Michigan's Trey Burke is having a great sophomore year that has made him a leading Player of the Year candidate. Surprisingly, Burke's talents are not expected to translate very well over to the next level. Despite being the most offensively dynamic point guard in college basketball, Burke currently sits outside the NBA draft lottery in the ESPN, DraftExpress and NBADraft.net mock drafts. That is far too low a draft position for a player who has dominated the Big Ten this year.
Burke has not put up good statistics this year—he has put up great statistics. He is averaging 19 points and seven assists a game. He is shooting 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range. Most impressively, he is doing all this with an assist to turnover ratio of 4-to-1.
Burke's numbers in a major conference are not the kind we see from point guards very often. The fact that Burke is Michigan's leading scorer and facilitator, complemented with his superior efficiency, makes him an excellent pro prospect.
From a NBA scouting perspective, the main concerns about Burke are his height and possible defensive shortcomings. We hear such fears from NBA scouts about small point guards every year. But with the best small point guard prospects, such concerns are often unfounded.
For instance, Jameer Nelson lasted until pick No. 20 in the 2004 draft because of concerns about his size. Likewise, Ty Lawson lasted to the 18th pick, and Darren Collison to 21st in the 2009 draft because of similar doubts. All three of these players had excellent college careers and have turned into solid NBA point guards in spite of their height.
In a league that is increasingly more reliant on point guards with strong offensive skills, Burke seems like a good bet to join them as a starting-caliber point guard in the league.
However, a certain percentage of NBA scouts often see height as too much of a roadblock to overcome, even when the player has played very well at the college level. Isaiah Thomas was the last pick in the entire 2011 NBA Draft for this exact reason. Thomas currently has the 5th most Win Shares of any player in his entire draft class.
In a NBA draft like this year's, which supposedly has few sure things, Burke looks like he deserves to be picked early. At the very least, he should be a solid offensive contributor at the next level and he could turn into much more than that. If he falls far outside of the top-10, I have reason to believe that teams will be making a big mistake.