Tbird 2011 NBA draft analysis #1: Alec Burks
Written by thunderbird1245
Once again hello to everyone on PD.
As we come to within 30 days of the 2011 NBA draft, it is once again time to begin my individual previews of the draft prospects that may be under consideration for our beloved Pacers for their first round selection, which this year is just outside the lottery at pick #15.
Picking slightly later, along with this being such an unpredictable draft in general, has made this exercise more difficult than in the 3 years prior. The later you select, obviously the more players who are under consideration….and I have as just a fan a limited amount of time to put these draft analysis together. Add to that some of the draft uncertainties, such as the influx of foreign players among the top prospects and the (I believe) the very real possibility that the Pacers will attempt to move up higher in the draft, and all of those factors has made even trying to decide who to really put the laser beam focus on more difficult than in years past.
Having said that, while I was coaching high school basketball this season I tracked more players than ever before, and have probably watched more tape of this years prospects than any of the last 3 years….at least of those I have been able to see tape on. There to this point has been little to no tape or information available to me of the several European players in this draft, so it is unlikely I will put any of those guys under the Tbird microscope as the next 30 days roll on. Still, of the players I have studied, I think and hope I will provide some insight on the players I have time to profile that maybe you won’t read anywhere else.
You can decide for yourself if my reports are worth reading, as I have many draft profiles of players currently in the league elsewhere on this site.* For those of you unfamiliar with my work, feel free to go back and look at the many draft previews I have done here, including the players analyized that currently are on our roster. I have always enjoyed doing these in depth analysis articles, and I hope you have enjoyed reading them over the years as well.
My first in depth study is on Big 12 guard Alec Burks.
Alec Burks is a slender wing player from the the University of Colorado. Born in Missouri,* he was that state’s player of the year as a high school senior, but as slightly undersized at that time went largely unnoticed in the recruiting circles. But Burks grew 3 inches in Boulder, giving him ideal size for his position on the perimeter at the NBA level. Measuring in at 6’6 in shoes, with a 6’10 wingspan, Burks clearly has the height and length to be an effective NBA player.* Burks is young for his class as well at still only 19 years old, so he has time to fill out his very thin frame…..which at this time holds him back from being an even higher rated player than he is already. At only 195lbs or so, Burks is spindly, but I think he can add strength and girth to his frame with better diet and weight training than a player gets in college….eventually, I look for Burks to play regularly at the 215-220 lb range. He has extremely long arms that on his thin frame look even longer. He also is a quick leaper with quick hands….he doesn’t overwhelm you with athleticism, but he is rangy, crafty, sneaky, and gets off the ground quickly and efficiently. Purely from an athletic standpoint Burks won’t stand out per se’, but he clearly has the physical tools to be a very good NBA player.
Offensively, Burks has many many strengths, with a few glaring weaknesses as well.
Some people will call Burks a “slasher”, but that to me isn’t totally accurate. That word to me means he overwhelms people with size or quickness to drive the lane…and that isn’t really true. Instead Burks is more crafty, “sneaky” if you will. He gets through small openings, uses angles well, handles the ball with ease, and can get wherever he wants to go with the basketball on his dribble. He can go either way, with either hand, with either foot as his pivot foot, and shows no really tendencies either way on where he might drive. He also to me seems to see the floor beyond his own defender, and processes information quickly to make decisions well with the basketball.
However, what he can’t do yet is actually always be a great finisher once he has beaten his man. He gets his upper torso turned on his drive, and sometimes can’t get squared up with enough strength to be accurate with his shot. He personifies the statement that “some people can beat their man and get to the paint, but not all can finish”. He shoots way too many floaters and off balance shots, and not nearly enough pull up jumpers over off balance people. The pullup should be his go to move, instead he rarely uses it.
But that can be taught. Burks ability to drive, to be isolated, and to create scoring chances where none exist is a valuable skill.* He would immediately be our best player off the dribble from day 1 if he was a Pacer. He has all the basic moves….the crossover, the stepback, the between the legs, behind the back, the in/out, and can put all of them in combination with one another and in either direction with either hand.
Burks at this point is not a great, or even a good, perimeter shooter. He has about 18 feet of range, and he is little to no threat from the deeper NBA 3 point line at this point. Any team selecting Burks will have to decide if they as a coaching staff and organization can develop that skill in him.
I believe personally that Burks will eventually become a very good 3 point shooter with his feet set, as I see his fundamental strengths as a shooter overcoming his current issues. I say that because I love Burks release, as it is very high up over his head, and he does a really good job of getting his elbow up to his eye level most of the time on his follow through.
Where I see him having accuracy issues right now from a perimeter shooting perspective are:
1. He takes bad shots in the first place because Colorado didn’t have anything else.
2. He has poor balance with his legs and doesn’t get his lower body in sync with his shoulders enough.
The first issue won’t be a problem in the NBA, as he will never be in a position (hopefully) that he will be a teams number one option. The second issue can be fixed with enough reps, good coaching, experience, and additional lower body strength.
While his ball handling is excellent and he can go in either direction, he really struggles to square up when driving to his right at this point. He has been able to offset this weakness in college by getting an additional step past his man and getting the angle, and getting to the foul line alot going that way, but to be a really tough cover for people at this level he will need to work on that as he starts his career. He needs to do a better job in particularly of making a “2 foot” jump stop and rising up over people, instead of making a “1-2″ jump stop and having to shoot all the leaners and floaters that he has to take now.
My favorite 2 parts of Burks game are his passing/ballhandling ability from the wing position and his ability to rebound.
Burks often played the point for his college team. While that will not be his NBA position, I feel like he can be used in a “point forward” type of way, especially in a second unit situation. A creative offensive coach will put him in positions to handle the ball and make decisions with it up top, or to initiate offense from all over the floor. If you have a shoot first point guard who can play off the ball some, a player like Burks can be extremely useful to pair with a guy like that. I don’t see Burks as a truly OUTSTANDING passer, but he thinks like a point guard I think and is at this point much much better and more useful with the ball in his hands than without it.
Playing without the basketball doesn’t seem naturally to Burks yet, and he will have to be coached hard in this way by whoever drafts him. Almost all of his value at this point is with the ball in his hands, as he can’t really shoot well enough yet to be a guy the defense has to “hard closeout” on, and he is not comfortable really moving without the ball as much….too many times you see him drift to the perimeter and watch the action, and he he doesn’t really set up cuts well or read the defense well as he moves.
What he can do well is go to the glass on both ends. He isn’t a jumping jack type if leaper, but what he does do extremely well for a guard is get off the ground quickly. He will be a guy who misses shots on his own drives, but gets them back and scores on second chances alot I think. He is slinky and hard to block out, and has really good reach and hands inside the paint.
As a defensive rebounder he won’t be great because he is too spindly to block out well, but as long as he is guarding a perimeter player who doesn’t go to the glass hard that won’t be a problem. In fact, he projects to really help a team on the defensive glass because he does go hard to the board, and if he does get a rebound he can lead his own fast break without needing to make an outlet pass to others….a very underrated trait.
He will be an above average wing rebounder, and 80% free throw guy, and an above average player as a ball handler.
I also love him as a potential threat on the screen/roll as the ballhandler. Other than Darren Collison, he immediately becomes our best attacker/creator off the dribble in ball screen situations. While he won’t become a devastating unstoppable threat off a ball screen until he can shoot the pull up jumper much better than he does currently, he will be a tough guy to hedge out on hard, because he will be very very good at splitting the screen/roll and getting past 2 defenders, creating offense for others. While we need an actual BALL SCREENER worse than another ballhandler currently, this skill can’t be underestimated…..and Burks has it.
As a defender, Burks I would rate as average at this point, with the ability to be somewhat better than that in time….though his weaknesses will always be there. If he works hard and is coached well and is surrounded by other good defenders, I think that will mitigate his issues.
What he does well right now is play one on one individual defense. When his man has the ball, he is focused, alert, and gets in a good stance most of the time. Not a great stance, and not consistently enough for me…..but he can do it when he is asked to do so. He has really quick feet, is a smart defender, and has good length for the position.
Unfortunately, he also paces himself too much, and takes possessions off….at least he did in college. Now he won’t play the minutes he did for an NBA team that he did in Boulder, so maybe he can get over that, but he clearly paced himself last season I thought on tape. He particularly had problems off the ball, as he gets up out of his stance too often and fails to help well. I really didn’t like him when he was “one pass away” in college, as he didn’t deny his man the next pass well, but he also didn’t “defend the split” well either…..he let the ballhandler* split the gaps way too often for my taste.
He also stood up out of his stance when screened, which made him slow to recover. Being thin and weaker anyway doesn’t help, but he had poor technique when trying to get around screens of any type other than ballscreens, which I thought he guarded better than any other situation he found himself in. Basically his entire game is like that….way above average on or with the ball, somewhat average or below that without it.
Now, he is rangy, and occasionally will make an outstanding defensive play….he just didn’t do it regularly. If he actually contested a shot, he was really good at doing so, and in fact got a few blocks/deflections or at least affected his opponents shot in someway when the effort was there. But I just didn’t see that all of the time. If he plays with that kind of energy and focus, he will be an average to somewhat above average defensive perimeter player.
Since he can play the PG in long spurts offensively I feel (or at least a point forward type role), it would greatly help his value if he could in turn guard backup point guards as well. I believe he will be able to do that in some circumstances against second unit point guards if you choose to match up that way. (He could guard guys like CJ Watson or AJ Price for example) but I cant see him staying in front of starting NBA point guards on a regular basis.
So, what do we have in Alec Burks?
I think Burks is a very valuable offensive piece with alot of versatility and skill, and with alot of room to improve and grow. His intangibles are good, as he has a swagger and confidence to his mannerisms that I really like. He is willing to have the ball in his hands and to make big plays, and live with the consequences. I like that he is still very young and improving and growing his game, and he seems like a smart kid who works hard.
I love him as a ballhandler in isolation situations, and in a screen/roll as a ballhandler from any place on the floor. He lacks one dynamic unstoppable move, but I love his craftiness and ability to get to the paint off the dribble. While I think he needs to develop his midrange game and ability to make the pull up jumper to be a really high level player, I think he has the potential and work ethic to do that. I also love his ability to rebound from the wing, to be the middle man on a fast break, and to play point guard when needed.
By age 22/23, he will need to develop a 3 point set shot so he can space the floor, and he will need to learn to play without the ball as a cutter…..he has the athletic skill to be a great cutter, and become a dynamic catch and shoot guy in time, he just never has been put in that role yet.
I think he will eventually be a good defender in time as he gets more experienced, stronger, and more focused.
How would Burks fit as a Pacer?
Despite our improvement under Frank Vogel, the Pacers have some holes on their roster. The least talked about role that isn’t filled as of now is a third wing position to play with Paul George and/or Danny Granger. But with Mike Dunleavy likely gone, Dahntay Jones mostly just being a short term guy, and James Posey being roster filler, having a long term wing we like and can develop is a need for us long term…..and let us not underestimate that he would make Brandon Rush much easier to deal if we didn’t need to take a wing back in return.
Burks can fill that need short term, and would crack our rotation I feel right away as a second unit guy who could compliment both George and Granger very well. Long term, he could be the eventual successor to Granger, and could play next to Paul George for the next 10 years, or in the very worst be a guy who is a long term 6th/7th/8th man in your rotation. Burks ability to handle the ball and get to the rim is a strength that none of our current wing men really have.
If the Pacers were to stay at 15 and Burks were to somehow be available, I feel confident Indiana would rush the pick to the podium and make the selection. The question is this: Is Burks a good enough fit and player for us to move up slightly to take him?
I could make an argument either way depending on the price. I think he will be a really nice NBA player, and I think his character and skill set fit well with our current roster pieces. I can see us moving up slightly to go after him depending on how far he falls.
Burks would be a good fit for us at #15, which I think is his absolute floor. Likely he goes before #15 however. He would make some sense for Detroit at #8, Charlotte at #9,* and Utah at #12.
My gut tells me though that the best fit for him, and the team most likely to get him in either a draft day trade or by just being patient and waiting for him to fall, is Houston at #14.
Current NBA comparison: poor man’s version of Brandon Roy
Former NBA comparison: Jalen Rose (if Burks develops his jump shot)
As always, the above is just my opinion.