PBT Draft preview: Is Trey Burke the next Lillard? He’ll be an impact rookie.


For the next five weeks PBT will be profiling likely first-round draft picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. We start with one of the more household names in this draft.

If you are looking for the next Damian Lillard — not in terms of style of play, but in terms of a rookie who could have a big impact right out of the gate — Trey Burke may be your guy. He’s not going to be an NBA superstar, but he could be a very good point guard for your team for years.

The 6’0” point guard out of Michigan became as much of a household name as there is in this draft with his play during the NCAA tournament, leading Michigan all the way to the championship game. But he wasn’t a tournament flash — he was the best player in college ball last season. He was everybody’s college player of the year, averaging 18.1 points and 6.6 assists per game, shooting a high percentage (38 percent from three) and not turning the ball over much.

He’s got an all-around skill set that will have him going in the Top 5 according to DraftExpress (where exactly could depend on the lottery and who drafts in what slot). Usually it’s big men who move up the draft board as we get closer, but Burke seems to be doing the same now.


The NBA is a pick-and-roll league and Burke is a good pick-and-roll point guard, the best in college last season. According to DraftExpress 35.5 percent of his offense came off that play and he scored a good 0.98 points per possession that way — with defenses keyed on him. It’s because he uses good quickness and hesitation moves to get in the paint or he can shoot with range if you go under the pick.

Remember the NCAA finals game — Russ Smith from Louisville is a good defender and Burke did as he pleased against him.

Burke can score a variety of ways, but he can also pass the rock well, he has good court vision and sense. He can get in the paint off the pick and make plays. He’s also good in transition, both getting to the rim and kicking out to shooter.

Finally, if you’re looking for an on the court leader…. Did you see Burke in the NCAA Tournament?


The questions about him are simple — is he big enough at six foot to both keep scoring in the lane against the NBA trees, and will that height hurt him defensively.

Against bigger players in college Burke tended to go to a floater rather than attack at the rim. As DraftExpress noted, he shot just 52 percent in the restricted area when running a half court offense. He’s going to have to do better at the next level.

And he’s going to have to learn to defend (something Lillard still needs to do as well).


With each college player we profile at PBT, we’ll talk to Rob Dauster of CollegeBasketballTalk at NBC to get his thoughts — he sees these guys more than we do.

I think that even if Marcus Smart had entered the draft this year that I would have taken Burke as the first point guard, and it’s because there really isn’t all that much that he can’t do on the offensive end of the floor. He’s terrific in the pick-and-roll because he’s not only a threat to score, but he’s a perfectly competent and willing creator as well. The biggest improvement that Burke made this season was in his decision-making, as his efficiency numbers were through the roof. He didn’t turn the ball over much and he rarely took bad shots despite the fact that he was the engine on the nation’s most potent offensive attack this season.

Burke also proved to have a penchant for making big shots in big moments. Who can forgot the 30-footer that he hit to force overtime against Kansas in the Sweet 16? Those of us that watched him all season long weren’t surprised that he a) took that shot or b) made that shot.

He has his weaknesses. He’s on the shorter side (6’0”, although he does have a 6’5” wingspan) and he’s not on the same level as a Derrick Rose or John Wall when it comes to athleticism. There are questions about just how good he is going to be on the defensive end of the floor. He’s not an elite point guard prospect in the sense that he’s the kind of guy that can turn around a franchise. But that doesn’t mean that he won’t be a good player in the league for a number of years.


Top five for sure, and if the right team lands at No. 1, who knows? Wherever he lands he’ll make an impact and the fans will love him.

James Harden scores 34, Rockets hold off Timberwolves 129-120

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — James Harden had 34 points and 12 assists, and Houston held off a fourth-quarter rally to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 129-120 on Sunday night for the Rockets’ 26th win in 28 games.

The West’s top team led by as many as 25 before the Timberwolves, holding on for dear life in a tightening playoff race, pulled within five in the fourth. The loss dropped the Wolves into the eighth playoff spot after they started the day in a three-way tie for fifth.

Harden had 11 points in the final 6:34, including a 3-pointer with 58 seconds left that effectively secured the win.

Chris Paul and Clint Capela each had 16 points for the Rockets.

Jeff Teague led Minnesota with 23 points, Andrew Wiggins had 21, and Karl-Anthony Towns and Jamal Crawford each added 20.

The Wolves got a burst of energy after a fourth-quarter scuffle between Gorgui Dieng, Paul and Gerald Green. Green was ejected for coming to Paul’s defense after a frustrated Dieng pushed him down after a foul. With the pumped-up crowd chanting “Gor-Gui!,” Derek Rose had back-to-back layups to pull the Wolves to 109-102. But Paul hit a jumper with Crawford in his face, and Harden easily drove past Dieng for a layup to give the Rockets some breathing room.

Minnesota’s 19-6 run made it 115-110 with 3:58 to play before Trevor Ariza hit a 3, and the Rockets were able to answer every Wolves bucket to hold off the rally.

The game was seemingly over by halftime; Houston shot 63 percent, hit 11 3-pointers and led by as many as 24 in the first half while turning the ball over only three times. Harden had 10 assists in the first half, when the Wolves were as close as three before Houston reeled off a 12-0 run and didn’t allow Minnesota to recover.


Jimmy Butler targeting return to Timberwolves before end of season

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Jimmy Butler could return to the court for the Minnesota Timberwolves before the end of the regular season, if he stays on track with his rehabilitation from knee surgery.

Butler spoke to reporters Sunday for the first time since the meniscus injury he suffered Feb. 23 at Houston . He confirmed an initial recovery estimate of four to six weeks. Even on the long end of that timetable, he’d likely have two games with the Timberwolves before the postseason.

Butler said he’s confident in both his ability to heal in time and the team’s ability to hang on to a spot in the playoffs. The Wolves entered their game against the Rockets in a three-way tie for fifth place in the Western Conference, but no room for a slump.

For more AP NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Gerald Green ejected for pushing Gorgui Dieng into stands (VIDEO)

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I don’t know why everyone in the NBA is so geeked this weekend. Coaches are getting fined, referees are throwing dudes out left and right. Maybe it’s because most of us recently saw the sun for the first time in five months, although I couldn’t tell you for certain.

As the Minnesota Timberwolves and Houston Rockets went head-to-head on Sunday, something had players on both sides itching. Early in the fourth quarter, Timberwolves big man Gorgui Dieng got into it with Houston’s Chris Paul and Gerald Green.

The incident came as Dieng was being defended by Paul in the low post. Paul was whistled for a foul while trying to get the ball away from Dieng, but even after the whistle blew the Rockets guard did not stop trying to get the ball. Dieng responded by pushing Paul, who fell to the ground as if someone cut the strings on him.

That prompted another whistle from the refs, and a crowd of players ensued. Green rushed to push Dieng, sending the Timberwolves center into the stands.

When the scene settled, Dieng was issued a technical foul and Green was ejected.

After the game, Dieng told reporters he thought Paul’s constant digging for the ball was a cheap shot, so he responded in kind.

Minnesota, energized, tried to make a late push on the top team in the Western Conference but came up just short. Houston beat the Timberwolves, 129-120.

Alvin Gentry, Stan Van Gundy fined $15,000 each for criticizing officials

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All is not right between NBA players, coaches, and the referees. What else is new?

After contentious games on Saturday night, both Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy and New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry expressed their opinions about what they felt was a poor officiating.

Van Gundy — whose team lost to the Portland Trail Blazers as they continued on to their 12th straight win — complained that his players were being “screwed” as they were knocked down, hammered, and hit. Gentry was especially infuriated after a late foul call went against his team as James Harden was hit on the hand while shooting a 3-pointer.

Now, the NBA has announced that both coaches have been fined $15,000 each for public criticism of officials.

Things were slated to get better between the NBRA and NBPA after the All-Star break. The two sides were supposed to have a meeting which discussed some of the more concerning trends that players and coaches have publicly complained about this year. That meeting got moved up to December, with more talks to come later. It’s not clear if they’ve done any good.

Right after All-Star Weekend guys like LeBron James were still making waves about how they are being officiated. Coaches like Doc Rivers continue to openly complain about the referees and draw fines. Van Gundy and Gentry are just the latest additions to the list, and it’s unlikely they’ll be the last before the season ends.

Hell, the end of the game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors was just about as bad as we’ve seen all year. In that game, Raptors coach Dwane Casey was ejected after a comment made by a fan sitting near the floor was incorrectly attributed to him.

The NBA lost a lot of veteran officials due to retirement in the changeover to this season, and the transition has been rough. They’re going to need to figure some things out over the summer. I expect bigger announcements about those efforts to come out after the NBA Finals as a means to restore public faith in the officiating crews.