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Insider

Top draft PG? It's Burke over McCollum

5/16/2013

If this were the NFL, where the more draft picks a team accumulates the better, a team would think of trading out of the top of this NBA draft because there is no surefire future All-Star. There is enough depth at a couple of positions, including point guard, that a quality future rotation player can be had as deep as the middle of the second round.

Michigan's Trey Burke is, for most teams, the best point guard in this draft. While he is coming off a fabulous sophomore season at Michigan, he is not considered on the same level as recent high picks like Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose and John Wall.

Because Burke will be selected by a team in the lottery that will have a specific need for the position, he has a chance to have the same impact that the Blazers' Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard had this season. Burke will likely start immediately, but I am not sure even he and his great will to win can affect a team's improvement right away.

While a number of point guards are on Burke's heels, including Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams and German Dennis Schroeder, Lehigh's C.J. McCollum, because of his prolific career before an injury sidelined him in early January, would be my candidate to be selected next.

McCollum, in fact, is getting some timely help from the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry, as some NBA teams see the comparison of a small school scoring point guard who made the transition rather seamlessly. Those teams are hoping lightning strikes twice.

Let's compare the two players, with Burke being the favorite to go first but McCollum being a nice alternative later in the first round.


The favorite

Trey Burke, Michigan Wolverines

Burke is a junkyard dog. For all of the talent the 6-foot floor general has, his greatest attribute is that he is an intense competitor, and he proved it in many pressure situations during his two-season career at Michigan. In a league that will chew up and spit out young players, especially at point guard, it is an attribute that will come in handy.

While I can nitpick Burke's size -- although he does have a 6-foot-5 wingspan -- and relative lack of elite athleticism at the NBA level, he has a skill package of shooting with deep range and accuracy, excellent craftiness with the ball and good passing ability to go along with his toughness that will serve him well.

Michigan coach John Beilein, a man with a great offensive mind, paid Burke the ultimate compliment by giving him the ball as a freshman and allowing him the freedom to play in transition, in isolations and in screen-and-roll situations.

Remember that, as a scorer, Burke was extremely effective. He not only shot 38 percent behind the arc and showed NBA 3-point range in the process, but he was also extremely effective inside the arc, making more than 50 percent of his 2-pointers.

Combining his talent with excellent acumen in ball-screen situations made Burke hard to guard and prepared him well for the NBA, where offensive spacing will accentuate his ability. Burke scored 256 points in the pick-and-roll, the most in the country, while shooting 44 percent and turning it over only 8 percent of the time.

As a creative playmaker, Burke was just as successful. In the Big Ten, he assisted on almost 50 percent of the Wolverines' baskets while he was on the floor. That is an insane number.

Will Burke struggle at times on the defensive end and be overmatched? He most certainly will. He'll be defending some of the most explosive athletes in the NBA in open space and will find it a major challenge, but he will eventually adjust.