Sacramento is entering a new era of Kings basketball following the hire of Monte McNair as general manager. With free agency coming soon, I'll be profiling potential targets with film breakdowns. This piece focuses on point guard Trey Burke.
Player info: Trey Burke, turning 28 in November, 6’1, PG, seven-year veteran, last played for the Dallas Mavericks in the Orlando bubble
2019-20 per-game stats: Burke played 25 games with the Philadelphia 76ers before being waived; Dallas signed him to a one-year, $229,220 dollar contract for the rest of the season after Jalen Brunson suffered a season-ending injury.
With Philadelphia: 25 games, 13.2 minutes, 5.9 points, 1.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.3 steals, 46.5 FG%, 42.1 3P%
With Dallas (regular season): 8 games, 24.0 minutes, 12 points, 1.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 42.7 FG%, 43.2 3P% (4.6 attempts)
With Dallas (playoffs): 6 games, 26.0 minutes, 12.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 50.8 FG%, 47.1 3P% (2.8 attempts)
Fit in Sacramento:
Burke’s been a steady presence for every team he has played on. His three-point shooting improved annually, he doesn’t turn the ball over and can play off-ball. All of those check the boxes for the Kings, minus the defensive ability (he’s not great, but not a total liability). Burke’s shooting numbers with Dallas aren't sustainable for an entire season, but even a percentage of 35 could truly benefit the Kings. Let’s dive into the film:
Burke’s long ball was absolutely deadly with Dallas, though it could be a level of success he doesn’t attain again because of his career averages (34.5%). Nonetheless, he took advantage of the looks provided to him in a historically great offense.
Burke attempted 1.7 catch-and-shoot threes per game in six playoff games and converted 60% of them. As mentioned, that figure is unsustainable. In the eight seeding games, Burke attempted 3.6 catch-and-shoot threes and drilled 37.9% of them. On a higher volume, Burke still displayed solid shooting.
Play breakdown: Dorian Finney-Smith penetrates the Los Angeles Clippers defense with a slip off the pick-and-roll. Despite good rotations from the Clippers’ defenders, Burke gets a great look right down the middle and drills it.
Filtering out garbage time attempts and heaves, Burke soared on Cleaning the Glass’ 3P rankings. Cleaning the Glass placed Burke in the 94th percentile on threes during the regular season and in the 92nd percentile during the playoffs. Those are Burke’s best placements since the 2016-17 season with Washington when he was in the 98th percentile but only attempted 1.2 threes a game.
Play breakdown: Dallas runs a “screen the screener” action for Burke here. Burke sets a screen for his teammate, while another teammate is prepping a screen for him. Burke’s screen sends the defender tumbling, giving Burke enough time to curl around Maxi Kleber’s screen and knock down the three.
Burke’s been a solid mid-range scorer for much of his career, and that was no exception this season. In the regular season with Dallas, Burke shot 48% (11/23) on all mid-range shots, good for the 86th percentile, per Cleaning the Glass. The playoffs saw Burke jump to 50% (11/22), but his percentile fell to 67 because of other point guards scoring from mid-range.
Play breakdown: Reggie Jackson plays his hips away from the screen, but Burke positions himself to where Jackson can only be a trailer. Burke surveyed the floor as Jackson fought the trail but smartly side-stepped for a basket.
Let’s look at another one: Paul George goes over the Kristaps Porzingis “screen” so Burke has to get extra shifty here; he’s not driving by PG13. Burke creates separation with a filthy between-the-leg step-back that created essential space; unfortunately, the basket didn’t drop.
But the takeaway from these possessions: Burke can generate space for himself even when options are limited. The Kings could use a ball-handler like that.
One of my primary concerns with Burke is that he’s a system assister - his assists come by design. Burke won’t create for others often; he’s more of a scorer. Playing with a team like Dallas that comprises ball handlers like Luka Doncic, JJ Barea, Seth Curry and others could play a factor, but Burke’s assist percentages have trended lower than most point guards.
Burke’s assist percentage with Dallas in the regular season was 22.9%, placing him in the 31st percentile, per CTG. In the playoffs, his AST% dropped to 10.9, placing him in the 0th percentile.
Play breakdown: Dallas runs a dribble hand-off with a screen in an attempt to create a miscommunication error for L.A. The play is mixed with a “screen the screener” action for Tim Hardaway Jr. Once Burke receives the DHO, he steps on the brakes and turns back for a pass to Hardaway who makes the triple.
Burke’s assist-to-usage ratio is also noticeably deficient. In the regular season with Dallas, his AST: USG ratio was 0.99, placing him in the 27th percentile, according to CTG. In the playoffs, that ratio dropped to 0.57, thus slotting Burke in the 0th percentile. These are definitely small sample sizes, but it’s a notable factor for a potential backup guard that needs to make plays for more than himself.
Play breakdown: This is a two-man pick-and-pop game between Burke and Kleber, but Kleber needs to do additional work to score here. Once the defensive switch occurs, Burke’s spot on the corner keeps Rudy Gobert away from the paint. Kleber manages to finish, but he didn’t have to worry about Gobert prowling his shot.
If you want more scoring from your backup, whether that be on or off the ball, Burke is your guy. For Sacramento, Burke could play as a one or two in various lineups depending on the surrounding guards. Specific defensive plays were difficult to come by, but Burke falls into a similar category as Shabazz Napier: he won’t cost you multiple games on the defensive end, but he’s not an impact defender either (-1.6 career defensive box plus/minus).
For Burke to make an impact with Sacramento, he must create more for his teammates because Doncic wouldn’t be there to carry that load. His potential fit with De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield (if the latter two are still on the roster), is intriguing, at least offensively.
Burke as the third guard would be the best scenario for the Kings, but they’ll likely face tough competition for his signature following solid performances in the bubble.