One of the Cavs’ biggest weaknesses this season was their offense. As I detailed in my profile of Jimmer Fredette, Cleveland ranked 29th in the league in field goal percentage. A glaring hole in the roster is the need for a scoring wing player.
Alec Burks led the Big 12 in scoring, dropping just over 20 per game. Would the 6-foot-6, 200-pound sophomore shooting guard from Colorado offer some hope for the Cavs?
Burks is an efficient slasher on offense who breaks down defenses with penetration. He does a great job getting to the rim, where he finishes well from either side of the basket and draws a ton of fouls (7.9 FTA/game) and converts his free throws (82.5%). He’s creative and patient when he skies to the rim, able to contort his body and finish in traffic.
Burks’ excellent ball-handling ability aids him greatly in his penetration game. He’s a confident ball-handler who often brought the ball up the court for Colorado, and he attacks one-on-one off the dribble using body fakes and crossovers.
What makes Burks a true nightmare for college defenses is his passing ability. For a high-usage (25.5%) player, he is a surprisingly willing passer, driving with a mentality to set up teammates as often as he looks to score. He had more assists than turnovers this year (1.13 ratio).
Burks rebounds very well for his position. He averaged 6.5 rebounds per game this year. His athleticism, anticipation and height give him an edge over other shooting guards.
For all his offensive game, Burks’ biggest weakness is his lack of a reliable jump shot. He made just 29% of his 3s as a sophomore (35% as a freshman). It hasn’t affected his offensive efficiency much in college (63% TS, 1.24 PPP), but he must improve his shooting to keep NBA defenders honest or they will play off him and dare him to make jumpers. Burks’ poor body control when shooting on the move or off the dribble hurts him here, as his limbs flail a bit and he seems off-balance.
Burks below-average jump shooting would be less of a problem if he showed better shot selection. He seems too willing to settle for contested long twos, a death knell against sophisticated NBA defenses.
Many have questioned Burks’ defense, and indeed he was a poor isolation defender this year and prone to committing fouls. He shows a willingness to play hard on D most of the time though, and he’s good at using his length to contest jump shooters.
How he fits with the Cavs
Alec Burks has a good chance to be a solid NBA shooting guard. His athleticism and skills combined with his young age (he doesn’t turn 20 until July) make him an intriguing prospect. If he can improve his outside shooting, he will be a complete offensive weapon in the mold of James Harden, whose play-making ability in the pick and roll has helped the Thunder greatly this postseason.
Picking Burks fourth overall would certainly be considered a reach by most, as he’s currently projected to go 10th overall on both draftexpress.com and nbadraft.net. However, there isn’t much difference between the third and 10th picks this year, as all prospects besides Irving and Williams come with considerable risk.
Burks would certainly fit a need for the Cavs if he can improve his shooting stroke. His excellent free-throw shooting is a good indicator that he’ll be able to do so. Trading down, possibly for an additional second-round pick that could be used on a frontcourt body, is an option the Cavs could consider. Then, they could draft Burks at a spot more in line with his perceived value.