Having just arrived in town Friday, Trey Burke declared his expectation of someday becoming an NBA All-Star point guard, with this clarification: “That’s just my opinion.”
Oh, he’s definitely not alone in that belief. Not since Karl Malone have the Jazz drafted anyone who’s being so warmly embraced in Utah and beyond. The response to Deron Williams was decidedly mixed, considering how Chris Paul was available. In contrast, the acquisition of Burke came as such a surprise that it elicited downright giddiness around here.
He’s the talk of the draft worldwide too. NUVI, a Sandy-based analytics company that tracks social media, cited Burke as by far the most mentioned player — producing 45-plus percent more conversation than the next-closest draftee, Nerlens Noel.
The next issue: How much will Burke play, and how soon?
As free agency begins Monday, the Jazz quickly need to determine what Burke can give them. That evaluation directly plays into their further staffing of the position, with nobody else under contract.
“Certainly, that could change our tactics in how we enter free agency and who we would go after,” general manager Dennis Lindsey said, anticipating a weekend of conversations with coach Tyrone Corbin.
The answer should be that Burke can handle the job.
That’s just my opinion. Actually, anybody who witnessed his Michigan career — all two seasons of it — would share that viewpoint.
He’s competitive enough, I know that. “He wills himself, and I think that’s going to go a long way in this league, I really do,” said his father, Benji.
It’s asking a lot of Burke to make him a starting point guard right away in the NBA, certainly. As you may have heard, John Stockton became a full-time starter only in the middle of his fourth Jazz season. Lindsey dusted off that story Thursday night, after trading up to take Burke at No. 9.
The world is different now, and so are the Jazz’s needs. Rickey Green was an All-Star point guard when Stockton joined the team. Damian Lillard went from Weber State to Portland, played 38 minutes a game at point guard and became the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 2012-13.
The reality of it all: Portland finished 33-49. Amid all the variables of how the roster takes shape, that’s about what the Jazz can expect to do if they give Burke the basketball right here and now.
But that’s what Michigan did, out of necessity, and it worked. The Wolverines lost Darius Morris to the NBA and turned to Burke, who was schooled by a Western Illinois senior early in his freshman season. But then they went to the Maui Invitational and Burke thrived against Duke and Memphis. “Maybe it won’t be such a bad year, after all,” coach John Beilein thought at the time.
Beilein loves to tell that story, among others that should encourage Jazz followers. “As Trey reads the situation, he just improves,” Beilein said during a Final Four news conference. “This young man’s got a fire in his belly to be the best player he can be and make his team win.”
Coachable? Oh, yeah. “He’s incredible at practice,” Beilein said. “I’ve never had him one time show any frustration in practice with a coach. … At the same time, I’ve seen great growth by showing him a lot of patience and trust.”
That’s the recipe. The Jazz can be patient with Burke, while trusting him. He’ll make rookie mistakes, but he’ll grow with his teammates. If the Jazz truly want this draft to serve as a starting point, Trey Burke should become their starting point guard.