John Beilein might run a two guard offense originally designed to minimize the importance of a point guard but last season showed what a luxury a great point guard can be to any team. Darius Morris was the sort of guard that could make something out of nothing, manufacture a basket and made all of his teammates better.
Trey Burke’s career trajectory was accelerated in June when Darius Morris opted to keep his name in the NBA Draft. Now, the 5-foot-11, 180 pound guard is the only natural point guard on the Michigan roster and will be thrust into the limelight from day one. While he certainly would have enjoyed playing with Morris, I don’t think there’s any question that Burke is relishing the opportunity to fight for a starting position this season. Here’s a look at some of the major reasons why Burke could excel and conversely why he might struggle as a freshman.
Reasons for Excitement
- Quickness: Burke is the quickest player on the Michigan roster. It took just one exhibition game for his quickness to make an impact on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he pushed the ball in transition and added another element to the Wolverine attack. Defensively, he forced a five second violation and looked very comfortable playing on ball defense.
- Three point shooting: Trey put up impressive three point shooting numbers in high school and reports out of practice have continually been that he can “really shoot it”. For all his strengths, Darius Morris was plagued by his inability to hit perimeter jumpers and allowed defenders to play well off of him. Burke could help mask some of his other deficiencies and experience with some consistent three point shooting.
- Pull-up jump shot: One of Burke’s most effective offensive staples in high school was the pull-up jump shot. From what I’ve seen, he’s actually more comfortable shooting off the bounce than off the catch. His size might prevent him from getting all the way to the basket with regularity but consistently knocking down pull-up jumpshots will open up the rest of his game.
Causes for Concern
- Size: Burke is quick but he could have a problem defending bigger and stronger lead guards in the Big Ten. His size could hamper him on both ends of the court but Michigan does have some taller options at the two guard to help him out defensively.
- Setting up the bigs: Michigan’s big men aren’t proficient at creating their own scoring opportunities – something that was painfully obvious in the exhibition game. Darius Morris had the unique ability to get Jordan Morgan perfect scoring opportunities. It will take Burke a while to develop a chemistry with Michigan’s bigs and an understanding of the offense and timing.
- Decision Making: Trey is a smart basketball player but he’s also a fiery kid – a double edged sword. The line between trying to do too much and making a great play is infinitely more precise as a Division I player. Understanding when to push the ball, make the fancy play or truly attack, and when to reign things in a bit, will be an important lesson for Burke to learn.
There’s no denying how important of a role Burke will play on this year’s team. He’s not starting right now but I would be shocked if he doesn’t step into the starting line up before the end of November. The road won’t be easy, and there will almost certainly be road blocks along the way, but Burke seems well prepared.
We’ve yet to see Burke face adversity at the college level but his make up at the prep level was impressive. He’s won a lot of games over the course of his career. He’s led (as a senior) or played complementary roles (alongside Jared Sullinger). He’s humble but confident and, if his summer workout videos are any indication, a hard worker to boot.
He’s also a freshman point guard. We’ve examined freshmen point guards in the past and Darius Morris’s disappointing freshman season and brilliant sophomore campaign prove just how difficult playing the point guard position as a freshman can be. We’ll learn just what Burke is ready for sooner than later when the Wolverines travel to Maui. He’ll face a talented but inconsistent Joe Jackson in game one and, if Michigan wins, could face off against mega-recruit Austin Rivers in game two.
Bottom Line: Averages hovering around 10 points and four assists per game seem attainable. Burke is a natural scoring option and will look to create, likely using at least 20 percent of Michigan’s possessions. The tempo-free perfectionist in me will consistently complain against his turnover rate which hovers around 20 percent, not a bad figure but one that stands out on a Michigan team that rarely turns the ball over.