When it comes to the NBA Draft, hindsight is the easiest I-told-you-so in the book. Never mind that people are quick to forget what scouts actually thought at the time. Believe it or not, Dwayne Wade was a reach for Miami at No. 5, and the majority of “experts” thought Orlando blew it picking Dwight Howard over Emeka Okafor.
If there’s one aspect of the draft that isn’t up to luck, it’s the amount of time a team invests in the player afterward.
Before labeling a high draft pick a bust, the team had better know it for a fact, something the Celtics definitely didn’t know before trading away Chauncey Billups for Kenny Anderson back in 1998. Five All-Star appearances, one championship and an NBA Finals MVP later, Boston (as well as Toronto, Denver, Orlando and Minnesota) looks pretty foolish.
That’s why it’s imperative for the Jazz to find out what they have in Colorado product Alec Burks. Unlike fellow youngsters Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, Burks’ role is uncertain going forward. Ideally, it will increase, perhaps culminating in a starters role depending on 1) his offseason progress and 2) the team’s needs/holes once the draft and free agency are done.
If nothing else, Utah needs to know what Burks is…and what he isn’t, a chance other players selected after Burks have already received. Among those from Burks’ draft class who have already cashed in:
- Kawhi Leonard, No. 15 pick, San Antonio Spurs
- Iman Shumpert, No. 17 pick, New York Knicks
- Kenneth Faried, No. 22 pick, Denver Nuggets
- Jimmy Butler, No. 30 pick, Chicago Bulls
- Chandler Parsons, No. 38 pick, Houston Rockets
Except for Parsons, all of the above-mentioned 2011 draftees were major cogs for conference semifinal teams in this year’s playoffs (the Rockets lost in the first round to OKC, 4-2). Injuries, needs and above-average play were the various doors through which they wedged their opportunities and, eventually, solidified their roles.
Burks’ role, thus far, has been restricted to 16.9 minutes per game through his first two years in the league. Shooting (42.4 percent) played a factor. So did the win-now approach Utah employed, leading to veterans like Mo Williams and Randy Foye receiving the bulk of the minutes in the backcourt.
Both Williams and Foye could be gone this summer, giving Burks a similar opportunity to that of Favors and Kanter. There’s a sense that the entire core needs to be handed the reigns, receive their lumps and learn, a la Tony Parker in the early 2000s.
And like the guys picked after Burks, we know how that turned out.
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