Detroit Pistons Writer
The Detroit Pistons had an active offseason.
On draft day, the team selected Jaden Ivey with the fifth overall pick. At the tail end of the lottery, Detroit acquired the draft rights to Jalen Duren in a trade with the New York Knicks.
In free agency, the team re-signed Marvin Bagley III to a three-year deal and added Kevin Knox on a two-year deal. Detroit also brought back Rodney McGruder on a one-year veteran minimum contract.
On the trade market, Pistons’ GM Troy Weaver continued to work his magic. Detroit acquired Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel among other compensation in a second trade with the Knicks. In return, Detroit sent New York the draft rights to Nikola Radicevic and a protected 2025 second-round pick. In the Knicks’ desperation to open up cap space to sign Jalen Brunson in free agency, Detroit was able to acquire two capable veteran players for almost nothing.
Noel is a reliable shot blocker when healthy. Detroit currently has a logjam at the center spot, so it will be interesting to see how head coach Dwane Casey works the veteran big man into his rotation.
Burks is the more intriguing player from the Knicks trade package. The 31-year-old figures to play a much bigger role in Detroit than Noel. While Burks is far from the headlining acquisition from this offseason, he is sure to play an important role in 2022-23.
Alec Burks brings immediate help from beyond the arc
The Pistons were an abysmal three-point shooting team this past season. The team ranked 29th in three-point shooting percentage at 32.6 percent. They ranked 26th in three-pointers made, while ranking 16th in attempts.
It was clear that shooting was an area that would need to yet again be addressed this offseason.
Burks is coming off of back-to-back seasons shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc, and he did so on good volume. In 2020-21, Burks shot a career-high 41.5 percent on five three-point attempts per game. In 2021-22, he shot 40.4 percent on 4.8 shot attempts from three-point range. The veteran has not shot below 36 percent from long range in a season since the 2017-18 season.
On a team where very few players are certain to be good shooters this season, the addition of Burks to the Pistons’ roster is an invaluable one. He spaces the floor, opening up room for Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey to go to work in the paint. He provides a reliable catch-and-shoot option when Cunningham or Ivey draw double-teams on drive attempts.
Alec Burks offers positional flexibility
Standing at 6-6 and 214 pounds, Burks has the size necessary to play the three. He also has the handle and the playmaking chops to play point guard. His ability to play anywhere from one through three in a rotation gives Detroit more flexibility in lineup combinations than they had when Frank Jackson came off the bench in a three-point shooting role last season.
Burks’ playmaking is by no means spectacular, but it is respectable. This past season with the Knicks, the 31-year-old averaged three assists per game. He is not going to be the main ball-handler or initiator on offense for Detroit, Cunningham, Ivey and Killian Hayes all fill that role already. However, as a secondary ball-handler, he can create plays for his teammates when called upon.
The veteran is a positive team defender as well. Burks finished the 2021-22 season with 2.9 defensive win shares and a defensive box plus/minus of 1.2. He is not going to lock up opposing stars, but he will help improve a Pistons’ defense that ranked 24th in defensive rating this past season.
Will Burks be dealt at the deadline?
If becoming a play-in team is on the minds of Detroit’s front office and coaching staff, the 31-year-old will have an important role to play this season. However, if the season trajectory is leaning towards another bottom-five finish, there is reason to believe Burks could be dealt at the trade deadline.
Burks provides a service that every contending team would be willing to part with draft capital for. Burks is an above-average role player on a contract that is not impossible to trade for. If Detroit’s season goes downhill early on in the year, teams will come calling for Burks, and the Pistons will likely take those calls seriously.
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