Likely considered the final and smallest piece of the Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks’ blockbuster deal, Trey Burke’s NBA career hasn’t unfolded in the way he, and many others, probably expected.
The University of Michigan alumnus was a decorated collegiate basketball player. As a sophomore he won the 2013 Wooden Award and AP Player of the Year ahead of Victor Oladipo and Otto Porter Jr. while simultaneously leading the University of Michigan to a second place finish in the NCAA tournament behind the University of Louisville (who later was forced to vacate the championship).
Burke capitalized on his strong college run and was selected ninth in the 2013 draft by the Minnesota Timberwolves but was swapped in a draft night deal with the Utah Jazz in exchange for Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad.
Even with the shakeup, Burke’s career in Utah went off without a hitch. He averaged nearly 13 points (albeit on 38 percent shooting) and six assists and was named to the 2013-14 All-Rookie First team while finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting behind Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo.
But a combination of continued shooting struggles and the Jazz’s selection of Dante Exum with the fourth overall pick in the following year plummeted the once promising guard’s value and wrote his eventual departure from Utah on the wall.
In the summer of 2016, Burke was dealt to Washington for a 2021 second round pick (so that’ll probably be LaMelo Ball) where he played 57 total games. But after a run with the Westchester Knicks in the G-League where he averaged 27 points and five assists while shooting 42 percent from three, Burke received the call up to the New York Knicks and has been looking to revive his career ever since.
In six NBA seasons, Burke has averaged 11 points and 3.7 assists while shooting 41 percent from the field and 34 percent from three. Now 26, he’s par for the course this season averaging 11.8 points and 2.8 assists in 33 games.
Last season Burke was one of eight players to average more than 20 points and seven assists per 36 minutes along with the likes of LeBron James, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul. This season he’s again averaging 20 points with nearly five assists per 36 minutes as a reserve guard.
All that is to say arguably Burke’s biggest strength is his feel for the game as an undersized combo guard. He can score and set teammates up. This season he’s tallied point totals of 25, 29 and 31 points off the bench. Further, his assist percentage of 22.3 is only two percentage points behind team leader Emmanuel Mudiay and his assist/turnover ratio of 3.24 was one of the best marks on the Knicks considering his 24.8 usage percentage.
Burke skyrocketed his draft stock by shooting 38 percent from behind the arc his final year in Michigan, but he never quite translated his accurate shooting to the NBA outside of the 2016-17 season when he shot 44 percent from behind the arc (on very few attempts per game). He’s not an efficient scorer and he’s only had two seasons of shooting better than 45 percent from the field.
Burke is also a limited defender. At 6 feet, 1 inch, he’s a mismatch
almost every second on the floor every second he’s on the floor because he is now a Dallas Maverick and plays with every other diminutive point guard in the NBA. Guards his size have to expend every ounce of energy to compete on that end of the floor which typically hinders other areas.
How does he fit?
I mean, Rick Carlisle has to be giddy to be acquiring another undersized point guard, especially after J.J. Barea went down with a season ending injury. Burke might just be a starter his first game as a Maverick. OK, I kid, but it’s not hard to imagine Burke finding some sort of role with the Mavericks since Barea’s injury and Dennis Smith Jr.’s departure.
Basically, the Mavericks are suddenly thin at the point guard position, and Burke is one of the few true point guards on the roster. He should carve out a role, but one can never be quite sure with Carlisle at the helm.
Burke’s long-term fit is murky. He’s a free agent after this season and should receive some looks from teams looking to fill depth. The Mavericks will never break up with Barea, so pencil him being back next season to share backup guard duties with Jalen Brunson. Essentially, Burke might be auditioning for other teams rather than the Mavericks in the back half of the season — but there’s a chance here to impress, as well.