Utah Jazz: Can anything be expected of Alec Burks?

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images /

Injuries and subsequent inconsistent play have robbed Alec Burks of his effectiveness for the last couple of years. Going into the 2017-18 season, Utah Jazz fans are losing hope in his abilities.

It’s become an unfortunately familiar sight of late for Utah Jazz fans to see Alec Burks‘ name appear on the inactive list. Over the past three seasons, the swingman has missed a total of 146 games with various ailments and injuries.

Even when he has played, Burks has proven to be largely ineffective. Last season, he posted career-lows in minutes, points, steals and assists per game while also producing the worst three-point shooting rate (33 percent) and overall shooting percentage (40 percent) of his career.

He fell completely out of the rotation toward the end of last season, failing to appear once in Utah’s 11 playoff games and mostly coming off the bench during garbage time or other low-stakes situations down the stretch.

It’s clear that the Jazz were thoroughly let down if they had expected Burks to be a role player for them last year, which made their depth all the more fortunate.

Related Story: Alec Burks 2016-17 season review

While Utah should be gearing up to deal with another season of minimal output from Burks, his contract would continue to hamper any moves the team might try to make. With two more years on his deal at around $11 million per, his contract is a big hindrance – essentially dead money when he’s out.

Of course, there’s a reason the Jazz rewarded him with a four-year extension two summers ago. When healthy, Burks is one of the few Jazz wings that can create his own shot with any degree of regularity, getting to the hoop and drawing fouls.

That being said, whether due to an injury-related lack of explosiveness or random variation, his drives to the basket were incredibly inefficient last year. Burks shot a horrendous 40 percent from inside three feet, which was quite literally the worst mark in the NBA.

His three-point shooting, usually consistent at around 35 to 38 percent for his career, also tailed off, falling to just a 32.9 percent clip.

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  • Interestingly enough, he took a higher percentage of attempts from behind the arc than in any season before, which could be a result of his failures in the paint.

    Still, there’s nothing to suggest that Burks can’t shake the injury bug and regain his health and effectiveness next season. His ailments have been varied, but none of them should affect him as a long-term debilitation.

    As the depth chart currently stands, Burks would likely be the third shooting guard behind Rodney Hood and Donovan Mitchell, although Royce O’Neale, Joe Ingles and others could also see time at the 2.

    Even last season while his play disappointed, Burks still saw 15 minutes of court time per appearance. Mitchell looks poised after a standout Summer League showing to take some of this opportunity away, but other losses in the backcourt have opened up some new real estate ready to be claimed by either party.

    The bottom line is, nothing outside of his own play and propensity for injury is keeping Alec Burks from regaining his status as a key contributor for the Jazz. He’ll need to rediscover his stroke and focus on finishing through contact, but none of the tweaks to his game are too major to be undertaken.

    Utah could use his talents next season in their backcourt, especially his spacing and defensive versatility. Burks can play either the 2 or 3, unlike the other shooting guards who are too small to guard forwards, or in Mitchell’s case, who will likely see time at point.

    Hood and Ingles, presumably the starters at the shooting guard and small forward spots, are somewhat of question marks of their own for next season. Both have played well in the past, but the former hit a downturn last season while the latter may find it hard to replicate last year’s torrid shooting pace with the added attention and notoriety that came with his new contract and role.

    As for Burks, all we can do for now is wait until the start of the season to see what will become of the injury-riddled guard and his role on the Jazz.

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    Fans are probably best served entering the season with a pessimistic viewpoint on Burks’ prospects. If he falters again, the team is ready, while any contribution he is able to make is more or less a bonus.