In the 2005 NBA Draft, three players were selected before Chris Paul.
Australian-born Naismith winner Andrew Bogut went first to the Milwaukee Bucks, a team with two young point guards—T.J. Ford and Mo Williams—hoping to fill a hole at center. He topped out as a solid post threat and rebounder before injuries derailed his career over the last couple seasons.
The second pick belonged to the Atlanta Hawks, a franchise in desperate need of a franchise point guard. Instead of choosing Paul, the super-productive yet diminutive playmaker, the Hawks chose Marvin Williams, a 6'9" forward who'd flashed great promise as a freshman sixth man on North Carolina's national title team. Good at many things but great at none, Williams has been a huge disappointment, providing below-average efficiency as the third option on some decent Hawks teams before being traded prior to last season straight-up for Devin Harris, whose career has been in a freefall since he was the centerpiece of Dallas' 2008 trade for Jason Kidd.
The Utah Jazz took 6'3" point guard Deron Williams with the third pick and can't be blamed for that choice, as the Illinois product has had a very productive pro career featuring three All-Star appearances.
Paul went fourth to the New Orleans Hornets, won Rookie of the Year in 2006, and in the seven years since has established himself as the best point guard in basketball. The Hawks, still looking for that franchise cornerstone, have been kicking themselves ever since; they're now targeting Paul in free agency and, in fact, violated NBA tampering rules by saying as much in a press release.
You probably know where I'm going with this. The NBA Draft is tomorrow night and Michigan's Trey Burke is expected to go anywhere from second to eighth. Brian has posted this before, but I want to once again draw your attention to Grantland's "NBA Job Interview" with Burke:
If YouTube is blocked or you don't want to watch the video, at the :32 mark Bill Simmons asks Burke to say which current pro is the type of player he'd like to be. Burke, without hesitation, says Chris Paul; look around for the various pre-draft content and this is his established ceiling. Simmons immediately fires back with what, at least from my impression, is the biggest doubt NBA GMs have about Burke's ability to become the next CP3:
The one thing about Chris Paul, though, is he's thick. When he goes down low, and he bounces off guys, they kinda bounce off him, too. The one thing I noticed with you in college, you would bounce off guys sometimes and you would take hard falls...
I didn't follow Paul's college career too closely, so I did three things after watching the above clip. First, I went to Burke's and Paul's respective NBADraftNet profiles, which has their pre-draft measurements.
Burke is, in fact, a little bit bigger than Paul was when he came out of college, and while Paul has clearly added muscle since he was drafted, his listed weight is still at 178 pounds. The difference is in their strength — Paul performed much better on the bench press.
The second thing I did was watch Paul's college highlights, and boy do they look a lot like Burke's:
At this stage in their careers, Burke and Paul had similar body types as well as similar games; both made their hay by dominating the ball, effortlessly finding ways to the rim, passing at a level that often caught teammates off-guard, and knocking down outside shots to keep defenses honest. Paul looks stronger at the rim than Burke and has a few more jaw-dropping passes in his arsenal; otherwise, they're practically doppelgangers.
The third thing I did was to compare their final college seasons statistically, a convenient comparison in this instance since both left school after their sophomore seasons. The full rundown can be found at StatSheet, which is the source for this (chart?) chart:
Despite a much higher usage (28.9% vs. 23.1%) and a longer three-point line (20'9" vs. 19'9"), Burke and Paul have near-identical offensive ratings; Burke boasts a better assist rate, fewer turnovers, and a higher eFG% despite attempting 28% of his team's shots against Paul's 20%. Paul has one major advantage, getting to the free-throw line at a much higher clip.
Simmons' point holds true, as far as I can tell, though it's an issue of strength, not size; Burke and Paul are near-identical in all other regards, but Paul was better in college at taking contact and continued to develop that talent in the NBA — look at his shooting heat map from this year, which shows his impressive efficiency in the paint and at the basket.
Can Burke make up this ground? I think it's possible. For one, his work ethic is tough to match, and obviously that's the largest obstacle between a player and adding strength. The videos of Burke working out before he arrived at Michigan are something I always point to when discussing his seemingly out-of-nowhere rise to the top of the college basketball world. For some reason I can't embed the video, but look at Burke's face as he's about to arrive at his after-school workout destination: the steps of the 94-foot-tall Hoover Dam* in Columbus.
Burke has also bulked up since he arrived at Michigan; while he's still on the skinny side, he's more defined than he was as a high-schooler and has added 15-20 pounds of muscle since arriving in Ann Arbor. That hasn't taken away from his game one bit—in fact, his finishing has improved—and he should be able to continue adding weight to his frame without losing athleticism or explosiveness.
Then there's the shooting aspect. While Paul was a very good three-point shooter in college (47.0% for his career), he's been just okay in that regard as a pro (35.6%, and the only time he's cracked 40% was in 2010 when he had a career-low 127 attempts). Burke's college numbers are worse, but they came under different circumstances — the longer line, of course, and also Michigan's late-clock "do something, Trey" offense. Rarely did he have the chance to catch and shoot; according to hoop-math.com, just 49% of Burke's three-pointers were assisted last year, while every other Michigan regular had a figure at or above 85%. If Burke ends up on a team with enough proficient ballhandlers to allow him to occasionally spot up, not just run high pick-and-rolls and choose to drive or pull the trigger, this could be an area where he's more effective than Paul.
Do I think Trey Burke will be better than Chris Paul? No, probably not. Paul's strength is a bigger asset at the NBA level than in college, and while I believe that Burke will improve in that regard, he's starting from well behind where Paul was at this stage — his around-the-rim finishing and free throw rate may never match Paul's. CP3 is also one of the league's best defensive point guards, and while a good part of that is his Burkian thievery—Paul has led the NBA in steals five times—it's also a product of his strength, which allows him to hold his own one-on-one against bigger guards.
Do I think that Trey Burke could become as effective as Chris Paul, just in a slightly different manner? Yes. The key here will be the development of Burke's outside shooting. We already know he has NBA range—just ask Kansas—and if he can become a 40%-plus outside shooter it'll open up room for the other parts of game.
I won't make the argument that Burke should go first overall—the Cavs have quite a point guard in Kyrie Irving, anyway—or even that he should go to Orlando at #2 (Victor Oladipo and Ben McLemore are both exceptional athletes with NBA-ready skill sets). With less-proven players like Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, and Anthony Bennett likely to go off the board before Burke, though, I think it's safe to say there will be at least one team dealing with regret down the line, and for a long time at that.
------------- *Not to be confused with the better-known Hoover Dam on the Arizona/Nevada border.
Thankfully the NBA Scouts should do a far better job of looking at each player's strengths and weaknesses than sports reporters. I listened to a sports reporter the other day say he wouldn't want Burke because he wouldn't want a point guard whose can't drive and whose primary skill is shooting 3 pointers. I guess the guy never bothered to check Burke's assist stats or watch anything other than a few highlight reels of his play.
Totally fair points, Mat. If I had to guess, I think Burke will end up somewhere between Nelson (on the low end) and Paul (on the high end, obviously) as a pro; I do think you're under-selling Burke's potential as a spot-up shooter in a league where that's becoming more and more important.
Totally agree on your last point. If Burke and MCW are both on the board for the Pistons at #8 and they go with the latter simply because he fits better with Brandon Knight—not the player I'd like to see them build/draft around—then I'll be one pissed off blogger.
I agree that it is highly unlikely that Trey ever reaches CP3's level. That said, I have a couple nits to pick:
1) I think your first point about needing a teammate like Lebron or Carmelo is hyperbolic. I think any team with a post threat and/or a really good penetrating wing player and good ball movement can get plenty of open 3s against most NBA defenses. There's no reason why the PG can't get some of those shots. Look at Jose Calderon. He gets plenty of spot up 3s and I wouldn't say the Pistons have any dominant ball handlers.
2) You're obviously right that NBA defense (both team and individual) is superior. That said, defenders can't get away with nearly as much contact in the NBA. I personally think that will make a huge difference. It could potentially negate the impact of playing against bigger, faster, stronger defenders. No way to really know until they play the games, though.
It seems like you're talking about him being a "spot-up shooter" as if that would be his only role. I was piggybacking off of Ace's comment which I think was making the point that spot-up shooting is a skill that could make him a productive player. I really see no reason why he can't initiate the offense, run pick and rolls AND spot up sometimes - that was the point of the Jose Calderon anecdote. To summarize, it seems like you're talking about spot up shooter as a role player, whereas I'm talking about spot up shooting as a valuable skill that a mulit-dimensional player could use to improve his value.
I don't really get the rationale behind your snarky comment about the pistons' roster problems. If anything, it further proves my point. Knight and Bynum were terrible (although Bynum had a very high assist rate). Stuckey is not a good passer on the drive (he tends to brick a tough layup attempt or draw a foul). I clearly never suggested that the pistons sucking has anything to do with Burke being a good player. I simply pointed out that a team with a lot of subpar ball handlers featured an excellent point guard who made lots of open 3s. Not sure why you felt the need to twist it into something else.
As for the last point, I never said that NBA defenses are easier. In fact, I said they were superior and you misrepresented what I said. That said, you make a good point about most players seeing their efficiency numbers decrease in the NBA. Perhaps I should temper my expectations in that regard.
I think it's clear that 3 point shooting is more highly valued (by most teams) than it was in the 90s and 00s. Teams are shooting more 3s and using analytics to find the best spots to shoot from. It's more important now because it's being used more appropriately than it was previously - I think that was Ace's point.
I feel like you're responding to someone else making a different argument than me because I never said he'd be able drive the hole consitency and be a great passer. I simply argued that you were undervaluing three point shooting and then pointed out that you can both run an offense and be the beneficiary of open "spot-up" looks.
Zone defenses were reallowed a few yrs back. The best NBA defenses often overload the strong side, and zone up on the weak side. And a team without enough shooting will wont have the space to run their primary actions. The spurs almost beat the heat in large part due to the shooting of Neal, Leonard and Green and the lack of spacing that Wade provides. The NBA used to be more of a 1v1 league than it is now where the weak side spacing didn't matter as much
for the best PG for Drummond, not Knight. Burke and Drummond goes together well especially in pick and roll situation where Drummond is dominant as a roll man where he can use his size, freakish athleticism and explosive leaping ability to dunk from anywhere. Burke can make them pay for not hedging because of Drummond with his shooting whereas MCW's shooting is subpar.
You take the best talent available, not the best fit. Burke is clearly superior than MCW but MCW has higher upside(also higher potential to bust). MCW reminds me too much of Darius Morris. Both are big PG who can bully smaller G and has outstanding vision/passing ability. Both doesn't shoot well. Not sure if I want MCW for the Pistons. If any, I'd rather have McCollum than MCW at PG. McCollum can score and is a playmaker even though his number doesn't reflect it but he plays with terrible supporting cast.
Out of curiosity where are you getting some of your stats from? If I follow Ace's link, it shows that Trey actually has a higher eFG% (though it's really negligible at 53% vs 52.3%). Also it shows Paul having 1 block his sophomore year while Trey had 20.
I actually agree with your bigger point about Trey's NBA potential though. I think he can be a legit 3rd option on an NBA Title contender or the 2nd option on a playoff team, but that's about his ceiling. As Ace later pointed out on twitter, Trey's best comp is probably Jameer Nelson (who is a very solid pro, but nothing extraordinary).
"At worst we failed at trying to do the right thing rather than succeed at doing the wrong thing.."
I agree with the comparisons to Nelson more than Paul, as great as he was at Michigan I think in any other draft he is probably a late 1st rounder at best.
That isn't a knock on his skills as I think as a complete PG he is probably better than any PG coming out this season.
As far as the Paul being the best PG in the league, I would make the argument that actually belongs to Deron Williams, but that is just on mans opinion.
Burke needs to land on the right team I think to be really successful, Nelson was fine in Orlando with Dwight, Lewis and Hedo. Burke desperatly needs to land on a team that has a scorer or two where he can get a lot of one on one match up's due to switches and take advantage.
Have always been weak. And dwill has fallen off the last few years to the point that its not even a discussion anymore. Paul, rose and Westbrook are close but none can match Paul's efficiency( high shooting % and low TO rate)
has something to say about your absolute assertion that Chris Paul is the best PG in the NBA.
Burke isn't going to be Paul. It's not even fair to make that comparison. I love the kid, and think his NBA career will be long and prosperous...but he isn't Chris Paul. I do think he is better than Jameer Nelson in just about every way, though. I could see him putting up Damian Lillard type numbers.
I also don't think Trey Burke will alienate the league's elite players, destroy the NBDL, and screw up an NBA franchise anywhere near as fast as Isaiah pissed off the Dream Team, took out the CBA, and hamstrung the Knicks. Their careers will be worlds apart!
But the comparisons to guys like Thomas and Paul are crazy. I haven't seen a pure (re: non-Magic) PG in the League as good as Zeke. Paul is the guy trying to come the closest.
I'd love for the Pistons to get him, and his drive could make him really good. But to think he's going to be one of the top 30 or so players of all time is setting yourself up for disappointment; when what he can accomplish is pretty great on its own level.
Thomas would really struggle in today's NBA if his shooting numbers stayed the same. He was a really bad jump shooter for most of his career. But Thomas is one of the best passers and leaders in history.
Work ethic is important to building strength but ...
... At some point genetics take over. Paul was able to add even more strength while maintaining his quickness - not everyone can do that, and its not just a matter of will. (Even NBA scrubs have insane work ethics by non-pro-athlete standards.)
If Burke can add strength without sacrificing quickness, such that he can hold up against NBA bodies and get enough room inside he can aspire to be Chris Paul. Without knowing the details of his college workouts and gains,we can't really tell. (Did he put on 15 lbs of muscle once exposed to a college workout, and since then has been maintaining? Or did is he still gaining and hasn't really plateaued yet? Etc.)
If he improves his outside shot, he could give himself more time, but 6ft deadeye shooters are not hard to find in the NBA. He gets on the floor by coupling good shooting and solid quickness/strength to get to the rim and finish, good defense and enough strength to get by against all the bigger guards he'll face, with his true genius - the ability to make decisions at speed as though the game was moving in slow motion.
i would call chris paul 'one of the best point guards in the league' instead of the best. he scores below what he should, and i think that westbrook and rose are better than he is, despite his amazing passing ability. ever since his hornets team lost that abismal playoff game to the nuggets (they lost by something like 50 points) it feels like CP3 has lost his edge. now it seems like hes guy who looks like a floor general and leader on the court, but now they say hes having locker trouble in LA. there was a time when CP3 was by far the best PG in the league and an MVP candidate (circa 2008) but his numbers and overall performance, to me, has diminished since then.
I see many people saying Burke's analog is Nelson, and I have to agree that seems like the best comp, though a better shooter. I've always thought he'd handle the physical element fine. This conference prepares you for it. As for the shooting and defensive issues, I see enough guys in the league with worse abilities getting paychecks to not expect teams to act accordingly when drafting Burke. He'll be a starter on a good team, and could be a solid third option on a champion. That seems like a pretty great draft choice.
hate to knock Burke but that is a severe lack of strength for a big time athlete. How or if that even translates to the NBA game who knows but that is definitely going to be a red flag to scouts bc Burke is not a super athlete. If he can't get away from his man (like Craft stuck to him like glue) that he's going to have to atleast body them up and play through contact.
crazy bc THjr had some of the highest bench press of all players. I know diff players diff body types but you think they would have similar weight room programs from the S&C coach. Plus THjr is more wirey which usually translates to weaker lifting totals.
Like others said I'd rather Burke go to a better team and be asked to just run the O be a 3rd option type player. He is very smart and finds the open man. Him on the pacers makes them instant contenders. If he's asked to be a #1 or #2 option as well as create I think he struggles.
So I love the piece from Ace and many of the comments. And while I agree that Burke likely lacks some of Paul's elite traits, I think he's closer to him than he is to Jameer Nelson. More importantly, even if he isn't Chris Paul he can still be successful. Here are my points:
Burke is highly efficient despite massive usage numbers. In the NBA he won't be a high usage player (at least not on a decent team) so his efficiency will be a huge asset as compared to someone who won't make the most of their opportunities.
The schedule that Michigan played this year was intense and showed how Burke could match up against really tough defenses (OSU, WI, KU, Syracuse, Louisville, MSU, etc.).
I don't believe that the FT-rate is tied to him falling down when he crashes the lane, I think it is due to the Big Ten officiating. They don't reward that type of play like the NBA or other conferences. I'm sure someone could dig up stats to back that up, but Burke didn't shoot more FT because of guys like Valentine and Hightower.
Everyone is worried about Burke's height. Yet here are some starting PGs in the league:
Jeff Teague (6'2" - 181)
Rajon Rondo (6'1" - 186)
Kemba Walker (6'1" - 184)
Nate Robinson (5'9" - 180)
Darren Collison (6'0" - 175)
Ty Lawson (5'11" - 195)
George Hill (6'2" - 190)
Mike Conley (6'1" - 185)
Mario Chalmers (6'2" - 190)
Brandon Jennings (6'1" - 169)
Raymond Felton (6'1" - 205)
Jameer Nelson (6'0" - 190)
Tony Parker (6'2" - 180)
Isiah Thomas (5'9" - 185)
Kyle Lowrey (6'0" - 205)
Mo Williams (6'1" - 186)
So half of the league's starting point guards are Burke's size and people are worried about it? Even if he isn't Paul or Parker, you're telling me the national player of the year couldn't be better than Mike Conley? Ty Lawson? Brandon Jennings?
As Bill Simmons says in the piece, Burke is the safest bet in this draft. He may not be a regular all-star, but he'll be a solid PG in the league for 10 years.
Is Burke to Indiana actually a possibility? They've only got picks #23 and #53. I assume they'd trade both to get Burke as an awesome backup PG if they think West is going to re-sign, but it seems pretty unlikely.
I think Paul is a poor comparison. If you've seen Paul step on a court, the athleticism difference is pretty apparent. If you're more stat-inclined, all the evidence suggests that Paul is a significantly better shooter than Burke - especially from beyond the arc. Burke is good, Paul was Jon Diebler-esque.
I think the best comparison for Burke, to be a little obscure, is Terrell Brandon:
Brandon was 5'11", and a quality offensive player. A good, but not great three-point shooter. He was a solid creator off the dribble, extremely good at taking care of the basketball (look at that nearly 4:1 A/TO ratio on his career), and a lethal mid-range shooter (his nick name was "Stop & Pop"). He also was, for a few years, a devastating pick & roll combination with Kevin Garnett.
He only made 1 All-Star game, partly because his career was cut short by injury (he didn't really play after age 31), and partly because he spent a long time playing for lower-rung playoff teams.
Regardless, he was a good player, and I think a more viable comparison than the best "short" PG in NBA history (sorry Isaiah fans).
I wonder if other Big Ten players are comparable in not getting to the line. Maybe do like a Big Ten Guy versus an NBA Guy He's Exactly Like kind of comparison, and see if there's a lot of everything-fits-but-the-FTs.
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