Every Colorado Buffalo in the NBA has excelled in their given role, but not all of them all in a role they deserve. Alec Burks has been terrific for the Utah Jazz as a bench piece, but he plays in a crowded wing rotation that only has so many minutes to go around. The Jazz would be wise to trade him to do good for themselves and Burks alike.
Ever since Alec Burks was drafted 12th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft (ahead of Kawhi Leonard, I might add), he has been a promising all-around offensive player. As he demonstrated in his two seasons at Colorado, he’s a gifted scorer who has the ball handling, athleticism and dexterity to be natural slasher. He also has solid vision that he uses to be a second playmaker. Burks is an inconsistent shooter, but he’s improved over the years to be an average three-point threat. He’s also a decent defender who uses his athleticism and 6’11 wingspan to stay in front of most wings.
Overall, those skills have translated to Per 36 numbers of 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists with an average 15.6 PER. That’s an extremely average player, but in the NBA, you can build a solid team out of average players. You could even have an elite team if you can surround stars with average teammates, just as the Raptors and Rockets have done.
The problem with Burks is that (1) he has never been able to stay healthy, and (2) the Jazz are too good at developing wings. Burks injury history will make your body ache just reading it and those issues held him to 100 total games in the past seasons combined. He’s been healthy this year, but he’s run into the issue of playing in Utah. The NBA as a whole has something of a dearth of talented wings, and maybe it’s because the Jazz are taking them all. They have Donovan Mitchell, Rodney Hood, Joe Inlges, Thabo Sefolosha and Royce O’Neale, plus Burks. Those are all solid to excellent players Burks has to compete with, and even with injuries to Hood and Sefolosha, Burks has only averaged 18 minutes per game despite profiling as someone who should be playing over 25. There is a solution, though.
Utah is rumored to be shopping the oft-injured Hood, but if they keep him, it would make sense to trade Burks to get help elsewhere on the roster. He’s on a contract that plays him $10.8M this year and $11.5M next. That sounds hefty, but it’s an affordable deal that can be easily matched with a team looking to add a significant contributor on the wing. Here’s a list of teams looking for help on the wing: Everyone except the Jazz, Bucks, Raptors and Celtics, more or less.
I don’t have sources to confirm, but I’m guessing Burks can be had for any team willing to cough up a late first round pick and whatever matching salary they have. The Pelicans, Thunder, Trail Blazers and Wizards are all playoff teams with histories of trading first round picks for rotation players, and they all need help on the wings. The Blazers are currently starting the worst player in the NBA, Evan Turner, at small forward, and while they’re apparently going after Kawhi Leonard (!), Burks would be a cheap upgrade. The Pelicans are starting E’Twaun Moore at SF, and while I love his game, he should be a bench player. The Wizards and Thunder are also interesting fits because they’re desperate for an offensive threat off the bench and each has mid-level assets they can give up for him.
There are other places Burks could go, but wherever he may land, it would be great to see him in a larger role, presumably on a better team. If he stays healthy, he could very well be a key player on a playoff contender. He may want to stay in Utah, but he deserves better than the role he’s playing on.