Unrelated note: Brian is off until Wednesday, so you're stuck with me until then. Given the back-to-back-to-back commitment posts I'm pushing the recruiting roundup back to tomorrow. I'd also like to put together a mailbag tomorrow; anyone with questions about recruiting, football, or basketball can ask away on Twitter (hashtag #mgomailbag if you will) or via email.
Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. saw their NBA dreams turn to reality in last Thursday's NBA Draft, and I've been remiss in my duties to not do some sort of writeup about it. This is probably because I was temporarily devastated by Detroit's decision to pass on Burke at #8 and am just now beginning to get over it; I should probably stop tying any part of my emotions to the fate of the Pistons for sanity's sake.
Anyway, Burke dropped to the #9 spot, where he was selected by Minnesota and quickly traded to the Utah Jazz for the 14th and 21st picks (Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, as it turned out). While Burke couldn't hide his disappointment in falling further than expected — and being passed on by Joe Dumars, whom he has a close relationship with — he landed in an ideal situation.
Last season Utah's point guards finished dead last in the NBA when measured by net PER*, according to 82games.com, producing poorly on both ends of the floor. While the Jazz aren't guaranteeing a starting role for Burke, they might as well — at the moment, he's the only point guard on the roster, and none of last year's lead guards (Jamaal Tinsley, Earl Watson, and Mo Williams, all currently free agents) are NBA-starter quality. As a result, ESPN's Jeff Goodman lists Burke among five players he expects to have an early impact ($):
Utah dealt its No. 14 and 21 selections to move up to No. 9 and grab Burke. It's a logical move, and the ideal marriage for both sides: The Jazz get a heady, high-character floor leader whose game translates to the next level. Sure, he's not a super athlete -- but Utah coach Tyrone Corbin likely will rely on him to come right in and start. Mo Williams, Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley are all free agents. This will be Burke's show from the outset.
Burke should become the 22nd player in the last 15 years (16, when this year is included) to be under 6'3" and play 2,000 minutes as a rookie; that stat comes from Utah's SBNation site, and the full list of players is pretty strong — all but a few are at least decent rotation guys. As one would expect from a group that gets plenty of playing time, they tend to put up pretty decent raw numbers:
What are your expectations for Burke's rookie year? The average for that group of 21 point guards is playing in 80 games (starting 62 of them, for 77%), and getting averages of 13.1 ppg, 5.2 apg, and 1.2 spg in 31.3 mpg.
What about the talent around Burke, then? The Jazz finished one spot out of the playoffs last year but are in a rebuilding mode of sorts; power forwards Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, the team's two leading scorers and rebounders last year, are also free agents. Utah does boast plenty of young talent up front, though. Center Enes Kanter (2011) and power forward Derrick Favors (2010) were #3 overall picks in consecutive drafts, and their emergence last year as quality backups has allowed Utah to let go of Jefferson, who's looking for a big payday.
Kanter and Favors are both capable of running the high screen, finishing around the basket, and hitting the offensive glass. With Gordon Hayward available as a sharp-shooting perimeter option and former #2 overall pick Marvin Williams providing some scoring punch at the three, Burke may not have elite talent surrounding him but there's enough to allow him to be productive. With the Jazz looking to build around him and their two bigs, Burke is in a pretty ideal situation for a rookie point guard, and he should compete for Rookie of the Year honors.
Hardaway's situation is a little hazier. Drafted with the 24th pick by New York, Hardaway could see the floor as a role player, but his minutes will largely be determined by whether the Knicks retain free agent swingman J.R. Smith. Even if Smith is gone, Hardaway has competition, and in the same article from above Jeff Goodman listed him as one of the rookies in a tough situation:
The Knicks took the son of the former NBA star late in the first round (24), and, although it seems there is room for him with the departure of J.R. Smith, he'll have to beat out Iman Shumpert for playing time. Hardaway is a streaky, streaky shooter who doesn't do much else.
Posting and Toasting, SBNation's Knicks outlet, has a more optimistic view of how Hardaway could fit into the team, especially if Smith isn't retained:
Hardaway is a solid fit for the roster. His presence provides the Knicks some insurance against the possible departure of talented guard J.R. Smith. His ability to stretch the floor and hit perimeter jumpers fits right in with the offensive philosophy of last season, as does his low turnover rate. THJ possesses all the characteristics associated with the best shooters using screens: He gets good elevation, has great hands, keeps his feet under him, and has good shooting form. While he will likely see much of his offense in pure spot-up situations, THJ gives the Knicks a player who can score off of down screens and attack the paint off of close-outs. He isn't a great ball-handler, but there is some potential for him to work in the pick-and-roll a little given his unselfish nature and feel. Should the Knicks retain Smith, they would find themselves with a somewhat crowded backcourt, but having too much talent isn't the worst problem to experience. It would be more ideal if THJ could guard both wing positions, but that seems unlikely. He does not provide any answers to NYK's current situation in the frontcourt, but he's a skilled guard who can get the ball moving in transition and hit the three.
Hardaway's effectiveness in transition and his spot-up shooting ability are his tickets to success in the NBA, especially on a Knicks team that has Carmelo Anthony dominating the ball. I'm not sure how much time he'll see this year regardless of Smith's situation unless his defense improves markedly — not something that you usually see right away while making the leap to the NBA — or he becomes a more consistent shooter (a possibility, as he'll be asked to do a lot less shooting off the dribble, which wasn't his strongsuit).
Burke appears to have landed in the better situation, and as the more NBA-ready player we expected to see a lot more of him than Hardaway next season anyway. Both could see significant time if the Knicks don't bring back Smith — with New York trading a first-round pick for Andrea Bargnani yesterday, though, it's clear they're gearing up for a title run (however ill-fated) this year, and a developing Hardaway may not fit into those plans. At the very least, however, Michigan fans should be able to see plenty of Burke come this winter.
*Player Efficiency Rating, a stat created by former ESPN basketball writer and current Memphis Grizzlies executive John Hollinger. Explanation can be found here.