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Film Don’t Lie: Alec Burks and His Second Unit Instant Offense

Breaking down how 12-year veteran Alec Burks is getting his buckets for the Detroit Pistons

Detroit Pistons v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The Detroit Pistons have a top-10 bench unit after 30 games of the season thanks to contributions from multiple players.

Saddiq Bey is averaging just under 14 points per game since he has moved to the second unit. Kevin Knox is shooting 48% from 3 and averaging 9 points per game over his last 13 games, possibly the best stretch of play for Knox since his rookie season.

There are other contributors as well, but none more important than those brought by the addition of the 31-year-old Alec Burks.

Before we get to the breakdown and video of how Burks is getting these buckets, how about some stats to show just how good the veteran has been.

Note: All Stats only include the first 30 games of the Detroit Pistons’ season.

  • 2nd most PPG of his career (15 PPG during 19-20 w/Warriors and Sixers)
  • 2nd best 3-point shooting season behind 20-21 w/Knicks
  • Best 2-point scoring season of his career
  • 3rd most FTA of his career (best since 15-16 w/Jazz)
  • Best offensive rating of his career (via
  • 3.2 personal fouls drawn per game
  • 2nd in bench points per 100 possession to only Bones Hyland (7th in actual PPG)

3-Point Shooting

Burks is currently shooting 40% from behind the 3-point line on just under five attempts per game. Even more impressive is his 2nd on the team, behind Cade Cunningham, percentage of unassisted 3-point makes at 36.4%.

Burks is making a majority of these attempts in ball-screen situations. If the on-ball defender makes the mistake of going under the screen, Burks is sure to make them pay. Even when going over the top, if the defender gets hung up for any time at all, shoutout Jalen Duren (11th in the NBA in screen assist points per 48 minutes) and Isaiah Stewart (30th) for their screen setting, that is enough for Burks to get the shot attempt off.

The former Colorado Buffalo is also able to make these unassisted attempts in true isolation and when catching a defense sleeping in transition.

Of course, some of the 3-point makes are coming off creation from his teammates but Burks enhances these opportunities with his veteran off ball movements that create more, and cleaner, looks from behind the arc.

Mid-Range Scoring

The 6-foot-6 guard has also been effective scoring in the mid range. He is currently shooting right under 50% on attempts between 10 feet and the 3-point line (via Basketball Reference). Burks is able to get his buckets in the mid range in a variety of ways.

Again, he can effectively use a ball screen to get to his spots on the floor. On one possession, this may involve simply using the ball screen, exploding to a spot on the floor to create as much space as possible and fading away (or in a lateral direction) from the defender to get his shot off. On the next possession, you may see Burks snake the screen into another fadeaway jump shot or snake, put the defender in jail, and then stop on a dime to pull up and knock down the shot.

Burks’ physique may not wow you, but he is strong and knows how to use his strength. He often uses subtle body contact to knock the defender off balance just enough to create the open space he needs. This strength also allows Burks to turn drives and isolations into mid-post opportunities, which usually end with him knocking the aforementioned fadeaway jump shot.

Lastly, you can not talk about Burks’ scoring acumen without speaking about his ability to draw fouls on jump shots. Burks is a pro at using a crafty veteran swipe-through or body bump to create contact and is great at getting the shot out of his hands as soon as he feels the contact.

At-the-Rim Scoring

Only 8% of Burks’ shot attempts come at the rim, but he is making over 70% of those so far this season (via basketball reference). Anyone who has watched his game knows this isn’t something he is great at, and he really doesn’t have to because he has been so good scoring from the other areas of the floor. If Burks was a true three-level scorer, he would not be coming off the bench for the Detroit Pistons.

When Burks does get the opportunity to attack the rim, you will see him use that same change of pace, body contact, craftiness and shot fakes that he utilizes in the mid range.


You would be hard pressed to find a stat or metric that does not show how good of a scorer Alec Burks has been for the Detroit Pistons this season off the bench or otherwise. According to, he is second on the team to only to Bojan Bogdanovic, in their point-scoring prowess and 3-point efficiency metrics.

The big question moving forward with Burks has nothing to do with his impact or play but on what his role with this organization will be. He has a VERY team-friendly $10.5 million team option for the 2023-24 season. Does Troy Weaver decide to move Burks to the highest bidder in return for younger and/or future talent/assets or does he see him as an important piece of the 2nd unit that will hopefully be helping this team fight for a play-in game next season? My prediction, which is sure to go wrong, is the latter.