Trey Burke isn’t going to be perfect each time he takes the court.
Burke was the National Player of the Year last season at Michigan, averaging 18.6 points and 6.7 assists per game while taking the Wolverines to the National Championship Game. For his two years as a pure scorer in college, he was drafted ninth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves and later dealt to the Utah Jazz.
So far, Burke hasn’t looked like a top draft pick. He hasn’t even looked like a first- or second-round pick. The point guard has really struggled through his first three games in the Summer League and even sat a game. He has played so poorly that I’m sure someone in the Utah front office is having doubts about his future.
Through his first two appearances as a professional, he shot 6-of-27 from the floor and 1-of-10 from downtown. He did grab nine rebounds and register seven assists through the pair of games, but his shooting was just abysmal. He wasn’t acquired by Utah to be a passer and rebounder; he was acquired to score.
After back-to-back embarrassing performances, the Jazz decided to sit Burke for the third game of the summer league, which Utah won by 30 points over Brooklyn. Michael Wallace of ESPN talked with Burke about not playing in the matchup, and here’s what the 21-year-old had to say:
It’s been a long time since I haven’t played in a game. At Michigan, I didn’t miss any games. It wasn’t, like, hard [to sit out] because I knew I wasn’t being punished. I knew it wasn’t a punishment. I knew they wanted me to learn form the bench. I was willing to sit down and learn from the coaches’ seats.
It doesn’t appear that Burke was able to implement anything he learned very quickly, as on Thursday, he had another poor game. In Utah’s six-point loss to Indiana, Burke was 3-of-15 from the floor and 0-for-5 from three-point territory.
The ninth overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft is shooting 21.4 percent from the field and 6.7 percent from downtown through his first three games of the Summer League. Are you kidding me? This kid was a 46.3 percent shooter just a few months ago. What in the world is going on?
OK, let’s calm down for a second and remind ourselves that it’s just three games.
Also, it’s the NBA Summer League, not the NBA Finals. Isn’t the goal of the Summer League to help transition the players from overseas and college to the NBA? The Jazz would much rather have Burke work out the kinks now than in, say, February or March, wouldn’t they? He will be absolutely fine.
Jazz assistant coach Sidney Lowe knows what Burke has to do, per Wallace:
I told him, ‘There’s a target on you, you’re a first-round draft pick, there’s expectations there but there’s also people that are going to come after you because of those reasons.’ I told him the most important thing is to remain who he is, play hard and not get too caught up. It’s a funny game. You’re going to have highs and lows, but sometimes your highs aren’t as high as you think they are and your lows aren’t as low as you think. You have to be able to be resilient, bounce back, go to the next game.
Burke wasn’t always the most consistent player in college. When the Wolverines topped San Diego State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, he went 2-for-12 from the floor and only had six points. He then scored 18 in the third round and 23 in the Sweet 16.
When Michigan defeated Syracuse in the Final Four, he shot 1-for-8 and finished with seven points. Two days, later, he shot 7-for-11 for 24 points in a losing effort against Louisville. He’s more than capable of coming back after a rough night on the court. He’s just had a few bad ones in a row, that’s all. It’s nothing to worry about.
If Burke can’t hit a shot on Friday and struggles throughout the preseason, then Utah can start to worry about what’s going on. For now, though, his three poor games need to be taken with a grain of salt. It’s just three games and it’s the Summer League. It’s not the end of the world if he goes cold for a few nights.