Philadelphia 76ers: For Trey Burke, hard work pays off

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

After coming into 2019 with a non-guaranteed deal, Trey Burke worked his way up from deep bench reserve to the Philadelphia 76ers’ top reserve point guard.

When Trey Burke signed with the Philadelphia 76ers over the summer, he was quite literally an afterthought.

Heck, a month into the regular season, Burke was a far bench afterthought with very little chance of having his non-guaranteed contract picked up when the January 7th deadline rolled around.

Woah, woah, woah, not so fast, my friend, as here we are, the seventh day of the twenty-first century’s second decade, and Trey Burke is not only still a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, but the team’s backup point guard – surpassing Raul Neto as Ben Simmons‘ small-bodied foil.

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What a difference a year makes.

Despite coming out of Michigan with some serious pedigree – a pedigree that made him the ninth overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft – playing time, let alone consistent NBA employment, has been anything but steady for the somehow still only 27-year-old point guard.

We’re talking stops with his original team the Utah Jazz, a stint with the Washington Wizards, time with the Knicks – both the New York and their G-League Westchester counterparts – and the Dallas Mavericks before finally landing in the City of Brotherly Love.

Think about that for a second, the Sixers’ top bench scorer over the last month was relegated to the G-League this time two years ago, as even the lowly Knicks didn’t want to keep him on their active roster.

How many teams can say that?

And yet, even I, the very same dude who wrote “Why can’t Trey Burke get on the court?”, wondered periodically why Burke was suddenly earning minutes behind Simmons with his contract guarantee date fast approaching. Was Brett Brown showcasing his third-string point guard to facilitate some sort of trade to a PG hungry team? Or was this an extended tryout to see if Burke deserved the team’s 15th roster spot over two-way rebounded Norvel Pelle, ex-Golden State Warriors forward Marquese Chriss or G-League superstar Marial Shayok?

Nope. It turns out, the Sixers were playing Burke because they felt he gave the team the best chance to win, and while the team wasn’t doing a whole lot of winning over that tenure, it wasn’t at all on their backup point guard.

Granted, one could argue swapping out Burke for a player like Dennis Schroder, or really, any of the OKC Thunders‘ bevy of pass-happy points, would make the Sixers even better, as TB23 doesn’t really pass and is a horrible defender even for his size, giving meaningful playing time to a point guard who can make his own shot and do so effectively could be a massive upgrade over the early season returns with Neto at the offense’s helm.

But just because Neto made it past that initial hurdle doesn’t mean he’s safe for the rest of the season – far from it.

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With the NBA trade deadline less than a month away, it’s totally possible that the Philadelphia 76ers could prioritize adding depth at the point guard position over the coming days at the expense of their bench players’ contracts, but until that day comes – if it does at all – Trey Burke looks to have finally found a reliable role with the Philadelphia 76ers.