During the Utah Jazz’s season of reconstruction, no one has emerged as a foundation-type player more than Alec Burks.
The No. 12 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Burks spent his first two seasons in the NBA on the fringe — a player who showed flashes of ability but never cemented a place in the league.
Those days seem over.
Along with Richard Jefferson, Burks is the only member of the Jazz who hasn’t missed a game this season. He averages 13.2 points and his slashing, athletic style play makes him a fan favorite.
Coach Tyrone Corbin has noticed, too.
“Finishing at the rim ... Alec is very creative in there,” he said. “He’s athletic enough to get under [and] over guys. He’s a creative layup maker and he’s doing a good job lately of doing those things.”
Although Burks continues to come off the bench, he has played at least 20 minutes in 44 of 48 games.
Burks leads the Jazz with 203 free-throw attempts, six more than Gordon Hayward in 246 fewer minutes.
In Utah’s last seven games, he’s averaging 15.8 points.
“I’m just being aggressive,” Burks said. “The shots are starting to fall. My teammates are getting me good looks. ... I feel like I’m improving a lot.”
According to Corbin, Burks is learning the game and has grown comfortable with his role as an off-the-bench scorer, which every team needs.
“His set-up has been good,” Corbin said. “He’s getting to his spots quickly and we’ve been able to get him the ball where he can attack early. ... He understands we need for him to score, especially when the second group is in there.”
Like all players, Burks would prefer starting and playing more minutes. But at this point, he doesn’t seem bothered by his job as sixth-man.
“I’m going to do the role to the best of my ability,” Burks said. “If coach Ty wants me to keep coming off the bench, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Burks won’t turn 23 until July 20 and, like most young players, he must continue improve on defense.
“We all have to be better, not just him,” said Corbin. “Individually and as a group, we all have to improve. But we’re growing. We’re showing some signs. We just have to be more consistent with what we’re doing.”
Jefferson believes Burks has the ability to become a prime-time defender.
“It’s a two-part thing,” Jefferson explained. “One is passion — saying to yourself, ‘I’m not going to let that man in front of me score.’ The other part is learning tendencies: when is my guy going to try and score, when is he going to try to get to the basket, when do I need to hard-foul. It’s learning the flow of the game and all that takes time.”
Burks didn’t start dreaming of playing in the NBA until he did well during some of the country’s top summer camps between his freshman and sophomore seasons at the University of Colorado.
His confidence skyrocketed and remains intact.
“Hey, this is a grown-man league,” Burks said. “If you don’t have confidence, the league will tear you apart.”
Third year’s the charm
• Alec Burks is the Jazz’s third-leading scorer, averaging 13.2 points per game.
• Burks leads the Jazz in free-throw attempts with 203 — six more than Gordon Hayward.
• Richard Jefferson and Burks are the only two Jazz players to have appeared in all 48 games.
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