The Utah Jazz are a totally different team with Trey Burke in the lineup. The rookie point guard has now played in eight games, started six, and changed the way the team operates. Despite the presence of promising youngsters -- over the past couple of seasons, Utah fans have been clamoring for more minutes for Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks -- the Jazz were a bore to watch before Burke. They looked lost on both ends and had trouble just keeping games close. Now, with Burke's surgically repaired finger healed, not only are they more entertaining, they are playing far better basketball. Or, as Mychal Lowman of SLC Dunk put it:
The Utah Jazz looked like a complete dumpster tire fire of a train wreck's mother in law. Terrible. Before Trey Burke returned the Jazz had ranked dead last in Offensive Efficiency and Defensive Efficiency and were ranking dead last or close the very bottom in most statistical categories except for rebounds. If the Utah Jazz had not have ranked dead last in field goal percentage their rebounding would probably be near the bottom of the league as well. MOAR MISSES = MOAR REBOUNDING which equals EVEN MOAR REBOUNDS.
That all changed with Trey Burke at the helm. When Trey Burke has averaged at least 25 minutes a game the Utah Jazz are one of the best offensive teams in the NBA. That is not a typo.
Over the last five games, Burke is averaging 16.2 points, 5.0 assists, 3.6 rebounds and only 1.4 turnovers in 33 minutes per game. He's shooting just 40.8 percent from the field, but he's hitting 52.2 percent of his three-pointers. More importantly though, the Jazz have the league's seventh-best offensive efficiency in that span. Up until that point, Utah had the worst offense in the NBA.
For a Jazz team that almost never gets on the fast break, having competent playmakers is paramount. With the ball in Burke's hands, the halfcourt offense runs about a billion times more smoothly than before. You might be able to attribute some of his early success to the fact that opposing teams haven't been able to scout him, as Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel pointed out on Wednesday, but he's quickly earning himself fans around the league. That includes Vogel, via Jody Genessy of the Deseret News:
Indy coach Frank Vogel on rookie Trey Burke: "He's a heckuva basketball player. They’ve got a bright future here with him leading the way."— Jody Genessy (@DJJazzyJody) December 5, 2013
Burke managed a career-high nine assists against Indiana, the league's best defense. Two nights earlier, he scored a career-high 21 points to go with his six assists in an upset win over the Houston Rockets. In Phoenix on Saturday, he scored eight of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, including a late three-pointer that sealed Utah's first road win of the season. The biggest thing that stands out is his composure, and his teammates appreciate that he's as confident as he was in college, via Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune:
"He's got guts, man," said forward Marvin Williams. "It's kind of exciting to watch him play and watch him grow each night. He's not afraid of big moments and we need that from him."
Finally, Burke provides a good reason to tune into Jazz games. Perhaps watching from the sidelines while his team flailed around was good for him.
Statistical support provided by NBA.com.