Trey Burke is rescuing the Utah Jazz. After last summer’s NBA draft, Burke was initially a popular pick for the Rookie of the Year award, as it seemed he would get the opportunity to shine as Utah’s No. 1 point guard. Due to very lackluster performances in summer league and the start of preseason, as well as a broken finger, Burke started to fade away from the ROY conversation. However, we may be witnessing Trey forcing his way back into the picture as he pulls the Jazz out of the depths of the NBA’s cellar.
Consider this: five games ago, the Jazz were the league’s worst team with a record of 1-13. They deserved that record. They were awful. At that point, Trey had returned for only two, minutes-restricted, games.
Trey started the next five games for the Jazz, in which they went 3-2 with wins over three respectable teams. The Phoenix Suns were not expected to be great, but have certainly been better than expected. The Chicago Bulls have lost Derrick Rose again, but are still one of the better teams in the East. The Houston Rockets, with James Harden and Dwight Howard, are certainly one of the better teams in the West. Each knocked off by the Jazz in the last five games. Each felled at the hand of Burke. Trey scored at least 14 points in each of the wins, 20 and 21 in the last two games.
Trey is shooting almost 40 percent from 3 and has shown the ability to hit mid-range jumpers and get to the rack as well. This type of versatility was drastically absent before Burke’s triumphant return. However, Burke’s numbers aren’t the most important piece of this puzzle. Trey is making his teammates better.
For the season, Utah is shooting only about 43 percent and only about 32 percent from 3. Contrast that with the last five games that Trey has started, as the Jazz have shot 46 percent total and 39 percent from 3. Assists are up, points are up and turnovers are down, as the Jazz are now winning games.
Admittedly, a five-game sample size is not a large one. Much could change, especially as Utah’s next two games are against two of the league’s best in Indiana and Portland, but the signs are there. Beyond the stats lies the fact that Utah just looks more in sync, fluid and dangerous with Burke at the helm. Add to that the very clear observation that Burke is starting to mesh more with his teammates with each game. He is learning where they will be, where he should be and how to get them the ball in positions to score.
It may be too early to say that Trey will be the Rookie of the Year, but it certainly isn’t a stretch to say he will at least be in the conversation until the end.