Better Know a Prospect: Trey Burke, G - Michigan

USA TODAY Sports

Hornets franchise history has been defined by point guard play in many ways, starting with the Muggsy Bogues era, transitioning into the Baron Davis era, and culminating in the Chris Paul era. And while Greivis Vasquez played perfectly adequately in the lead guard role in 2013, New Orleans may well have an opportunity to select their new point guard of the future at #6.

Bio: Alfonso Clark Burke III was born in Columbus, Ohio, the grandson of an Ohio high school star (Alfonso I), the son of an Ohio high school star (Alfonso II). As it turned out, Alfonso III would also be an Ohio high school star, making varsity as a freshman, playing point guard as a sophomore for the state championship winning team (also featuring his friend Jared Sullinger), and becoming Ohio Mr. Basketball in 2011. Still, Burke barely cracked the top 15 point guards of his high school recruiting class.

He settled on Michigan, replacing outgoing starter Darius Morris in the lineup as a freshman. Burke finished his first season leading all freshmen in the conference in scoring and assists, led Michigan in points, assists, steals, and blocks, and was named 2011-2012 Freshman of the Year by Big 10 media. Nationally, Burke was an AP All-American honorable mention. After some confusion in early April about his apparent intention to enter the NBA draft, Burke announced he intended to stay in school for another year.

As a sophomore, Burke ripped through the season, picking up routine Player of the Week Honors; in late January, Michigan reached the top of AP Poll for the first time since 1992. Burke had a particularly notable NCAA tournament; in the Sweet Sixteen, Burke was held scoreless by Kansas through the first half before finishing with 23 points, 10 assists, and a deep game-tying three in the dying seconds of regulation, becoming the first player to go for 20/10 assists in a Sweet Sixteen game in 27 years. Burke scored 24 in the championship game loss and was eventually named to the All-Tournament team. At the conclusion of the season, Burke led the Big Ten in assists, set the Michigan record for assists, was named a first team AP All-American, won the Bob Cousy Award, and swept the four major College Player of the Year awards. Burke entered the 2013 NBA draft on April 13th.

Stats: It's an impressive bio, but the stats are where it gets really good with Burke.

His 6.34 pure point ratio ranked second in the nation in 2013, with his assists/40 (pace adjusted) jumping to 7.7 from 5.5, and his turnovers/40 dropping to 2.5. His 13% turnover percentage in 2013 also ranked second in the nation and is relatively ridiculous given the sheer volume of ball-handling he did.

Burke is arguably a more polished scorer than passer at this stage despite the great assist numbers; as a sophomore, he posted a 29.1 PER on nearly 27% usage. His 2P/3P/FT slash line of 50/38/81 is excellent even before considering possession usage, and on multiple occasions during the season, he showed that he has NBA three point range. His free throw rates were generally adequate (5.0/40) though arguably a bit low given his ostensible driving ability; his 52% conversion rate around the rim was average as well. Ultimately, he was the number one user of possessions for the top ranked offense in the country.

Burke's combination of scoring and passing efficiency coupled with low turnovers is rather unique, and the similarities between his sophomore season and the final collegiate years of top NBA point guards are.. interesting:

Age

PER

WS/40

TS%

3P%

FT%

AST%

TOV%

PPR

Chris Paul

20

24.7

10.3

60

47.4

83.4

49

21

4.76

Derrick Rose

19

24.1

8.5

56

33.4

71.2

34

19

4.53

Russell Westbrook

19

19.4

5.8

54

33.8

71.3

35

20

1.08

Deron Williams

21

19.1

6.0

54

36.4

67.7

55

23

4.96

Rajon Rondo

20

22.1

10.1

53

27.3

57.1

44

21

2.96

Trey Burke

20

29.1

8.4

57

38.3

80.5

39

12

6.34

Green highlights the leader in the category with yellow highlighting the second best player. Chris Paul's pretty dominant across the board, but the categories where Burke bests everyone else are fascinating: possibly the best catch-all scoring statistic (PER) if we account for conference differences and possibly the best catch-all point guard (Pure Point Ratio) statistic. He's just a step behind Paul as far as shooting goes and better than everyone else. And the third category he wins -- turnovers -- is an absolute landslide. A 12% turnover percentage! It's just unprecedented. Even if we included his freshman year turnover percentage here (a "bad" 18%), he'd still beat every other guy on the list.

Any way you slice it, Trey Burke's a statistical point guard giant. That doesn't mean he's a lock to succeed, but what he did at Michigan rivals if not bests the work of the NBA's elite.*

*Kyrie Irving's not in this table; his college numbers blow everyone else's away (a) because he's very good, but (b) primarily because of the tiny sample size of 11 games.

Skills: Draft Express notes that Burke's combination of scoring and passing ability makes him perhaps the most dangerous and effective pick and roll player in the draft; considering who New Orleans currently has on the finishing end of picks and rolls on the current roster, that's an exciting prospect.

His dribbling is pretty fantastic:

Burke's biggest questions come on the defensive end; the Pelicans have already experienced first-hand the effects of playing a very poor defensive lead guard although it's unlikely that Burke will be as poor as Vasquez on the defensive end. For one, he measured out athletically and physically a decent bit better than many expected: 5' 11.75" without shoes, a 6' 5.5" wingspan, and a 36.5" maximum vertical. The wingspan alone should alleviate some concerns. Michigan also finished 39th in the nation in overall defense, so by no means were they sieve-like on that end. Still, concerns about his defense can't be dismissed that easily, and New Orleans will not have the option of hiding Burke in off-guard matchups as they do with the bigger Vasquez.

Overall: Even if Marcus Smart had declared, there really wouldn't have been a question in my mind about the draft's best point guard. And I don't think it's close.

If Trey Burke's available at #6 and Dell Demps passes, for the second consecutive season, he'll have made an Austin Rivers sized mistake.

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