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Detroit Pistons Media Day

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Alec Burks is aging like fine wine

Alec Burks will play a critical role on a team that finished last in the NBA in field goal efficiency

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

There’s little doubt that the New York Knicks shipped Alec Burks to the Detroit Pistons as part of a salary dump. And Detroit may be the seventh stop in what will be Burks’ 12th season. But don’t be fooled — Burks is a proven combo guard who can bring a calming presence to a young Pistons team.

Like a fine wine, Burks has become better with age. He was always a solid bench option early in his career in Utah, but the University of Colorado product struggled with efficiency.

Over the past four years, Burks has become a reliably strong shooter, a valuable trait to combine with his ability to fill any role a team may need in the backcourt. Last year in New York, his improvements were rewarded when he started a career-high 44 games.

Foot surgery in the offseason may delay Burks’ debut in Detroit, but when he does join the team on the court, expect Burks to play an important role on this young Pistons team.

Detroit Pistons Media Day Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Know Your Role, Alec Burks

The blueprint is pretty simple for Burks. Detroit will need him to be largely the same player he was over the past two seasons in New York. Take and make shots, play solid defense, and fill whatever role the team needs.

The Pistons, who finished dead last in effective field-goal percentage last year, need players who can put the ball in the basket more frequently.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of Detroit’s poor efficiency last season was that they generally took good shots. The Pistons were average or above average in the percentage of shots that were threes, inside three feet, and between three and 10 feet. They averaged the sixth-most catch-and-shot threes within that sample. But they just didn’t have the players to make those quality looks.

Alec Burks should help change that for the better. Burks was an excellent shooter on catch-and-shoot situations last year, knocking down 41.8% of his attempts. And he wasn’t just a statue along the perimeter – he attempted early 2 pull-up threes per game and converted on 38.6% of those shots.

And last year wasn’t just some fluke.

In 2020-21, Burks made 38.2% of his catch-and-shoot attempts while adding 46.5% of his pull-up threes. In 2019-20, he made 37.7% and 39.4% of those shots, respectively.

Where Burks is not going to provide any assistance will be inside the paint. Burks finished last in the NBA last season on field goal percentage inside 8 feet of players who took at least 40 shots from that distance. Burks didn’t just take 40 shots, though. He took 172, converting a paltry 39.5%.

With Cade Cunningham again at the helm (and a year later) and Jaden Ivey bringing an athletic presence to force defenses to collapse, the shooting opportunities should be there once again in Detroit. With Alec Burks attempting some of those shots, the Pistons’ efficiency should naturally improve.

Burks will likely come off the bench, as is customary for him, but he can certainly play with Cunningham and/or Ivey when necessary. He may be a good option for Detroit as the three against smaller opponents and he can certainly be plugged into the starting lineup if one of the young Pistons struggles or is out for a series of games.

The one new role for Burks will be one that doesn’t show up in his shooting numbers.

At 31 years old, he is one of the oldest members of the young Pistons. In a strong Eastern Conference, there will certainly be stretches of losing in Detroit. And the young backcourt members like Cunningham, Ivey, and Killian Hayes will have their ups and downs. Burks will need to become something of a leader to help share his experience to keep spirits up among the young guys.

And given Burks’ history as a veteran contributor who struggled with efficiency early in his career, he could certainly provide some value to young guards who have and will continue to go through those same experiences.

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