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.