Philadelphia 76ers: Alec Burks is a jack of all trades sixth man

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

While Glenn Robinson III projects effortlessly as a 3-and-D wing, Alec Burks has the potential to become the Philadelphia 76ers’ go-to shot-creating sixth man coming off the bench.

The Philadelphia 76ers are not a team with a bunch of players who can create their own shot.

Call it an unfortunate byproduct of having a supersized starting five where each player will earn an average of $28 million per season over the durations of their collective deals, or a conscious decision to prioritize size over usage rates, but outside of 6-foot-10 point guard Ben Simmons, and I guess secondary playmaker Josh Richardson, the Sixers don’t have a single true-blue point guard under contract for more than the veteran minimum.

Factor in still Brett Brown‘s tendency to rotate his aforementioned veteran minimum point guards, Trey Burke and Raul Neto, every dozen or so games, and any hopes of building a cohesive second unit has become South Philly’s version of a white whale.

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Apparently, Elton Brand noticed this discrepancy too, as in the wee hours of the night, 1:30 AM EST give or take, the second-year GM made a massive trade to bolster the bench and give his seventh-year head coach a slew of new options coming off the bench.

And while the duo look relatively similar on paper, as they’re both 6-foot-6, 220ish pound guard/forwards, their style of play couldn’t be more complementary.

While Glenn Robinson III has developed himself into a borderline prototypical 3-and-D wing with low usage and an ability to slam home an easy two, Alec Burks is a much more dynamic athlete who can mix things up in open space and find his own shot.

Hey, why pick one or the other when you can have your cake and eat it too?

Over the course of his seven-year NBA career, the 12th overall selection in the 2011 NBA Draft has played in a variety of different schemes with the Utah Jazz, the Sacramento Kings, and the post-LeBron Cleveland Cavaliers, but as unlikely as it may sound, he really came into his own in 2019-20 with the Golden State Warriors due to their unique brand of pass-happy, motion-based offense.

Though Burks has always had a knack for creating his own shot in isolation, Steve Kerr‘s scheme encouraged the 28-year-old to get his teammates more involved – nearly doubling his assists per game total from a lowly 1.6 with the Jazz, to a smidge over three with the Warriors.

Factor in a near-career-high 37.5 shooting percentage from beyond the arc on almost five attempts a game, another career-high, and Burke may join P.J. Tucker as one of the rare NBA lifers who took their game up a notch 20 odd months before turning 30.

But how does Burks fit in with the Sixers as presently constructed? Well, I’m glad you asked.

Despite having just faced off against the Nets in Brooklyn in what was ultimately a fruitless homecoming for D’Angelo Russell, it feels borderline impossible to imagine Burks and GRIII flying to Philly, taking their physicals, and somehow getting to Milwaukee in time for the team’s 8:30 tip-off against the Milwaukee Bucks. That being said, Brown and company may opt to ease the duo into his rotation over the final three games before All-Star weekend, where the 76ers will play three games in five days against the Grizzlies, Bulls, and Clippers.

However, once Burks gets acclimated to Brown’s system, don’t be surprised if he’s given a chance to run the point in place of Neto or Burke, a pair of players he shared the court with in Utah. Though Burks has mostly been relegated to the wings as a pro, he’s consistently been at his best with a usage rate of 20 or more. With only one of the 76ers’ bench contributors having a rating that high – Shake Milton in a 269-minute sample size – there is a clearly defined role for a player with Burks’ talents coming off the bench.

Furthermore, Burks looks like a natural to take over minutes alongside Simmons in the team’s now-routine two point guard lineups in place of Burke and Neto, who are less effective off the ball perched on the wings.

To put it simply, Burks can essentially serve the same role as Josh Richardson in a reserve capacity, with a slightly more effective offensive game and a slightly less effective defensive game. In theory, the team could also play the duo together, and maintain size without Simmons on the court, while giving defenders fits against a two point guard set. Burks is versatile enough to play with every player on the Sixers’ roster, in pretty much any lineup imaginable.

dark. Next. Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III will fit in perfectly

Could Alec Burks eventually replace Al Horford in Brett Brown’s closing lineup when the team wants to trade in a little size for playmaking and switchability? That is entirely possible, but regardless of which former Warriors player ends up the more effective option, it’s beyond encouraging to see Elton Brand add a pair of guard/forwards who can play in any lineup and each add their own unique wrinkles to the Philadelphia 76ers’ beyond stagnant offense.