Deonte Burton, 6-foot-1 point guard, Nevada
2013-14 stats: 20.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 47.1 FG%, 1.5 steals
One of the best mid-major players in the country over the last few seasons, Burton essentially toiled in anonymity, as Nevada struggled to achieve team success. Still, the explosive point guard’s athleticism and scoring ability have earned the attention of NBA personnel, as those aspects of his game seemingly translate well to the next level. The Los Angeles-area native’s physical tools also don’t hurt his chances, but the fact that despite his talent, the Wolfpack were unable to make much of an impact will be factored in.
Career highlights: Making his presence felt from the outset of his college career, Burton averaged 13.7 points and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman, earning WAC freshman of the year honors, then followed it up as a sophomore with averages of 14.8 points and 4.2 assists per game, while shooting 37.2 percent from three-point range and 79.7 percent from the free-throw line, winning the conference’s player of the year award and making his lone postseason appearance, as Nevada advanced to the NIT. As a junior, Burton averaged 16.3 points and 3.6 assists per game, receiving third team all-Mountain West accolades, as the Wolfpack joined a new league. His senior year, Burton posted per-game averages of 20.1 points, 4.4 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals, while shooting 47.1 percent from the field, all career-highs, making first team all-conference in the process and scoring in double figures in all but one contest, including a career-high 31-point outing to beat San Francisco and a 24-point, 11-assist, eight-rebound effort in a win over in-state foe UNLV.
[NBA DRAFT: Shabazz Napier embraces team concept]
Strengths: Although he doesn’t have great size for his position, Burton compensates with a powerful frame and tremendous athleticism, which he utilizes to relentlessly attack the basket and finish, often in spectacular fashion and over bigger defenders. An improved shooter during his college career, Burton is a solid playmaker, excels in transition and has a knack for getting to the free-throw line, as he doesn’t shy away from contact. Defensively, Burton’s quickness and strength are assets and despite his height, he contributes on the glass.
Weaknesses: More of a scorer than a distributor, Burton’s shot selection and shoot-first mentality must be toned down at the next level, where he’s unlikely to be an offensive focal point. Taking better care of the ball and improving as an outside shooter are other areas of improvement, as he’s presently more of a combo guard than a traditional floor general. Size will also be a factor and after experiencing mediocre team success in college, there will be concerns about Burton’s ability to make his teammates better.
Draft projection: Burton is an early-to-mid second-round prospect, with his selection hinging on how well he fares in head-to-head competition against similarly-regarded prospects. His physique, scoring ability and explosiveness give him a chance to be a contributor as an instant-offense, change-of-pace reserve point guard, but he must demonstrate a firm grasp of being able to run an offense, pressure the ball defensively, knock down open jumpers and play a generally mistake-free style of basketball. Even if he’s picked a bit lower or even somehow goes undrafted, Burton will have the opportunity to show what he brings to the table in summer league and carve out a niche for himself as a high-energy backup, which could give him a chance to be a fringe rotation player early in his career.