As the Utah Jazz continue their quest for the NBA’s draft lottery, bright spots have been few and far between. Stumbling to a 22-42 record through 64 games, Utah currently sits 15.5 games back of the Western Conference’s final playoff spot, almost a mathematically impossible feat.
Head coach Tyrone Corbin, in his fourth year with the team, hasn’t exactly been stellar either. Corbin is 109-131 since the 2010-11 season, when the coach took over in the interim following the departure of legendary coach Jerry Sloan after 54 games.
And moving forward, only nine of Utah’s players are currently under contract for the 2014-15 NBA season. This leaving players like Andris Biedrins, Marvin Williams and Derrick Favors all due either to re-sign or test the free agency market.
So, how do the Jazz move forward in building on the positives?
Cue: Trey Burke.
In 2012-13, Burke led his Michigan Wolverines to the National Championship game, only to eventually fall to the champion Louisville Cardinals. On that national runner-up Wolverine team, Burke led the team in points (18.6), assists (6.7), player efficiency rating (28.7) and minutes played per game (35.3).
In the 2013 NBA draft, Burke fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves at the 9th-overall pick, only to then be traded to the Utah Jazz in exchange for the 14th overall pick in Shabazz Muhammad.
And now, despite the season struggles this franchise has faced, it appears that Burke is one of, if not the only, positive to take away from this season.
In his rookie year, Burke has started 50 of the team’s first 64 games, and played but not started in two more. On the team, the point guard ranks fourth per game in points (12.4), second in minutes played (31.1), and first in assists (5.4).
Compared to the other rookies drafted before him? Burke is one of the top two that were selected. Only Orlando Magic rookie Victor Oladipo ranks better when it comes to points (13.9), rebounds (4.3) and player efficiency rating (13.6) among top nine players, with Burke besting Oladipo in the assists category (5.4 to 4.0).
Moving forward, Utah would be well suited to try to construct the framework of their team around the young point guard. Constructing a team around players such as Burke instead of forward Gordon Hayward, who hasn’t exactly worked out for Utah, would benefit the Jazz in that a fresh start is provided.
Moving into April and May, looking for a young forward or center who could help fill the void still remaining from Al Jefferson‘s departure and compliment Burke, while still bringing a youthful presence, could really benefit the Jazz.
The framework is there–the Jazz just need to recognize it.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics used are courtesy of Basketball Reference.
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