Our prospect profiles on the top players in the 2013 NBA Draft continue with Michigan's Trey Burke.
Expected draft position: Top 6
College career: There was plenty of reason for optimism in Ann Arbor two years ago following the gloomy departure of dynamic Big Ten assists leader Darius Morris. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Morgan were coming off excellent freshman campaigns, and much of the team was entrenched with solid upperclassmen that were viewed as stabilizing forces in the locker room and in practices.
But after years of solid recruiting classes, coach John Belien would bring in a relatively unheralded class devoid of high profile players. Except one. Trey Burke.
Burke would do what his predecessor could not. He quickly picked up the nuances of Belien's complex offensive system, so much so that he was entrusted an unusual amount of leeway in the offense for a freshman point guard. Belien would later employ a more pro style, spread pick and roll attack to the Wolverines offense, which Burke grabbed by the horns, elevating the school to the No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament before being upset in the round of 64 by Ohio. Projected to be a late first-round pick with concerns about his size, defensive shortcomings and ability to distribute, Burke tested the NBA waters but eventually made the decision to return to school for his sophomore season.
Burke came out the gates red hot with a pair of efficient 20-point games to tip off his sophomore campaign. He had no problem feasting on a fairly weak Michigan schedule that faced just nine ranked teams all season, and he seemingly improved in every facet of the game as the season progressed. After a memorable tournament run that featured several big time clutch performances, Burke went on to collect a series of awards, including AP National Player of the Year and he Naismith award.
After seeing the draft hoopla surrounding him fade as he crumbled in the tournament as a freshman, a strong showing this time around proved to be an excellent catapult into the top half of the lottery. He is now considered the best point guard in the draft and a real darkhorse to be top-three selection come June.
Offense: Burke doesn't possess the breathtaking measurables or the jaw-dropping athleticism that we've been accustomed to seeing in top point guard prospects. He isn't ultra quick, he isn't explosive and he won't wow you as he finishes a fastbreak. But he does have a keen sense of running an offense, a rarefied ability to manipulate a defense, and a surgeon-like approach to running pick and rolls. He knows when to pass, when to get his teammates involved and understands his personnel well. He acts as both a scorer and a playmaker, he can push the ball in transition, slow it down and run halfcourt sets and shoot off the dribble.
He didn't see many spot up opportunities on account of all the playmaking he had to create, but showed great form on his jumper off the dribble and off screens. He has a high release point while getting good lift, and while he doesn't have a tremendous first step, he uses his dribble well to elude defenders in order to compensate for his lack of size.
Burke's knack for keeping his head on a swivel and reading defenses will make him a top selection in this draft. He fortifies this skill with elite ball handling and patience. He's very good in the open court, using an array of crossover and hesitation dribbles to get by defenders. In halfcourt sets, he makes good use of space by either getting defenders in the air with shot fakes. He's also an expert at his crafty dribble to get around defenders, only to use his butt as a means to keep defenders on his back while he surveys the floor, a la Chris Paul.
He didn't look to score at the rim nearly as much, often choosing to dump the ball off to his bigs to finish. When he did (just 24 percent of his shots were at the rim), he converted 63 percent of the time. It's not an outrageously-bad rate given his stature, but it's troubling that he got to the free-throw line just four times a contest while shooting the ball 14 times a game. His shot selection could improve, as he gets trigger happy from three (five attempted per game with the majority being off the dribble), and he should look to develop more touch around the basket.
Defense: Burke should continue to add strength to an already solid frame in order to fight over screens and prevent bigger guards from posting him up. He's improved markedly since coming to Michigan as a defender, understanding angles better and funneling his man into help. He's a little slow laterally and isn't a great athlete, but makes up for it with his competitiveness, leadership qualities and 6'5'' wingspan. He's also a plus rebounder due to his tough nature and tireless motor.
Trey Burke Draft Combine Interview (via DraftExpress)
Pro potential/Wizards fit: When evaluating point guards, it's essential to brood over one's ability to control the tempo, run the pick and roll effectively, change speeds, and shoot threes when defenders go under screens. The latter may not be as important, but it's an invaluable attribute to any offense. Point guards should not disappear in games and should be the rock of your team. Trey Burke has all of that. He has no glaring weakness and is smart enough to adjust to the professional ranks.
However, the Wizards obviously don't need what Burke brings to the table as much because they already have John Wall. While the Wizards have holes everywhere on the team, and while it would be great to bring in another pick and roll player off the bench that you could ensconce in small-ball fourth-quarter lineups, it's merely a luxury over a pressing need at this point. Once drafted, Burke would immediately lose his value as teams begin to position themselves for next year's point guard class. Moreover, drafting Burke would mean passing on players such as Otto Porter and Victor Oladipo, which the front office cannot afford.