The Dallas Mavericks added guard Trey Burke to the roster for the Orlando restart in lieu of a big…Why?

As the Dallas Mavericks get settled into the “Orlando Bubble” and await the required 48 hrs for their first round of Covid tests to come back, it’s worth looking at what moves the Mavs did (also did not) make before they set their restart roster.

On June 25th, prior to the restart of team activities, backup big man Willie Caulie-Stein made the difficult decision to opt-out of the season restart citing the birth of his first child in July as his reasoning. Of course, no father could begrudge him not wanting to miss the birth and those first chances to bond with their child. And if you look at the timing of it, whether planned or not, this child SHOULD have been born well AFTER the end of the 2020 finals, so it wouldn’t have interfered at all with his playing in any ordinary season, but 2020 is clearly anything but ordinary. No one can disagree with Willie’s decision making here and Mavs Nation wishes him and his family well.

However, with WCS leaving the team for personal reasons, the league grants the Mavs a roster spot to replace him. This is the ONLY roster spot the Mavs opened as the rest of the team is injury based, but traveling with the team (Brunson, Lee & Powell are injured, but with the team in Orlando).

So, the obvious idea to replace a springy big man would be to sign a…springy big man, right?

Not if you’re Donnie Nelson. You sign veteran backup guard Trey Burke.

Personnel Decision

In a press conference on July 1st, Donnie was asked specifically about this on the zoom press conference to the media.

He responded that is really a matter of looking at the rest of the roster and addressing the greatest need.

Expounding further on this issue of need, Donnie went on to say they realized that there wasn’t a big available on the open market that they would rather play OVER Boban, so this made sense on multiple fronts.

When you look at the depth chart for the Mavericks you see how obvious the need for a player like Burke is.

Before adding Burke, the Mavs essentially had 3 guards to play 2 spots: Curry, Hardaway Jr., and Barea. The other guards on the roster are on the injury list. Jalen Brunson is still working to rehab his shoulder injury he sustained back in February. And Courtney Lee is out with a calf injury he suffered during the NBA shutdown.

Meanwhile, for the playoffs, Curry and Hardaway Jr. are set to see big minutes at the guard positions but relying on Barea to carry to load off the bench by himself is a recipe for disaster. Barea, while an amazing spark plug off the bench, is still 36 years old with a long injury history and still can’t play 2 positions at once. So, signing Burke makes sense from a personnel standpoint alone.

Prior Knowledge

Going back to Donnie’s point that Trey knows the system, knows Rick and probably most importantly “Rick trusts him”, these are no small things given the circumstances. With there being a ramp up to the July 31st restart, but precious little ACTUAL court time built in, a player with insider knowledge of the Mavs’ organization is like getting free training time. For the first week of ‘restart training camp’, the Mavs did not play basketball as a team. It was strength and conditioning work and individual shooting drills. And then they flew to The Bubble.

This would not be an ideal circumstance to bring in a player with no knowledge of the team because it’s less than 3 weeks before the first real game is played and another player wouldn’t have had ANY court time with his new time. A player like Trey Burke can skip a few steps and jump back in with guys he played with less than a year ago. A win-win.

Scoring Ability

With all this being said of Trey Burke’s fit with the Mavs, it’s no small thing that he’s actually quite the serviceable backup guard. He can run point or be a backup shooter. He has a career scoring average of 10.5 PPG. With the Mavs last season, he averaged 9.7 PPG in 17.4 minutes a game with an effective field goal percentage of 53.2%. His 3PT shooting was only ok, shooting 35.6%, which means most of his scoring was off cuts and scoring at the rim, which this team needs for spacing, so that works too!

There is a small glimmer of hope that his 3PT shooting can be a factor this year as he got his 3PT percentage up to 42.1% over 25 games played in Philly. This doesn’t HAVE to be a factor for Trey on this team as he’ll most likely only play 12-15 min a night, but if Barea is running point, he can spot up a la Courtney Lee and spread the floor for JJ to operate. Simultaneously, he can save JJ’s legs some, too, in that he can slash and let JJ shoot from the outside where he is shooting 38.2% on the year.

Michael Lark,
Photo: —

All in all, Trey Burke made the most sense for the Mavs, given the situation at hand. He definitely wasn’t a surprising or sexy pick, but this team is already set to make the playoffs (WOO HOO!!!) so there wasn’t a need to make a splash on the WAIVER WIRE.

Yes, it could have been interesting to see Isaiah Thomas playing next to Boban and shoot 41.3% from 3PT for the Mavs playoff run or a Nene bring some energy off the bench or even taking a total flyer on someone like Allen Crabbe who could be a Mavs project this offseason.

All those other players would require changing something about the Mavs rotations and even playing styles to make them effective. Trey has proven that he would fit right in and will be perfectly serviceable to get us through this season and offseason.

Trey Burke really illustrates that the Mavs like what they have, the like who they have, and are happy to take their chances in Orlando just the way they are.

Featured Image: Michael Lark
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