Due to the recent solid play and increase in minutes for Grayson Allen, is it safe to assume that he’s on the cusp of replacing Alec Burks in the rotation?
Earlier in the week, I pointed out that Utah Jazz diamond in the rough Georges Niang has been playing excellently and therefore very well could be working his way into the rotation ahead of Thabo Sefolosha for the foreseeable future. But he’s far from the only Jazz reserve that’s been making some noise. The other player I speak of is none other than rookie Grayson Allen.
And much like Niang may have very well found himself higher on the depth chart than established vet Sefolosha, Allen possibly has also done the same to another Jazz regular – Alec Burks.
In the first two games of the season, Allen didn’t see the floor while Alec Burks was a staple off the bench for the Jazz. After a solid preseason and a good first regular season outing, it appeared that perhaps Burks would be primed to break out this year and that his effectiveness would keep the Jazz rookie glued to the bench.
However, following a dismal 1-of-7 outing against the Golden State Warriors in the second contest of the season, Burks saw his minutes decline dramatically. The very next game Alec played just six minutes compared to Grayson’s 11.
In the next two games, Burks played over double the minutes of Grayson Allen, though one of those games was the blowout victory over the Anthony Davis-less New Orleans Pelicans, so those figures may be a little misleading. In the most recent contest against Dallas, we saw the post-Warriors game trend continue, as Grayson Allen logged a hearty 13 minutes whereas Burks didn’t see the floor.
Now, this could have been in part because of the hand injury that had him questionable for Sunday’s contest to begin with. After all, especially against a mediocre Dallas Mavericks team, the Jazz probably didn’t want to risk further injury to their backup guard. Then again, he was cleared to play, so his absence from the court presumably wasn’t just because of the injury.
Burks is listed as questionable once again for Wednesday’s bout against Minnesota which could open up further opportunities for Grayson Allen. In those aforementioned 13 minutes against Dallas, Allen certainly took advantage as he was a perfect 3-of-3 from the field, finishing with 11 points and a team-best plus/minus of plus-17.
For now, Allen’s spot in the rotation ahead of Burks may very well be due to injury precaution regarding the oft-unhealthy vet. However, if Grayson continues to produce at such a level, it may be hard to keep him off the floor.
One of Burks’ biggest setbacks to finding playing time in years past has been his unreliable defense which often led to coach Quin Snyder losing trust in him. Prior to the regular season, Snyder mentioned that Allen had to improve defensively, specifically in transition, if he hoped to see the floor. He’s apparently improved in that area, and his reputation as a relentless, hard-nosed defender may very well be a further reason why he earns a spot in the rotation ahead of Burks.
Until Allen is logging major minutes over a fully healthy Alec Burks, I’m not ready to say that he’s officially replaced him in the lineup. It’s entirely possible that with this new development of the hand injury, the Jazz are just taking it easy with AB. But if Allen continues to improve on defense and keeps shooting as efficiently as he has thus far, the oft inefficient and erratic Burks may very well find himself buried on the end of the bench once again.
I have mixed feelings on this one. I’ve always liked Alec and have wanted him to reach his potential and succeed. But then again, if he’s not producing at the level expected of him, I totally understand why he may need to see his minutes reduced. On the flip side of that, you’d love to see Grayson Allen turn into yet another diamond in the rough for the Jazz, so it’s easy to pull for him to continue to surge and prove himself worthy of a rotational spot.
While the debate between Burks and Allen is a tough one at present, the good news is that quite truthfully the Jazz are in good hands either way. The fact that they can go with either player as the backup shooting guard is a testament to their incredible depth. Both have skills and abilities that will make them valuable in different situations.
I imagine that within the next few weeks, we’ll have a clearer picture of which Jazzman will be the principal backup moving forward. Until then, and even after that’s established, both Alec Burks and Grayson Allen will need to remain focused and ready so they can accomplish whatever role is asked of them to best help their Utah Jazz squad.