Season in Review
Thank Holy Dirk that Trey Burke was suddenly available to help the Dallas Mavericks through their first playoff appearance in four years — a sentence never thought possible in the history of basketball and words.
The undersized scoring guard officially joined the Mavericks on July 1 (after being released by the Phildelphia 76ers in February), a substitution signing for the absence of Willie Cauley-Stein in the bubble. This was Burke’s second short stint with the Dallas Mavericks, after coming over from the New York Knicks in the Kristaps Porzingis trade last season. And while most saw Burke and others as filler in that deal, the Mavericks showed once again their ability to squeeze every ounce of potential from each player. Burke was no different.
Burke appeared in the eight regular season bubble games (starting in one), as well as the six games (three starts) in the first round series against the Los Angeles Clippers. You are forgiven if, after seeing Burke go 8-of-10 from three and scoring 31 points in his first game back, you believed the Mavericks were going to outscore every single team on the way to hoisting the Larry O’Brien.
Between the regular season and playoff games in total, Burke averaged 12 points, 2.5 rebounds, and three assists while shooting 44-percent from three in nearly 25 minutes per game.
Even with an outstanding shooting stretch from deep, the most impressive element of Burke’s game in the bubble was his ability to get to the rim. If you would have watched the regular season games exclusively you’d believe Burke was a perimeter shooter, with nearly 50-percent of his field goal attempts coming from three. Whether it was adapting to the Clippers length or Burke finding ways to impose his style of play, he flipped the script in the playoffs with just 28-percent of his shot attempts from deep.
Burke was effective and efficient around the rim, connecting on 52-percent of his two-point attempts, at times seemingly scoring at will. For a visual his percentage inside the arc bested 7-foot, 280-pound center Joel Embiid.
The Mavericks entered the bubble with a banged up bench squad, badly needing an offensive spark. Burke stepped in rather seamlessly. And his chemistry with Seth Curry, together a team best Net Rating of +21.2 in 91 minutes together, provided Carlisle a lethal punch of offense that could also relieve Luka Doncic of carrying the full burden of playmaking.
The above unconscious shooting performance in the Mavericks’ first game in the bubble gave me whiplash. But Burke’s 25-point performance in Game 4 — a game he went 10-of-14 from the field and 4-of-5 from three — jumps off the page. It was his first game as a playoff starter, and he logged 37 minutes. Doncic’s insane buzzer beating triple double stole the headlines, and rightfully so. But Burke was perhaps the second most important Maverick in the must-win game.
To reiterate, the 6-foot 185-pound Trey Burke, who was playing in his TWELFTH GAME with the Mavericks, was the second most important player in a MUST WIN PLAYOFF GAME.
What a time to be alive.
Burke made a well earned $230K in the bubble, and will now a be a free agent (whenever free agency actually takes place). This is something worth monitoring. Which leads us to...
After recent comments made by Mavs vet JJ Barea, the Mavericks will be looking to fill his roster spot. And given the team’s, and Rick Carlisle’s, affinity for scrappy undersized scoring guards, Burke would seem a logical fit.
For long stretches he possessed the secret weapon of nearly every sixth man: an undying self-belief that they can score on anyone at any time. Burke had that, and had it against one of the most athletic and dominant defenses in the league.
Is it replicable? Not likely at the level. But in his two stints in Dallas Burke has shown that he works well in Carlisle’s system.
And what to make of his place with the return of Jalen Brunson? The other undersized guard off the bench, Brunson is recovering from injury and was absent from the rotation prior to the league shutdown. But prior to that, played a key role off the bench.
The Mavericks front office will have decisions to make considering Burke, with Brunson and Seth Curry already in tow. A team can perhaps never have too many scoring options off the bench, and all three of these players each bring a different style and level of contribution, but a stable of undersized guards might be too much considering their need for wing depth.