If I could change one thing about this Jazz season, it would be keeping point guard Trey Burke’s finger from being broken in mid-October.
Who knows how a healthy Burke may have changed the dynamic of this season? If the Jazz, now 7-21, had started any better than 1-11 — and they almost certainly would have with Burke — then many fans’ goal of them having the worst record in the NBA may not have come into play.
That narrative has become too much of a focus in Jazzland. Sure, the fascination with Jabari Parker becomes more justified with every performance he delivers for Duke. But the reality is there’s no guarantee — far from it, actually — of the team with the worst record winning the lottery and getting the No. 1 pick. Conversely, the Jazz could have, say, the seventh-worst record, and still move up far enough in the lottery to draft a really good player, maybe even Parker or Andrew Wiggins.
That’s how the lottery works, and why it exists.
Look, I’ve been all over the map in analyzing this Jazz season, including criticism of management for not making a better effort to surround the team’s young players with sufficient talent to give them a reasonable chance of winning games and having a more positive experience. But what’s becoming clear is that Burke is capable of playing 35 minutes every night and learning as he goes.
So imagine if he had practiced and played during those last three weeks of the preseason and not missed the first 12 games of the regular season. Allowing for the possibility that watching from the bench may have helped him to some degree, he likely would be playing even better right now.
This guy plays as if he has something to prove, and I like that attitude. He has some Deron Williams in him, and that’s a compliment. His response to a 1-for-8 shooting effort Monday at Miami was impressive, as he scored 30 points Wednesday in a win at Orlando. It takes more than motivation to make shots, but Burke clearly has the right mentality for his job.
He’s already helped the Jazz win four road games — which is about one fewer than my projected season total for this team. The Jazz have a chance to pick off another win or two on this trip, with games tonight at Atlanta, Saturday at Charlotte and Monday at Memphis.
If they’d had Burke from the start of the season, maybe the Jazz would be at a point where winning was not considered so unhealthy.