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NBA Draft: Deonte Burton has point guard tools the Suns covet

The Phoenix Suns invited Deonte Burton to their first NBA Draft workout of the summer on Tuesday and could see him fitting into their style if he learns to corral his unique talents.


There’s a good chance you might not know Nevada Wolfpack guard Deonte Burton’s name, but even so there’s a decent shot you are familiar with his athleticism. Watchers of SportsCenter likely saw two of his dunks – an alley-oop variety against UNLV and another came off a give-and-go against Boise State. It’s that freakish leaping ability that makes him an intriguing NBA prospect. Burton is 6-foot-1 but strong. His 6-foot-6 wingspan allows him to put down dunks from afar and shoot over taller players on contests, and his whole package allows him to work well off the dribble in isolation and pick-and-roll situations. Burton averaged 20.1 points and 4.3 assists per game in his senior season at Nevada.


For all the athletic advantages at Burton’s disposal, he struggled learning how to use them. Though he played for a 15-17 Nevada team that needed Burton to dominate the ball, he did get trapped into standing on the perimeter and pounding dribbles into the floor. And when he did drive, Burton wasn’t always keeping his head up and looking for open teammates. Burton’s jump shot is not broken, but he could use improvement in taking better shots off the dribble — that’s not to say he didn’t do well pulling up at the right time, say off of pick-and-roll action.


How successful Burton’s NBA career will be depends on his attitude and adjustments on the offensive end. He has the strength to defend and the athleticism to be an aggressive point guard a la a poor man’s Russell Westbrook, but like the Oklahoma City Thunder guard, such players have taller peaks and lower valleys from game to game and play to play. Harnessing the athleticism and growing with a competent team that puts forth basic ground rules would be most beneficial for Burton to find a niche and become an efficient NBA player who need not dominate the ball.

How he would fit in Phoenix

A number of the best point guards in the 2014 draft will go in the middle or late lottery, meaning Nik Stauskas and Tyler Ennis might be gone by the Suns’ 14th pick. But if the Suns want further point guard insurance beyond Ish Smith and Archie Goodwin should either Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe leave in the next year, Burton would be one of the higher-potential athletes on the boards in the second round. While a number of second rounders could be viewed as role players, Burton could be the diamond in the rough. He would thrive in the Suns’ up-tempo offense as a player similar to Eric Bledsoe. Burton pushed the ball in transition often at Nevada and though he’s perhaps not a true point guard, he could give the team yet another guard who can beat players off the dribble in the halfcourt and use hesitation and Eurostep moves in the fullcourt to weave his way to the rim.

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  • Jared3636

    Given his athleticism and college production, taking him as a late second pick is not a bad idea. It’s a low risk/high reward situation where not much is expected from a player taken that late in the draft.

  • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

    Another mediocre little PG. No thanks. Suns have gone down this rode too many times already. Sean Singletary? Dee Brown?

  • 4everis2long

    Good insight Kev. I have never seen him play but I can see why the Suns have some interest. It seems he has certain attributes that are not easily taught or cannot be taught at all. Athletic, long wingspan, high release on his jump shot and quick first step are really good qualities for a point guard. When you add he has good lateral quickness on defense , I can see the appeal in the 2nd round. He can learn to overcome most of his perceived deficiencies. The one that is most troubling is dribbling with his head down which is obviously a huge obstacle to seeing the floor on offense to find cutters and guys open on the wings. However this can be corrected in the D-league. I will keep an eye on this guy no matter where he goes.

    • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

      Not picking a fight here but a PG who is a college graduate and dribbles with his head down speaks volumes about his natural PG abilities. I can apply this to different missing skills on players of different positions. The first thing I learned when I started playing ball as a kid was ball-handling skills that included passing. Guys that I played with knew I could get them the ball anytime and anywhere they wanted it.

      This young man scored 20 PPG from the PG position to only four dimes and dribbles with his head down. IMO you can’t teach a player at the NBA level “natural” passing skills. We have seen players like him already and they become scoring points. The Heat have two, maybe three on their roster already, Norris Cole, Toney Douglas, and you might even include Mario Chalmers.

      Suns had Barbosa who is a fantastic example. How about Marcus Banks? When an NBA PG fails in D’Antoni’s SSOL, well the guy is truly lacking in the most basic basketball fundamentals.

      Even Archie Goodwin is a more natural SG than PG but at least he is built like a prototypical NBA SG.

      I’m just not a big fan of NBA players lacking in the most fundamental skills.

      • 4everis2long

        EBJM, Your point is well taken which is why I said above dribbling with your head down is absolutely a concern. While I hate to compare someone I have never seen play to Westbrook, who I always thought would be a really good NBA point guard even while he was at UCLA, Some people do not remember as a freshman Westbrook did not average one assist a game and as a sophomore averaged about 4 assists a game and his team being far better than the Nevada team. However I know he also shared the point guard duties with D. Collison. You will recall there were tons of fans on the Coro website and around the NBA who questioned if Westbrook would ever be a good point guard.

        I think all I am saying I would not summarily dismiss him as a draftee because he allegedly dribbles with his head down, preventing him from seeing the floor and only averaged 4 assists a game. It is a big concern because you are right it is a fundamental skill of being a good point guard. Although those flaws could be fatal as you suggest, IMO his positive attributes make him a candidate worth looking at.

        • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

          Westbrook actually is a great example. His overall skills are at the NBA level as he has shown he can pass IF he chooses to. His fatal flaw is he simply cannot gain any satisfaction as being a facilitator to Durant’s scoring. Going for the assist always seems to be secondary to him scoring and often will not result in the best decision with the ball.

          Brooks recognizes that and started Jackson alongside him because Sefolosha simply isn’t much of a player. Too bad Jackson sprained his ankle in game four.

          I guess my point still goes back to four year players not being fundamentally sound when they reach the NBA and writers are forced to highlight attributes such as being long-armed and athletic freaks and that a team can teach him how to play ball after they draft him.

          IDK, maybe I just have too much “old school” in me. Playing and watching ball back when the NBA could have been mistaken for hockey just has left me too cynical in regards to today’s game and players. I simply don’t recall so many players with limited skills having to be taught how to play ball after they reached the NBA.

      • Kevin Zimmerman

        To be fair, I could have written that a little better. I think the bigger issue is the pounding the rock and missing some passes, not necessarily the head down thing (I mean, Goran Dragic has his head down way too much, IMO). And again, the context here is that Nevada was not good, and so I think it’s understandable he might have forced his own shots if he didn’t trust teammates who couldn’t even get into sets.

        • EarlBlackJesusMonroe

          You do a fantastic job with your writing. Personally I’m impressed with the quantity and originality of your stuff. Keep up the great job.