Former Colorado Buffaloes star Alec Burks is on the move for the first time in his eight-year career. On Wednesday, he was traded from the Utah Jazz to the Cleveland Cavaliers along with two future second-round picks for veteran shooting guard Kyle Korver.
Utah will send two future second-round picks to the Cavs for Korver, league sources tell ESPN. https://t.co/lismhVt0JH— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 28, 2018
Utah is also sending Alec Burks to Cavaliers in the deal, league source tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 28, 2018
Burks is on the last year of the 4-year, $42 million contract he signed after his rookie deal expired. The former Big XII Freshman of the Year has never played for another organization, but it’s only been a matter of time before he found a new home. Always injury-plagued, Burks had never lived up to the potential Utah saw in him as the 12th pick in the 2011 draft (picked before Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler).
There were always times where it felt like a breakthrough was inevitable — such as last year when Gordon Hayward left and there was a void at shooting guard — but he has always seemed to be passed up on the depth chart by others. The Jazz have a reputation for developing unheralded wings, so each time Burks missed extended action, there was someone there waiting for their opportunity — first it was Rodney Hood, then Joe Ingles, then Donovan Mitchell and Royce O’Neale, and now Dante Exum finally healthy.
When healthy, Burks is still a fantastic player. The Cavs see value in him as an expiring contract, but he should help clean up the mess of that team. These Cavs have absolutely no playmaking ability — Collin Sexton is learning and George Hill is washed — so their offense consists of lots of movement but very few clean looks. Burks should help alleviate that. He’s a slasher who loves getting to the basket, and he’s always had the ability to create for others off those drives. He’s not going to save the Cleveland offense because no one can (besides, you know), but he could energize them somewhat.
It’s difficult to tell what role Burks will have with Cleveland. He’s always been better suited to thrive in a leading role off the bench, and that could happen in his new home. Larry Drew seems set on starting Sexton, Hood, Cedi Osman (PF) and Tristan Thompson (C). That fifth starting spot has gone to Larry Nance (PF) or David Nwaba (SG) depending on the matchup, and Hill probably wants that spot when he’s healthy. Since Burks isn’t a great shooter, he wouldn’t really fit next to Sexton or Hood. He would fit better as a leading playmaker beside Jordan Clarkson, J.R. Smith, Sam Dekker and Nance. Maybe he could steal some possessions from Clarkson because no one wants to see him barf up contested mid-range jumpers with 13 seconds left on the shot clock.
(The Cavs are so bad, oh my god, I can’t believe I’ve stared so long as their basketball-reference page. I love Osman as much as the next guy, but he really shouldn’t be leading an NBA team in minutes per game.)
The good news for Burks is that he’s a free agent this summer. He got dumped to Cleveland, but he has the luxury to choose wherever he wants to play next year. Just shooting from the hip, he’d be a good fit for Oklahoma City, Golden State, New Orleans and Dallas, all of which would have substantially better cultures than Cleveland. (Sorry Nuggets fans, but Burks is redundant with Will Barton.) For now, though, Burks will have the opportunity he never had in Utah to prove himself as a dynamic player.