Utah Jazz point guard Trey Burke looking to become more of a leader following solid rookie season
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Trey Burke enjoyed what some people might consider a solid if not stellar rookie season in the NBA.
After all, the Utah Jazz point guard averaged 12.8 points, 5.7 assists and 3.0 rebounds a game — good enough numbers to earn him a prominent seat at the table where the Rookie of the Year award was being discussed. He was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month three times this past season and wound up third in the Rookie of the Year voting announced Monday.
But his shooting percentages from the field and 3-point line were pretty darned disappointing, and Jazz management is expecting much more out of the 6-foot-1 former University of Michigan star, who was acquired in a draft day deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves last June, in the years to come.
And Burke is expecting much more out of himself, too — especially in the way of leadership — as the point guard for the promising young "Future Five" of this proud franchise that sputtered through a difficult 25-57 season in 2013-14.
"I was very pleased with his natural decision-making, intelligence, instincts if you will," Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said in sizing up Burke's performance this season. "And the ball gets to the right spot.
"It's very unusual to have a point guard that can score but still be very significant in the assists column. I think us managing that, managing his expectations along with that, but I think we have a good one that could be a real good starter in the league for a number of years.
"We talked a little bit about personal discipline," Lindsey said of his exit interview during the team's annual locker cleanout day in April. "Trey really wants to lead, not that he's undisciplined, but he's got to take it to a new level. And it would be hard for any 21-year-old point guard to come in and lead, even a very young group with little experience. I think Trey's ambition, his work ethic, his intelligence are all good characteristics that will provide a platform for him to move to greater heights. "
Burke, the 2013 college player of the year and consensus first-team All-American, agreed that there are parts of his game that are still a work in progress. But he seems determined to work hard and make improvements wherever they're needed.
"Getting stronger, staying focused more than anything," he said of his goals going forward from locker cleanout day. "What I took from it more than anything, they asked me how committed I am and if I want to be the best player I can be. There's certain things I need to do, which is working hard, staying focused, staying out of trouble, and basically turning my weaknesses into strengths.
"Finishing at the rim, getting to the bucket more, becoming a much more consistent shooter, I think I've grown a lot at being a pure point guard. I still don't think I'm a pure point guard yet, but that's the biggest difference right now is getting to the rim and finishing at the rim, being a more consistent shooter.
"And I think on the defensive end, Coach Ty (Corbin) said he knows I can defend," Burke said. "He's seen me defend before, he said it's a mindset to be willing to defend all the time. A good example of that is Chris Paul. It's more focus, defense is more of a mindset — if a guy scores on you once or twice, then that's when I really get mad and try to stop him."
And then there's the bigger challenge of becoming more of a leader for this team.
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