Alec Burks had an unfair advantage for the Colorado Buffaloes last year. Not only was he usually the tallest guard on the court, but he was also unquestionably the most athletic. He relied on those two traits to become the most dynamic and fun-to-watch player in the Big 12 last season.
If you tried to put a taller forward on the 6'6 Burks he would blow past them and take the ball to the hoop. If you tried putting a good defending guard on him, inevitably he would use his size to either shoot over top of them or find a teammate open on the wing.
Either way, it was a lose-lose situation for opposing coaches and led to Burks recording 19.2 points per game while grabbing 6.1 rebounds per contest.
Declaring for the 2011 NBA Draft after his sophomore season, Burks was drafted 12th overall by the Utah Jazz with the Jazz' second pick of the night, after taking "Kentucky" big man Enes Kanter third overall.
Now that he is in the NBA (whenever we have an NBA) Burks will need to fine tune his game to meet up with NBA styles.
No longer will he be the tallest guard on the floor. We are seeing point guard measure out at 6'6, so a shooting guard standing that tall is probably right around the median height for two-guards.
He also won't be the most athletic on the floor. Don't get me wrong, he will be one of the most athletic on the floor, but he won't be able to relay on a god-given ability to get to the rack... and once he's there, he'll have to contend with NBA-sized power forwards and centers protecting the lane from sneaky guards like Burks.
I think Burks can be an All Star in this league. I saw his pro potential from the first CU game I caught on TV and know that he has most of the intangibles to succeed at the highest level.
But... he needs to work on a few things.
More after The Jump
As I've always said, I think Burks can become the next Arron Afflalo. Afflalo has the same build and athletic abilities as Burks, and like Burks used his height and slashing abilities to score in college. Afflalo had better talent around him at UCLA, so his numbers weren't as gaudy as Burks' (16.9 ppg and 2.9 rpg his junior year), but they were, in essence, the same player.
Continuing the comparison, Afflalo struggled initially. He averaged 3.7 and 4.9 points per game, respectively, his first two years in the Association. Then he found his niche.
After coming to the Denver Nuggets, Afflalo discovered that his key to success wasn't in the dribble-drive, but in setting up camp outside the three point line and letting it fly. His first year, Afflalo took 48 three attempts (hitting on a paltry 20.8% of them). The following year he attempted 107, making 40.2% then shooting a nearly identical 249 in 2009-10 and 248 in 2010-11, making 43.4% and 42.3% in those seasons.
Afflalo found, and worked on, what could keep him in the league and started all 69 games he played in last season for the Nuggets.
Burks should follow this model.
What Burks needs to do while the NBA is locked out is to get to the gym and hover around the three-point line. Everyone knows he can score at the basket, but what everyone is waiting for is for that outside shot that can create the close-range opportunities. And if he does drive inside and create contact, Burks shot 84.7% from the line last season, which makes him a great guy to have on the floor at the end of the game.
Like the Afflalo model, I don't see him starting from day one, but by his second season he should be in the starting line-up, forming an impressive - albeit young - inside-outside game with Kanter.