best, knowing full well what happened the last time he drove to the basket. Early in the fourth quarter, AB drove to the basket, slashed past a defender and finished off the glass.

The crowd erupted. Jazz fans were glad to have the Magic Man back.

Because of his aggressive style, Burks takes more than his fair share of falls. Any other player might approach the game with caution after having two seasons cut short due to injury, but not Houdini.

“If I change my game, I feel like I change my future. So I don’t want to change,” Burks said in a postgame interview. “I’ve got to play fearless. That’s how I play.”

More from Jazz News

During the next two games, however, it was clear that Burks was not completely back to normal. Unable to get a single shot to fall, he was scoreless. He then sat out the team’s final game of the season due to a sore knee. It takes time readjust. These kinds of up and downs are to be expected when a player returns from an injury.

“It made me hungrier,” said Burks during the end-of-the-season press conference. “I want to be 100 percent healthy. I want to be the Alec that I’m known to be. It’s going to be my sixth year in the league and I’m ready to take that next step.”

Next: Utah Jazz Pride Jerseys Are So Bad, They're Good

Burks’ ruthless abilities give the Jazz a dimension that only he provides. He plays with finesse and without fear. The Jazz have often been criticized for lacking depth, something that AB easily provides…when he’s healthy.

Hopefully he can get there next season.