Wolverines in the NBA: Checking in on Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.

Tim Hardaway Jr. now plays for the New York Knicks. - Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

We caught up with bloggers from both the Utah Jazz and the New York Knicks to get their takes on Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., respectively.

Trey Burke (Utah Jazz)

Links:
Hype Video: Utah Jazz Trade for Trey Burke in the 2013 NBA Draft
SLC Dunk: Draft Day Euphoria, Trey Burke to Utah
Trey Burke interview after 2013 NBA Draft
SLC Dunk: Draft Day Recap (Video)
Video: Trey Burke on Utah Jazz, Success
Salt Lake Tribune: Trey Burke Named West's Top Rookie for January
Utah Jazz: Trey Burke Selected for "Rising Stars" NBA All-Star Game
Trey Burke Impresses a Lot of People, including Utah Jazz Coach Corbin

To get a better idea of Trey Burke's time post-Michigan, I caught up with Amar (AllThatAmar) of SB Nation's fantastic Utah Jazz site, SLCDunk, and asked him some questions on how Trey Burke has generally done in his rookie season with the Jazz.

Can you describe the reaction from Utah Jazz fans when they learned their organization had traded with the Minnesota Timberwolves for Trey Burke?

Amar: I was at the NBA Draft in the press row, and as a result I found out about the Trey Burke trade a few picks before it was announced. I missed a lot of the online reaction because I was trying to find my way to the Barclay’s center interview room. Personally, I had spent the last 10 weeks feeling like the Utah Jazz had no shot at him. For me, Trey Burke had played his way out of a draftable spot for Utah. When the Jazz ended up trading up for him at #9 (seriously, step your game up Detroit Pistons) I just couldn’t believe how lucky the Jazz were. I was super lucky to have watched him on TV for every game of his NCAA career as I was living in Michigan. It was comforting to know I’d get the do the same again now in the pros.

For the fans back in Utah they went bonkers. The immediate need for the Jazz was a charismatic, marketable, stud point guard. Trey was a big game player with deep range, and able to play the pick and roll and make the right decision each time. That’s what Jazz fans grew up with watching John Stockton. And since the Deron Williams trade, the point guards who have played for Utah really left a lot to be desired.

Jazz fans really fell in love with Trey during March Madness, and couldn’t believe how lucky they were to get him. It was a justified feeling because normally you don’t get a Rookie of the Year candidate at #9 in the NBA Draft. That’s precisely what the Utah Jazz got this year.

What were Utah Jazz fans' expectations for Trey Burke?

Amar: The expectation was that he would be our starting point guard from day one, and while all rookies take some time to get their footing, he would be one of the top rookies of his class and be able to hold his own against most of the point guards he faced. In reality, he’s slightly ahead of expectations as a Rookie of the Year candidate (I felt like he would be there, but not all Jazz fans did), and has only really been killed by a veteran point guard once or twice this year.

Talk about Burke's first season as a rookie. How has it gone?

Amar: Burke had a very deep U-curve. He shot very poorly in summer league, and his understudy, draft pick Raul Neto of Brazil, outplayed him at times. Jazz fans swing from one extreme to the next very quickly, and many were vocal about their displeasure with Trey’s performance down in Orlando. (It wasn’t even the Vegas summer league!) Burke looked solid in preseason, but got injured. That was his lowest point as he required a surgery on his shooting hand, in his rookie year, keeping him out of even STARTING his rookie year. Thankfully his surgeon in Utah was a former Michigan grad, and it all worked out.

As Burke came back the team started to win games. And everyone started to fall in love with him again. Most of us always loved him, so it’s fine. It’s just that he had a crappy break early in his Jazz career, but it’s all forgotten / forgiven now. He can’t help it if the opposing team goes out there and breaks his bones in the preseason. Similarly, he can’t help it if he doesn’t get a lot of assists in the summer league because the guys he passes to can’t make their open jumpers.

Being the two time Western Conference Rookie of the month eases a lot of the initial worry about Trey Burke.

Where does Burke stand with the team right now?

Amar: Trey is one of the most popular players amongst the players and fans alike. He’s a legit stud with the NCAA hardware to back it up. He’s one of the few people on the Jazz team who has national cred, and that’s something all small market teams need. He was selected to participate in the Skills Contest and the Rookie game at All-Star weekend; and will be the only Jazz player to represent the franchise there. He spent some of his off-season working with John Stockton and is the absolute darling of this team. Very few players started from day one in Utah, or got to play a lot early on in their careers. Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward, and Alec Burks all didn’t. Even Deron Williams came off the bench at shooting guard early in his career. Trey has been given the keys to the car from the onset, and that is special.

There are only two ‘untouchables’ on the Jazz roster right now, Favors and Burke. That is an indication of how much faith the front office has in Trey. I think that they have a really special player here, and Trey can be an NBA All-Star in the future. Even if the Jazz get a Top 5 pick in this draft, Trey Burke is really going to be the floor general who directs this new Jazz era towards playoff success.

How is the decision to trade for Burke looking?

Amar: Well, let’s see. Rookie of the Year candidate vs. the #14 (Shabazz Muhammad) and #21 (Gorgui Dieng) picks in the draft? Dieng plays 6.0 mpg, and has played in only 31 games this year; while ‘Bazz plays 4.9 mpg in only 15 games this year. Right now there’s no comparison – this was a fleecing by the Utah Jazz. But if you want to compare, the Jazz gave up two players who average a combined 3.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.4 spg, and 0.5 bpg in 10.9 mpg. Right now Trey beats them in every category except bpg, he even out rebounds those two guys who are much bigger than him.

While I expect those two guys to get better as they get more experience and playing time, the team that usually wins the trade is the one who gets the best player back. In this case, it will always be Trey Burke being the best player. It was a great decision by Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey, and gives hope to Jazz fans that this new GM is going to be proactive and go out there to make the team better. So even the front office looks good here, it’s win-win-win for the Jazz team, fans, and big money boys.

Tim Hardaway Jr. (New York Knicks)

Links:
Posting and Toasting on Hardaway draft selection: "Weird."
New York Post: Hardaway Making an Impact for the Knicks
Tim Hardaway Jr. is One Bright Spot for Struggling Knicks
Why Tim Hardaway Jr. is the Clear Front-Runner for Rookie of the Year
Sports Illustrated: Hardaway and Waiters during Rising Stars Game into 1-on-1
Freep: Burke and Hardaway Shine in NBA All-Star Competition
MLive: Hardaway Steals the Spotlight at NBA Rising Stars Challenge
Hardaway Sr. Not Surprised at His Son's Success
Tim Hardaway Jr. Highights at Rising Stars Challenge (Video)

I also caught up with Seth of New York Knicks blog, Posting and Toasting, here on SB Nation. We talked about a variety of topics concerning Tim Hardaway Jr. (If you're ever find yourself curious about the Knicks, definitely check out Seth's stuff.)

On the reaction by New York Knicks fans when Hardaway was drafted:

Seth: I don't recall anyone being very upset about the pick, but many of us saw other names on the board we preferred. In particular, North Carolina guard Reggie Bullock -- bigger, better at defense, and perhaps more suited to a catch-and-score role -- was popular, and San Diego State's Jamaal Franklin was an intriguing defender-with-the-potential-to-blossom-offensively kinda guy. I would have preferred either of those two guys (and maybe even a few others) on draft night, so while I wasn't mad about Hardaway, I was a little disappointed. He hadn't factored much into our pre-draft conversation.

I don't follow college basketball that closely, so I was going off what I'd heard. And what I'd heard was Tim was a smart, coachable kid, but also a really streaky shooter with poor shot selection, and not someone likely to be a very good defender in the NBA. And yeah, the Knicks already had J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, so they didn't seem to need another wing without a really special skillset.

Someone like Reggie Bullock -- who was advertised as a deadly spot-up shooter, but not a gunner, and bigger in a way that suggested defensive potential -- seemed to make more sense. A guy who more readily fit into a role, since the Knicks were already a good team.

Did the Knicks fans' animosity towards former Miami Heat star Tim Hardaway Sr. have anything to do with it?

Seth: Yeah, Dad Hardaway had something to do with it. We hated that guy in the '90s, and a player not only carrying his genes but bearing his SAME DAMN NAME was slightly unsettling. Not in a dealbreaker kind of way, but since Hardaway wasn't considered an obvious 24th pick to begin with, it wasn't like there was a deal to be broken.

How has Hardaway Jr. performed as a rookie? Have opinions about him changed since draft day?

Seth: He's been very good, and yeah, I think we're generally pleased with him now. He's got a deadly -- if streaky -- shooting stroke that I didn't really sense coming out of college, and he's absolutely brilliant around the rim. Tim's one of the more competent young finishers I've seen in a Knicks uniform -- not just athletic, but poised and dazzlingly clever. His defense is pretty poor -- he just gets beat constantly -- but it's really tough to defend the perimeter with the Knicks. Everyone around him sucks at that end. But yeah, Tim's gone from a draft selection many of us didn't approve to one of the few guys on the team almost everyone wants to keep around.

Where does he stand with the team?

Seth: He's gotten minutes all year, and [New York Knicks head coach] Mike Woodson seems to like him (for good reason). And when rumors came up that the Knicks might assemble a package to trade for Kyle Lowry, the Knicks sounded committed to keeping Hardaway out of that deal. His future? Well, one would like to imagine a promising young rookie developing into a more versatile offensive player and a useful defender. That's supposed to be how that works. With the Knicks, though, it's hard not to assume they'll either bungle his development or trade him before he amounts to much or both. They do not have a good recent track record with building players start to finish.

Any other thoughts on Tim Hardaway Jr.?

Seth: We were wrong about him. Tim's shot selection wavers, and he's definitely streaky, and his defense is not good, but he's already SUCH a deadly shooter when he sets his feet, and his skills in transition are unlike anything I've ever seen in a player his age. And the Knicks have been bad, and Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith have either been bad or hurt for much of the season, so he's been a big help. I love Tim. He's easily the most exciting, promising young Knick right now.

A very special thanks to both Amar and Seth for their great answers!

Be sure to check out both SLC Dunk and Posting and Toasting for all your Utah Jazz and New York Knicks updates.

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