Burke, Oladipo lead rookie class with efficiency

Burke, Oladipo lead rookie class with efficiency
September 23, 2013, 12:15 pm
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Mark Strotman

The 2013 incoming draft class won't rival 1984's or 2003's, but there's plenty of talent that should help a handful of teams find solid core pieces with which to build around for next year's NBA Draft, which will be arguably the deepest ever.

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And in this the golden era of point guards, this year's crop of rookie talent may be led by a pair of court generals in Utah's Trey Burke and Orlando's Victor Oladipo. The two guards enter fantastic situations for immediate playing time, have more talent around them than it may appear on the surface and both excelled in two specific areas at the collegiate level that my directly relate to NBA success.

Trey Burke

The Naismith Player of the Year averaged 18.6 points and 6.7 assists for a Michigan team that lost to Louisville in the NCAA Championship. The Utah Jazz, in search of a franchise point guard they haven't had since trading Deron Williams, traded the 14th and 21st picks in the first round to Minnesota to select Burke, the first true point guard off the board -- for what it's worth, the Timberwolves used those picks to select Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, so the Jazz valued Burke plenty.

Though he's a tad undersized at 6-foot-1, Burke's skillset spells future franchise point guard. He shot better than 38 percent from beyond the arc, had an assist-to-turnover ratio better than 3:1 and, as he showed against Kansas, has a knack for shining in the big moment. The moment isn't going to overwhelm Burke, who scored 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting in the Wolverines' loss to the Cardinals in the championship game.

And now that Burke will lead a Jazz team that is oozing with young talent in the frontcourt in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, one of the most frequent plays he'll need to use is the pick-and-roll. Lucky for Burke -- and Utah -- he was arguably college basketball's best pick-and-roll point guard last year.

Points per possession is an easy statistic to use to find out how efficient a point guard was. It's what separates players who give their teams the best chance to win with less numbers (Jeff Teague is an excellent example) from those who put up big numbers but may not be the most efficient point guard (think Nate Robinson).

On strictly pick-and-roll situations, here's how Burke ranked last season.

Player %time PPP FG% Ast. rate
Nate Wolters 29.1% 1.005 44.7% 34.3
CJ McCollum 18.5% 1.0 50% 24.9
Ramon Galloway 19.1% 1.2 45.8% 24.1
Isaiah Canaan 35.7% 0.99 45.3% 27.6
Trey Burke 35.5% 0.98 44.3% 37.3

Breaking down these numbers -- specifically Burke's -- to make some sort of sense, the Michigan point guard used pick-and-roll action more than 35 percent of all his possessions. His 44.7 field-goal percentage was the second worst on this list, but at 44.3 percent he was still an above average shooter/attacker off picks. It's worth noting that Burke was the only player on this list to play in a high-major conference, and considering the defense in the Big Ten was arguably the best in the nation, these numbers are telling.

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But it wasn't just his scoring. Burke is an elite passer, and his assist rate -- calculated as the percentage of made field goals a player assisted on while he was on the court -- was 23rd in the country, first in the Big Ten and second in last year's draft class (Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams, 40.2 percent). In pick-and-roll sets, being able to find open big men rolling to the basket, especially athletic centers in Favors and Kanter, will go a long way. Also consider that Burke's 35.5 percent mark was extremely high; not only was Burke a star when a big man came to set a screen for him, he was a star who did it more than most point guards in the country. Averages go down as more numbers are added to an equation, but not for Burke.

All NBA teams use the pick-and-roll, and the aforementioned bigs in Utah mean Burke will be using it even more than he did in Ann Arbor. And if last year's numbers are any indication, he's going to do it very well. Look for Burke to post excellent assist numbers, and for Favors/Kanter to benefit greatly from his skillset.

Victor Oladipo

Hyperbole is dangerous when speaking of rookies and young prospects, but it's hardly a stretch to say that Victor Oladipo's missed dunk against Michigan last year was the best one in the country. It's a bit like being the tallest midget, but for every missed dunk he had 20 slams that shook the rafters at Assembly Hall.

Oladipo's skillset is one of pure athleticism. Make no mistake, the 6-foot-4 guard has fundamentals, but in the NBA, his incredible 42-inch vertical leap, lighting quick speed and underrated strength going to the basket will make him a real asset for the Magic, which selected him second overall in last year's draft.

And if we're going to stay dangerous using hyperbole and comparisons, this tweet Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski sent out in July should be recalled.


Let's get one thing straight: Victor Oladipo, talented as he is, is not Russell Westbrook. But the Magic are looking at playing Oladipo more at point guard to hopefully one day become a combo guard, much the same way the Thunder use Westbrook -- a natural shooting guard himself.

There aren't any relevant stats to determine how well Oladipo may fare as a point guard. He played almost exclusively on the wing for the Hoosiers, but he did dominate his first trial run as the primary ball handler during his time in the Orlando Summer League. In four games, Oladipo averaged 19.0 points and 5.0 assists in 32.5 minutes per game, helping him earn All-Orlando Summer League team accolades.

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An efficient scorer, Oladipo's strength will always be getting to the basket, regardless of how well he adapts to the point-guard position -- still sounding like Westbrook, right? Oladipo only scored 20 or more points three different times, but he made his mark by shooting a blistering 60 percent from the field his junior season at Indiana. In all but seven games last season, he shot 50 percent or better from the field, and he improved his 3-point shooting from 21 percent as a sophomore to 44 percent as a junior.

One would hardly call Westbrook efficient -- as a matter of fact, his stat totals help hide his inefficiencies as a below-average shooter and high turnover performer -- which is where the similarities Oladipo to the Oklahoma City All-Star stop. Oladipo was the seventh most efficient shooter in the country last year, a stellar mark for a guard. Next year he won't come close to his numbers from last season, but having an efficient point guard -- remember Burke? -- will do wonders for a Magic team that averaged 14 turnovers per game in 2012-13.