The biggest part of the Wizards’ struggles this season, and one of the keys to their recent success, has been the production they get from their bench players. While the bench is still a work a progress, they’ve come a long way in the past few games, and Trey Burke is a big part of the reason why.
As you may recall, he was acquired from Utah last summer in what was described as a “fresh start” after not living up to his high draft selection, going 9th overall in the 2013 draft. His fresh start did not get off on the right foot. He didn’t get off the bench at all in four games during November, and when he did play, he wasn’t great. His effective field goal percentage was 46.1 percent and the Wizards only scored 91.5 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor. By comparison, the 76ers, who have the worst offense in the league, score 97.5 points per 100 possession.
This month, Burke looks a lot more comfortable in the offense and it shows in the numbers. The Wizards have an offensive rating of 112.9 with Burke on the floor in December, and it’s thanks largely to Burke’s improved output. He’s posting a 2.29:1 assist-to-turnover ratio this month, with a lot of his dimes coming on simple plays like this:
Burke has run that pick-and-pop play very well lately, which has helped guys like Smith and Nicholson find their shooting rhythm. And now that they’re starting to shoot better, it’s also opening up more opportunities for Burke to get good shots. This month, his effective field goal percentage is 56.7 percent. Compare his shooting chart from November to December:
Burke isn’t the biggest guy on the floor, so he needs all the spacing he can get in order to get off good shots near the rim. Now that he’s getting it, you can see how it has made him much more effective when he drives to the rim.
Everyone on Washington’s bench is playing better this month, especially Kelly Oubre and Jason Smith, but don’t discount Burke’s role in the bench’s success. He’s the one who has to run the team while John Wall gets a breather, and the better Burke plays, the more it allows the Wizards to keep Wall fresh. He might not rack up big assist numbers as a reserve, but his ability to get good shots and keep the ball moving with the second unit has been a big factor in why the offense has started to click.