Trey Burke New York Knicks
Michael J. LeBrecht II/Getty Images

New York Knicks point guard Trey Burke brings a fresh, much quicker element to the offense that’ll benefit Kristaps Porzingis and Jeff Hornacek‘s uptempo offense. 

Something interesting is brewing in the five boroughs and it’s directly tied to the showrunner.

For an incredible number of years (decades, if you’ve kept count), the New York Knicks haven’t employed a true franchise point guard to show off to the world. Jeremy Lin‘s several exciting weeks cannot be counted and I’ll be damned if Stephon Marbury is even contemplated. (And yes, Derek Harper was that grind-it-out defensive-minded court leader everybody loved, but he’ll undoubtedly go down in history wearing Dallas Mavericks colors.)

Not since Walt Clyde Frazier have the Knickerbockers possessed a true difference-maker at the one.


Frank Ntilikina is the chosen one. Jarrett Jack is the surprising one.

New York Knicks

Trey Burke is the exciting one and may just be equipped with the right stuff suited to fit both the head coach and the organization’s franchise face.

Since New York snagged the former ninth overall pick via the Minnesota Timberwolves, there have been two Burke sightings. Burke, 25, is averaging six points and two assists in 11.5 minutes per contest. Modest numbers, no doubt, but that’s why film exists. That’s why our basketball-driven eyes were created by the hardwood and blacktop gods.

Burke at the one brings an element to this offense that we’ve yet to witness. It’s a quicker offense, a more fluid group that’s suddenly afforded the opportunity to run sets previously buried down deep in the playbook.

Ntilikina, despite his solid athleticism for his lanky 6-foot-5 frame, isn’t a fluid mover on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, he’s a menace. Between the ears, he feels like a young warrior. But when it comes to dishing the ball and finishing, Frank’s awkwardness shines through.

Jack is a half-court point guard who’d be much better served as a 1990s leader. It’s that simple. Despite Jeff Hornacek’s best efforts to push the ball, Jack’s inability to get the transition game going on a nightly basis is evident.

Burke is the polar opposite.

With young Trey in the game, a brand new lease on life appears. The transition game gets going and most importantly, the Knicks can run pick-and-roll to an efficient NBA league average—at the very least.

Finally, the Knicks have joined the rest of this pick-and-roll league they call the “Association.”

Pick-and-Roll Game

Ntilikina and Jack both struggle in the pick-and-roll game. With Burke on the court, the Knicks have joined the rest of the NBA. They can actually run pick-and-roll 100 percent of the time if they chose to.

For Burke, it’s a strength—one that serves Kristaps Porzingis brilliantly. KP, who’s struggled since Tim Hardaway Jr. initially left the lineup and hit the shelf, hasn’t been afforded much help and the main issue in KP’s leading ways has been where he catches the ball. With Burke and the pick-and-roll, that completely changes.

On this play—early in the second-quarter in the Knicks 117-115 victory over the Utah Jazz on Friday night—a very lazy pick-and-roll that turns into an early roll release by KP affords the Latvian prime real estate in terms of where he catches the ball:

Everybody understands what a pick-and-roll is, but not everybody understands the level for which NBA teams use it. It literally can be run every trip down the court while leading into other sets.

KP won’t just benefit by receiving the ball in those dirty areas of the lane. He’ll benefit from downtown as well.

On this play late in the game, a pick-and-pop with a little fade action results in a KP three off a beautifully-timed Burke dish:

Transition Game

Pick-and-roll, as lovely as it is under these free-swinging NBA-scoring days, isn’t the only positive of a quicker point guard who can distribute and move quicker than anybody on the court. Pushing the pace is equally as important.

On the following play, watch Burke’s path from when he catches the ball and until he draws the foul on Ricky Rubio:

Showrunner Skills

From the small sample-size provided, it’s clear that the kid understands the position he plays. His offensive awareness as a whole could be rated as good.

The immediate play after Hardaway hit the top of the circle three, Burke didn’t mess around. Instead, he got his former Michigan teammate the ball up top right away:

No Fear

While playing most of the fourth quarter in Utah, Burke dropped a few big shots from the perimeter. He even took it hard to the rack on a couple of occasions.

On this example, with the wing pick-and-roll with Michael Beasley busted up, he finds Enes Kanter in the high-slot. Having difficulty shaking Rubio, Burke demonstrates no fear in cutting backdoor to the basket for the handoff and floater to put the Knicks up four with under five minutes remaining:

Final Thoughts

Don’t be surprised when Trey Burke is inserted into the starting lineup soon.

The Knicks offensive book has been pretty obvious thus far. With Jack and the starters in, Horns is the main set. Both Porzingis and Kanter man the high-post with Hardaway and Courtney Lee wing-extended.

When Ntilikina, Beasley and especially Doug McDermott are on the court with KP on the bench, Horncek likes to run a pure motion offense with Beasley Iso sprinkled in. This especially favors McDermott’s off-ball madness.

With Burke on the floor, everything’s on the table due to his excellent pick-and-roll play. With Burke running the show for the starters and Ntilikina taking care of the defensive aspect of the second unit and with tough point guard assignments, this team can do serious damage moving forward.

With Trey Burke, it shouldn’t shock anybody to see the New York Knicks surprise folks and rip off a few winning streaks the rest of the way.

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