By John Schmeelk
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What have the Knicks found in Trey Burke?
Knicks fans are understandably excited to watch a young point guard that can run the pick and roll and get to the rim and score. Some have even suggested the Knicks give him priority over Frank Ntilikina.
Having just turned 25 back in November, can Burke become the Knicks’ future point guard? Let’s examine.
Burke didn’t appear out of nowhere. The former ninth overall pick by Utah in the 2013 draft was a top point guard prospect. Along with current teammate Tim Hardaway Jr., Burke helped lead Michigan to 31 wins and a spot in the NCAA title game. He averaged 18.6 points and 6.7 assists per game during that final season with the Wolverines. There’s no doubt he has talent, even if it didn’t manifest itself right away at the pro level.
Burke’s best season in Utah came as a rookie, as he averaged just under 13 points and six assists per game. However, he only shot 38 percent from the field. He struggled his next two seasons before getting traded to Washington for a 2021 second-round pick. He promptly lost his job as backup point guard to John Wall when the Wizards acquired Brandon Jennings. Burke has blamed off-the-court distractions for his early career failures.
To his credit, he went to the G-League this season and dominated, averaging 26.6 points, 5.3 assists, and 2 steals per game, while shooting 49 percent from the floor, including 42 percent from 3-point range. His advanced offensive stats were strong as well, with a 59 percent true shooting percentage and a 55 percent effective shooting percentage.
He was also named the G-League player of the month in December.
But is Burke a late bloomer or the NBA equivalent of a 4A player that will never be more than a journeyman? Even with his stellar numbers at Westchester, no NBA team offered him a contract, even though he could have been signed at minimal investment or risk.
Burke’s usage percentage at Westchester was a staggeringly high 30.1 percent, higher than LeBron James’ usage last season in Cleveland. An NBA team will never be successful with Burke controlling that amount of the possessions. He is only 6-foot-1 and 191 pounds and struggled defensively in the G-League. His defensive box plus/minus rating there was minus-1.4, making him worse than your average…