Utah Jazz: How Does Trey Burke’s Injury Impact The Team?

Trey Burke, the Utah Jazz’s rookie point guard, broke his right index finger in last week’s preseason game against the Los Angeles Clippers. Jazz fans are hugely disappointed with this development, as much is expected from Trey. Burke, the NCAA player of the year last year, is a popular pick for the NBA Rookie of the Year award and the injury, which is expected to keep Trey out anywhere from four to 12 weeks (Trey himself puts his timetable at four to six weeks via Twitter), is obviously a huge hit to a young player looking to make a name for himself.

 

It’s also a big hit to a Utah Jazz team which, while not expected to win a lot of games, was hoping to let its young core develop on-court chemistry together. In the first three preseason games, Trey had shown flashes of offensive potential and the ability to create for his teammates. Trey had also spent time this summer with NBA legend John Stockton and Jazz fans were excited to get an extensive look at how Stockton may have helped Trey’s (already better than average) pick-and-roll skills. Utah, Burke and Jazz fans will need to wait and while Trey’s time off the court is an unwelcome delay, it may prove to be a blessing in disguise.

Though Trey certainly has looked more comfortable in the preseason than he did in summer league, he is not performing as well as necessary in order to live up to expectations. Through three preseason games (one shortened due to injury), Burke is shooting just 30 percent from the field. As the Jazz’s main ballhandler and playmaker, Trey will need to maximize his offensive possesions and missing 70 percent of his shots is not a good way to do so. If the plus-minus stat tells us anything about Trey’s preseason so far, some time off may not be a bad thing as his minus-29 is a team worst. Of course preseason stats can’t be taken too seriously, as coaches are trying different things to see what may work versus what won’t, but it’s clear Trey has some room for improvement. During his recovery, Trey may benefit from watching the game as a third party and be able to learn from the mistakes and successes of his peers.

As it stands now, Trey will watch backup point guard John Lucas III, training camp invitee Scott Machado and shooting guard Alec Burks try their hand at the PG spot for the rest of the preseason. Neither of the three represent a very exciting option, as Lucas is a veteran with little NBA success, Machado is trying to prove he has NBA talent at all and Burks hasn’t spent much time playing PG (though he did spend time with Stockton and Burke this summer). The deficiencies of these PG alternatives have led some to believe the Jazz will sign a free agent or make a trade.

Bill Oram, of the Salt Lake Tribune tweeted the possibility of signing former Jazz-man Jamaal Tinsley is being considered.

 

 

ESPN’s Marc Stein mentions Marquis Teague as a possible trade target.

 

 

What’s important to remember when thinking about Utah’s plans to add another point guard is that they don’t necessarily plan to be good this season. General manager Dennis Lindsey has positioned this team to struggle in the wins column, while giving his young players time to develop. With this in mind, it seems unlikely that the Jazz would trade away assets for a PG that might help them win more games. In fact it may be more likely that Lindsey holds onto the assets he has been stockpiling for next year’s draft and accepts the possibility that Trey Burke’s injury might actually help the team achieve a higher pick in next year’s vaunted draft class.

The most plausible scenario may see Jamaal Tinsley return to the Jazz for another season, while Scott Machado has a chance to stick around for a while as a low cost option. Tinsley makes sense as he has seemed to become very aware of his ever-decreasing ability to score the ball himself. This awareness can help him to focus on creating opportunities for Utah’s young core that need the ball in their hands. Combine that with the Tinsley’s intimate knowledge of coach Tyrone Corbin‘s offense and it seems he may be Utah’s best option, providing the price is right.

Though it’s unfortunate that Burke has suffered an injury so early in his career, it certainly doesn’t damage Utah’s plans for the 2013-14 season and may actually help in the long run.

Topics: Alec Burks, Jamaal Tinsley, John Lucas III, John Stockton, NBA, Trey Burke, Utah Jazz

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