It’s no surprise that Trey Burke is the most highly-touted point guard in the NBA Draft after the season he had at Michigan last year. He had the option of entering the draft after his freshman season, but elected to go back to school for a chance to play for a championship. Many thought he was foolish for passing up his chances at the NBA to go back to Michigan, assuming that his goals of playing for a championship were farfetched. But Burke backed up his decision with a remarkable season, winning National Player of the Year honors and leading his Michigan Wolverines to the championship game. Needless to say, he proved the naysayers wrong.
It’s not often that potential lottery picks actually return to school and increase their draft stock. Trey Burke did exactly that. In his sophomore season, Burke increased his numbers across the board, averaging 18.6 points and 6.7 assists a night, shooting 46 percent from the field (38 percent from three). What impresses NBA scouts most about Burke is his heart and determination. He blossomed into a fearless leader at Michigan this season and really showed scouts how confident he is about his abilities. Those qualities are necessary in any NBA franchise point guard and there’s no question that Trey Burke fits the description.
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NBA Comparison: TY LAWSON
At an even 5-11, size isn’t exactly one of Ty Lawson’s advantages, but he doesn’t let that hold him back. Lawson plays much bigger than his size and the same goes for Trey Burke. Both players make up for their lack of size with their fierce intensity and passion. In terms of size, Lawson is outmatched almost every night, but on most occasions, you wouldn’t be able to tell from the stat sheet. That’s the type of player Trey Burke is going to grow into.
If Trey Burke didn’t improve at all from this point, he would turn out to be another Ty Lawson: A scoring point guard that is a fearless leader and gives it everything he has every night. However, if he continues to develop, Burke could end up being much better than Ty Lawson. He’s already further along than Lawson was entering the league. Lawson averaged about eight points and three assists in 20 minutes per game in his rookie season. Burke will have a much better rookie campaign and will most likely continue to improve after that. At the very least, Burke will end up being Ty Lawson, but if he continues to improve at the rate he is now, he could end up being one of the best young point guards in the NBA pretty soon.
Burke is a much better athlete in the heat of battle than he shows on paper. For example, in the combine he measured a 36.5 inch max vert. But in the national championship game against Louisville, he got up much higher than 36 inches on that block attempt on Peyton Siva‘s layup. His jumping ability is underrated, and that’s the only aspect of his athleticism that’s even questionable.
Burke is as quick as they come. He uses his quickness on both ends of the floor, with his ability to rotate and jump passing lanes on the defensive end and also with his ability to push the ball up the floor in transition. In terms of speed and agility, he’ll be able to hold his own with the majority of NBA point guards. While it certainly helps to be a great leaper, it’s not a necessity at the point guard position. Some of the league’s best point guards like Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving are great athletes without jaw-dropping jumping ability. Burke will fall under that same class.
At the NBA level, it’s extremely important for a point guard to be skilled in all aspects. With the way the position has evolved, you’re limited with a below average handle or a limited shooting ability. Guys like Derrick Rose and John Wall learned that you can only rely on your athleticism for so long. While they were able to live off their athleticism in college, the NBA is a completely different monster. As an NBA point guard, your skill-set is what sets you apart. Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving have quickly risen to the top of the barrel because of their refined skill-sets.
Trey Burke’s skill-set is very raw. He’s pretty good at everything but not particularly great at anything, which isn’t a bad thing. There are definitely areas of his game he can improve upon. He doesn’t shoot with the consistency of Steph Curry or handle the ball as well as Irving, but he shows flashes of those qualities. His range extends a foot or two beyond the NBA three, while his shiftiness and his low center of gravity makes it hard to take the ball from him. Those qualities give him something to build on going forward. He has a natural scoring ability and is also an underrated distributor. His pick-n-roll skills are very polished and he’s able to thread the needle to the roller or extend the play and find the open shooter on the perimeter. He’s not exactly a pure point guard, which is why he’s more of a Ty Lawson than a Chris Paul, but with his raw skill-set, there’s no telling what type of point guard he could grow into.