05 July 2011
If we lack an archive of information on the Utah Jazz's third pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, we at least have something to go on for the 12 pick, one Alec Burks, who made his way to Utah via his hometown Grandview, Missouri. Netting the 2009 Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year award while putting up 22.0 ppg and 6.3 rpg as a senior earned him a look from the University of Colorado.
"September, 2008: Alec is a long and thin combo guard. He is a skilled lefty that is good at running a team as a point guard. He has solid vision but is more of a run the team, set up point guard. He is a solid athlete and is an effective slasher to the basket. He is a solid shooter with range to 19 feet. As a wing he takes on a more aggressive mentality and looks for his shot a little more. His length enables him to be a pretty good defender, though he can struggle with quickness on the perimeter. He needs to get stronger in order to be more effective in the rough and tumble Big 12 but his skill, length and potential make him a good get for the Buffs. He has a very good upside."
Two things to note from the above scouting report, contrary to what you may know about Burks already: 1) He can run the point, a role he'll surely fill from time to time on the Jazz, and 2) He's considered to have the tools to be a "pretty good defender."
This earned him a lift to Boulder to play for the Buffaloes where he proved a willing rebounder out of the backcourt, a desperate need now filled on the Utah roster. As a freshman wing/combo guard he pulled in the sixth highest rebound total by a Buffs frosh and dropped a season-high 27 points on his home-state Missouri club, showing a willingness to get to the rim almost at will and a surprising ability to see the court.
He was extremely efficient offensively his debut year in Mile High country.
Delving deeper into Alec's illustrious career as a Buffalo I reached out to a local hoops fanatic and SBNation to try and glean more about the dynamic 6'6" 19-year old baller who has already embraced Jazz Fan with his whole heart.
While other kids would be watching cartoons and wrestling, for 20 years --most of it in Colorado-- Justin watched basketball and football. "It's all I had. And all I wanted."
"The first time I saw Alec Burks play during his freshman year at Colorado I remember thinking, 'How’d he end up in Boulder?' My next thought veered towards a sense of foreboding catastrophe. We don’t get players like this. He was bound to get terribly injured somewhere along the way, keeping Colorado a basketball afterthought and ruining what appeared to be a promising professional career. I lived with this fear every time I watched Burks on the basketball court. Which, sadly, took away the joy that comes with watching such an unbelievably talented player apply his craft.
In the midst of all this negative thought, however, I observed him with an acute eye. How could you not? He was regularly the best player on the floor."
I asked Justin why the difference in offensive efficiency from year one to year two at Colorado. His response bodes well for Burks' future as a Jazzman in an historically structured professional environment.
Bob Bell, three-year veteran author at SBNation's Colorado Buffaloes blog, The Ralphie Report, was kind enough to also humor me and my curiosity about Burks as a Buff. Coming off yet another beatdown of his hometown boys from Mizzou, a college career high 36 points, Bell recalls a pleasantly surprising upset of the 2oth ranked K-State Wildcats.
This shows a willingness by Burks to do dirty work, whatever is necessary, to help his team to a win even if his game is off for a night. He'd pull down 7 boards on this occasion.
"Missouri's win was certainly impressive but many probably chalked it up to a great performance by a great player in Alec Burks. Burks, the team's leading scorer and future NBA player, scored 36 against the Tigers carrying the Buffs on his back to victory.
What was more impressive about Wednesday's win against Kansas State on the road was Burks didn't play great.didn't set the world on fire. The Buffs won without their two best players scoring a ton of points and taking over the game...that's a great sign. Yes, Burks certainly made some crucial shots down the stretch showing no Wildcat could stop him getting to the hole. But overall, Burks 12 points came on making 4-15 shots, well below his usual efficient play. Cory Higgins only took four shots from the field and had nine points.
Bottom line, Colorado won as a team tonight and won because they are making a commitment on the boards and the defensive end of the floor."
The Utah Jazz Blog: You both closely watched Alec Burks' college career unfold. What kind of a personality does Burks have?
Bell, The Ralphie Report: I think he is a pretty calm and laid back guy. Never got too high, never got too low. I don’t think he is going to blow you away from a charismatic standpoint but believe he has the right temperament to weather those tough NBA days that are bound to happen.
Justin, Smooth's Hoops: Alec Burks is a young man of quiet confidence. He lets the game come to him so he can dissect it with a smooth precision. He's not a vocal leader. He's more-so an emotional leader -- a leader by example. I've heard him compare his game to to Brandon Roy's. I'd compare his temperament to Roy as well. He's not showy, not flashy, nor exuberant. He just works. He should fit in well with Utah's philosophy.
TUJB: He recently said he models his game after Brandon Roy. Is there a player you see his career becoming similar to, or one he reminded you of from his days at Colorado?
Bell, TRR: Brandon Roy is a good comparison, I think Roy might have a slightly better jump shot now than Burks does but I think Roy put some work in to improve that part of his game. Where I think Burks will immediately add value is his ability to get to the free throw line like Carmelo Anthony did in Denver. Burks has deceiving strength to get to the rim and create, much more than a player like Klay Thompson who is thought of as a perimeter player.
Justin, SH: He has compared his game to Brandon Roy. I just compared his temperament to Roy. It is very, very difficult to project what sort of career path he may take because that depends on a lot of underlying factors. I don't see him making an immediate impact. First off, because his jumper isn't steady yet. Secondly, because he's going to find it harder to get to the rim in the NBA. The athletes are so much quicker, faster, and longer than what he faced in college that he's going to go through an adjustment period. Also, he's going to have to adjust to the NBA's officiating. Something he'll likely have to do on a nightly basis. First, because he's a rookie. It's going to be inconsistent for him all year. Second, because the pro game isn't officiated in the same ways as college. But one thing is for certain, he WILL get to the line in the NBA. And eventually, it will happen in bunches.
TUJB: How did he interact with his teammates/coaches?
Bell, TRR: I think he was well respected on the team. Never heard of any controversies in the locker room, seems like he got along with everyone.
Justin, SH: As I said in my blog post, Alec Burks interacts with his teammates and coaches like a true professional. He approaches practice in the same way he does each and every game. He's consistent in ways other players his age are not. All he's wanted to do from day one is provide a better life for his mother. He's said as much in his tweets from last fall. I think it is because of this devotion to his mother that he takes his job on the basketball court so seriously. I wouldn't be surprised if he hadn't already purchased Dina Burks (his mom) a new house. She means everything to him. And he's not one to [be shy] about it.
"He's always had a basketball; he was kind of born with it. His dad and his grandfather played, his brother played . . . it was going to happen. He's always been a natural and I've always known it. There wasn't this 'oh, wow' thing that happened when he was 5 or 15. It was a God-given gift, just a part of him." -Dina Burks
Dina Burks estimates she and her husband, Steve, were able to watch "80 to 90 percent" of Alec's college games and believes they will able to attend at least that many of his NBA games. Via the Colorado Buffaloes official website
TUJB: Is he coachable, willing to get better?
Bell, TRR: To be determined. This is a question mark to me with Alec just because we really don’t know yet. He was a great player with Colorado and really was able to take over basketball games with his talent. He was only at Colorado for two years under two different coaches so I don’t know if we necessarily saw a great bond form based on the short time period. This one is a little TBD until we see how he progresses after three years or so in the same system.
Justin, SH: Yes. Beyond so.
"He's just a fun kid. He always brings energy and he's a great teammate. Everyone has seen the things that he can do. I've watched him for two years now and he still finds stuff that I can`t believe he does," said center Shane Harris-Tunks, a member of Burks` recruiting class. "Playing pick-up before our freshman season even started he had a couple of those 'Wow!` moments where you knew he was going to be good.
"Once Alec realized what he was capable of he just took off."
CU's director of basketball operations, Rodney Billups, younger brother of Chauncey, opened up doors for Alec when the Buffs visited and played in New York's Madison Square Garden.
"Chauncey has been wonderful. Not just with Alec, but with the whole Colorado team," Dina Burks said. "He has kind of taken them all under his wing and given them guidance. He`s a really good mentor, he's a good man, and he's a blessing for the university." Via buffzone
TUJB: What things does he do best and what parts of his game can be improved on at the NBA level with a team like Utah?
Burks has a great ability to get to the rim which helps him shoot a high percentage and score points in bunches. He is deadly when he moves without the basketball cutting towards the rim. He also knows how to get to the free throw line and when he is there, he shoots a high percentage. Very comparable to a Carmelo Anthony in his ability to get to the paint and score or get fouled. He isn't a flashy scorer but the type of scorer when you look at the stat sheet every night, he has 24 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals.
His size is another great quality for a perimeter player and he may be growing still. At 6'6", he has the ability to elevate over small players on the perimeter. He isn't afraid to rebound and when he commits himself, he can be a good defender.
The biggest weakness you will read about Burks is his outside shot. He isn't a great three point shooter with most of his points coming from within 15 feet. He has an unorthodox shot mechanically that will need to be fine tuned. He can score from the outside but he has a long way to go to become a "shooting" guard instead of a simply inhabiting the 2 spot. Sometimes he can get lackadaisical on the defensive end. A coach that can keep his motor going night in and night out on both ends of the floor will get the most out of Alec. He also could add some weight which will help him stay healthy and maintain success over an 82 game season.
Has room to grow as a ball handler.
He has all the talent and athleticism you could want in a perimeter player. He is very young and has room to grow into his frame. If he can become more consistent with his outside shot, he can score from anywhere on the court. He isn't afraid of contact and his ability to get into the paint is a great way to fill up the stat sheet on an off shooting night.
Justin, SH: Alec Burks is an incredible slasher. Some said he was the best in the draft. I wouldn't find much reason to disagree.
The first time I watched him play he immediately brought Allen Iverson to mind. No, not in size or stature, but in the ways he would get to the rim and draw contact. He's a foul-drawing machine. But, like I said above, it's going to take him some time to adjust to the NBA. For a guard, he's an incredibly effective rebounder. Because he's sort of a cerebral player, he's always in-tune to the game. It allows him to rebound better than bigger guys. He can read the ball off the rim. His incredible length doesn't hurt, either.
As for things he could improve on, first and foremost, he needs to work on his jumper. And in doing so, he needs to pay special attention to his balance and building up his core and lower-body strength. Not only should this improve the accuracy of his jumper, it should also bulk him up. You can compare your game to Brandon Roy all you want, but you also weigh 15-20 lbs. less. He HAS to bulk up some in order to handle the rigors of the 82-game NBA schedule.
Even though he only averaged just over two assists per game in college, I feel he is an underrated passer. Because of his cerebral approach, he can see passing lanes others don't. He has an incredible feel for the game. His instincts are top-notch. Which make him, when he's finally able, the right guy to go to in crunch-time.
If he bulks up, I could see him earning time at shooting guard, point guard, and even some stretches at small forward. It's been a while since Utah has had such a diverse player at the two-guard. He's in a different mold entirely.
"In closing, the only thing I can say about Burks is that he's going to be fine. He's likable, humble, and willing to work hard in order to be successful in the NBA. He's incredibly close to his mother. Everything he does in life, he does with her in mind. I think he has the potential to be one of the top rookies in the league next season. And that's not just a homer talking. I feel this way because he excels in the skill that no one can teach: rebounding. And rebounding will get you lots of playing time. Tyrone Corbin is going to love him. And Utah Jazz fans will as well.
As a Nuggets fan, I only ask one thing: Keep him away from that Matt Harpring!"
Thanks to our guests for taking the time to educate us, and a special thanks to The Ralphie Report's Jon Woods for lending us Bob Bell's expertise as well as @jashin_mizuho for continuing his amazing artwork dedicated to the Utah Jazz for the header pic, all rights reserved. Please visit his website for information on how to obtain his works
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