Can Trey Burke Fill Detroit’s Backup PG Needs?


In our previous piece, we detailed Detroit’s limited free agency options, specifically pertaining to the Mid-Level Exception.

While both Rodney Hood and Terrence Ross would be good additions to the Pistons, I do not think throwing all of their money at one free agent is the best course of action for this team. The team is need of help beyond the wings. Admittedly it is risky to rely on Tony Snell, Luke Kennard and the three second-year rookies to be your wing rotation for next year. But if they do bring in another starting wing with the full MLE, that leaves them with veteran minimum contracts to fill in backup point guard and center/power forward.

Maybe they can and will bring Ish Smith back at that veteran minimum. They can also sign him to a bigger deal than most anyone since they own his bird rights, but I think they would want someone younger. Reggie Jackson is heading into the last year of his contract and has trouble staying healthy. I hope the team wants someone with more skills and upside than Smith. Ish has been more than solid in his time in the D, but at 30 years old, he should no longer be relied upon for the future.

You may wonder why I said center/power forward. Well, that’s because I am uncertain of Thon Maker‘s role in the rotation. I think the team sees Maker as a power forward. I say this because he played his most minutes in lineups with Zaza Pachulia and Andre Drummond. His main role on offense, seemed to be camping out in the corners to try and provide space. These all lead me to believe the team wants him primarily at power forward. But, his length and shot blocking ability are good enough that he won’t just remain there. So I think the other big man the team brought in should offer this kind of flexibility as well to help out Maker and the team.

Splitting The MLE Money

So how to split up the money between these two positions then? Well for one, I think more than 50% of that MLE money has to go to the point guard. For one, that position is much more valuable. For another, the backup point guard is going to be getting more minutes than the backup big man. Detroit’s best players are in the frontcourt after all. And lastly, with Reggie Jackson’s durability always in question, the point guard is going to have a real chance of starting.

Also I think getting a backup center is going to be much easier. I think even if they waited for the market to settle down, there will be solid pickups left toward the end of free agency. But if they want to continue to build a better team, they can get in ahead of that market by offering even just a bit more than the veteran minimum. They don’t even need to throw a ton at someone, just say in the range of like $3,123,000. That would be more than guys like Nerlens Noel, JaVale McGee and Zaza got on the open market last year. Heck, it’s even just a tad bit under Brook Lopez’s $3,382,000.

This amount for a backup center equals to roughly 33.8% of the $9,246,000 MLE. This also means the team would have $6,123,000 left to offer a backup point guard. Now that we have our price points set, who are realistic targets for those price points?

Michigan Man

I think the choice for point guard is Trey Burke. To understand why I feel he is the best choice, let’s take a deep dive into Burke’s stats this past season. When you look at his season totals, it may seem underwhelming:

10.9 PPG (46% FG, 35% 3PT, 83% FT) | 2.7 APG | 1.7 RPG | 0.6 SPG | 52.4% TS | 24.8% Usage | 24.1% Assist Rate | 7.5%(!!!) Turnover Rate

Those numbers look respectable for a backup playing 19.4 minutes per game across 58 contests. Except of course for that turnover rate which is elite-level good. I mean any player — backup or starter — that can post a usage above 20% and a turnover rate below 10% is very rare. This is also an especially-awesome combo of stats for a guy who runs your offense. This shows he is not making forced or errant passes that implode your offense.

But when we remember Burke was traded in the Porzingis deal last year and look at his difference in stats between New York and Dallas, it gives even more reason to be high on Burke:

New York Stats

33 games played, 7 games started, 20.9 mpg

11.8 PPG, 2.8 APG, 1.9 RPG, 0.6 SPG

43.4% 2-point, 34.9% 3-point, 82.7% Free Throw

26.1% Usage, 49.6% True Shooting, 23.6% Assist Percentage, 6.9% Turnover Rate

Dallas Stats

25 games played, 1 game started, 17.4 mpg

9.7 PPG, 2.6 APG, 1.5 RPG, 0.5 SPG

53.0% 2-point, 35.6% 3-point, 83.7% Free Throw

22.8% Usage, 57.4% True Shooting, 24.7% Assist Percentage, 8.6% Turnover Rate

Long story short, when Burke got an upgrade in teammates in Dallas it helped his numbers significantly. His efficiency numbers in particular show a significant improvement when he was surrounded by better teammates. One need only look at the lineup combinations Burke was placed into in Dallas versus New York to get an idea why he was inefficient in one setting and very efficient in the other.

Perfect Fit in Detroit

Detroit will being a clear upgrade for Burke. He won’t be asked to just jack up shots like in New York and he can still using his scoring and distributing to help his teammates just like in Dallas.  For one, he compliments Bruce Brown Jr., Khyri Thomas and Svi very well. Brown and Thomas are defenders first with inconsistent offense and Svi is a knockdown shooter who has trouble creating his own shot. Burke is a microwave scorer that can create for his teammates, but struggles on defense. Trey provides the offense Brown and Khyri can’t while also creating open looks for them and Svi.

Burke offers a great array of offensive skills and upside. Now, I am not saying Trey Burke will become an All-Star in the D, but I do think he can be a great 6th man at the very least. He’s been tossed here and there in his NBA career and having some stability over the next two years will really help him to stick around into his 30s. I also would not be surprised if he did become an all-star next to Blake and Andre seeing as how they draw so much defensive attention already.

Next, we will look at who the Pistons could add in the frontcourt for the remaining $3,123,000 of the MLE.

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