The NBA career of Trey Burke hasn’t gone according to plan during the point guard’s first three seasons in the league. Coming out of Michigan as the ninth overall pick in the 2013 Draft, Burke was seen as a player who could make an immediate impact on the court. Yet, the Utah Jazz thought so little of his prospects that they dealt him in July to the Washington Wizards for a second round pick in 2021.
The combination of trying to live up to expectations and a lack of maturity on his part resulted in Burke regressing from a starter into strictly a player to be used off the bench. Given John Wall’s presence in the Wizards’ lineup, that will be Burke’s main role this season. Despite that status, he has the opportunity to play a key role in helping Washington break through the logjam of Eastern Conference teams battling against the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
One reason for such optimism is the fact that the burden of being the focal point of a team’s offense will be removed from Burke’s shoulders. That frees him up to run the Wizards offense with more confidence and give Wall enough rest to keep him fresh throughout the season. Along the way, Burke’s improving shooting touch may allow him to serve as a contemporary version of the “microwave” role of Vinnie Johnson.
Another distinct difference when it comes to Washington versus the Jazz is that the system of Wizards’ new head coach Scott Brooks is more amenable to bringing out Burke’s talent than that of Utah’s Quin Snyder. Russell Westbrook is a perfect example of Brooks’ ability to bring out the best in his guards.
The early-season struggles of the Wizards have Brooks now looking at ways of merging starting and reserve units into a consistent group. Burke’s role will remain in the latter department, yet this affords him the opportunity to make the kind of impact that can literally pay off next year in the form of a new contract.
One area where Burke needs to improve is on the defensive side of the ball. If he’s able to do that, that gives Washington consistently solid defense at the point.
This week has shown some signs that Burke may be coming into his own. On Monday, with only six minutes of play time, Burke made no impact on the game. This has been a common theme: low time, low production from the guard. But Wednesday’s win against the Boston Celtics saw Burke put up by far his best game of the season. Going seven for nine, including 3 three pointers, Burke showed signs of being the player Wizards fans hope that he can be. Burke got things going right away, subbing in for John wall late into the first quarter and hitting a mid range jumper within a minute of play; ending the Wiz’ biggest win of the season with 18 points in 17 minutes, to go along with 2 assists.
Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers is a player whose health history demands the presence of a solid backup point guard, which the Cavs are currently lacking. In a conference with opposing point guards like Kyle Lowry, Kemba Walker and Isaiah Thomas, a solid one-two punch at that position for the Wizards will go a long way in helping the team navigate their way to and through the NBA playoffs.