The jury will be watching very intently this year to which young guys step up and become a concrete piece of the Jazz in the future. Every member of the Core 4 could surprise one way or another, but the biggest wild card to me is Alec Burks. Is Burks ready to be the starter? Most fans would say yes and even Ty Corbin would probably say yes because he seems to really like Burks’ game.
So how good is Alec Burks or how good can he be? He’s definitely not Kobe Bryant, James Harden or Dwayne Wade, but after that the shooting guard position has really gone downhill. To give you an idea how bad the position has gotten, last year CJ Miles had the 15th best PER at the position. Gordon Hayward was considered a shooting guard last year according to ESPN.com and he was the 8th best in the league. PER shows how efficient a player is when they are in the game. League average is 15 and G Hay had a 16.81 with Dwayne Wade at number one having a 24.04 PER.
Yes PER isn’t everything but how a player performs on the floor is everything. While researching this article I came across a couple prediction articles for best shooting guards for next season and JR Smith is top 5 in both of them. I guess the question that keeps going through my head is how in the world is JR a top 5 shooting guard?? What do you want out of a shooting guard? To shoot well, but is that it? Doubt it.
For instance if JR is a top 5 shooting guard then we are just basing that off of streaky shooters that can change a game. Everybody is high on Klay Thompson as well which is fine, but all he can do is shoot the ball. Yes he shoots it very well, but this is the NBA and (almost) everybody shoots within a few percentage points of each other. I want my starting shooting guard to be able to hit the open shot when needed and be able to create his own shot. I also want defense from the starting 2 because usually the shooting guard guards the point guard better and can keep the fast points at bay.
If I’m looking at Alec I say his game is most like Dwayne Wade’s where he can slash to the hoop and create a foul, shoot the ball reasonably well and play solid defense. Yes Burks isn’t Wade and probably will never be, but when some players are given the opportunity they step up in a big way. It’s hard to compare Burks with Klay or JR because they are different in every way minus the position. If you want to have a measuring stick this year I’d measure him against DeMar DeRozan who plays similar to Burks and signed a decent size contract extension from the Raptors.
The upside of Burks is he draws fouls really well and gets to the line at a high rate. The downside of Burks as of this moment is he is an awful free throw shooter among shooting guards (ranked 62nd last year out of 68 players). If this doesn’t improve he will never see the end of games as he should.
Looking at the list of starting shooting guards this year Burks oddly enough could and should see himself in the top 10. Now it’s up to Burks and the coaching staff to allow him to play the way he excels… with the ball in his hands. How good can Alec Burks be? As good as the coaching staff allows him to be.