The talk of day one of training camp was Trey Burke. It’s not hard to envision the 6’1″ Burke playing a similar role as Isaiah Thomas did in Boston. The NBA is a league that claims to play small ball, but when it comes to guards, the league is trending larger. Size for position is the key in the modern matchup game.
For that reason, smaller guards like Burke have somewhat fallen out of favor due to other teams’ abilities to force switches and create mismatches. The Sixers have experienced this hunting in the past. JJ Redick, TJ McConnell, and Sergio Rodriguez are recent examples of players that opposing teams sought to exploit in isolation off of switches.
When talking about Burke, however, you have to factor in the context of this lineup of huge players and wing defenders who intend to play passing lanes. Similar to how the Boston Celtics were able to surround Isaiah Thomas with enough wing defenders and an elite rim protector, the Sixers might be able to take advantage of Burke’s offensive gifts while covering up the other end.
In fact, it may not be too far-fetched to let Burke gamble on blitzes in a pick-and-roll in order to help the team jump start their hopes of improving their forced turnover rate. More turnovers mean more easy transition offense. Allen Iverson, a hero of Burke’s, was known as a fairly bad individual and team defender but always had good steal rates due to a freewheeling gambling style.
That style, again, was only possible due to the elite defensive team built around him.
In 361 career games, Burke has a per 36 minutes line of 16.6 points and 5.5 assists. He has had a number of years where his true shooting percentage was surprisingly efficient for his style of play. In a limited role in Dallas last year, he had a 57.4% true shooting. Similarly, he carried nearly a 2.5:1 assist to turnover ratio. This is likely more due to his ball dominant nature than his floor general, careful management of a team offense. All told, however, he does have some unique skill sets relative to this roster as a whole.
Burke as backup PG?
The examples of IT3 and Iverson are notable, but not indicative of an expectation for Burke to come in as a starter or even as a major rotation piece worth building around. He is, however, a potentially useful change of pace option to insert into an otherwise huge 76ers roster. First, he needs to beat out Raul Neto and Shake Milton in the training camp battles. But it looks like the early returns are that Burke is giving the bigger Sixers starters fits as camp gets started in earnest.