Trey Burke and the Jazz visit the Pistons on Friday at The Palace. (John Raoux / Associated Press)
Auburn Hills — The Utah Jazz are coming to The Palace on Friday, which hasn’t been a big deal since John Stockton was running the pick and roll with Karl Malone.
But it is a big deal to many Detroit fans because former Michigan guard Trey Burke will run the point for the Jazz. He is going through growing pains like any rookie, but his numbers tell a story of a young guy who can play while he learns.
The Jazz are 12-16 since Burke returned to the lineup after breaking his finger. The team was 1-10 without him. That is a sign that he can lead a team even though he is developing his leadership skills.
The Pistons (16-22) had a shot at drafting Burke with the eighth pick of the 2013 NBA draft. Instead they selected Kentavious Caldwell-Pope out of Georgia. Later they traded for Brandon Jennings to handle point guard duties.
So now the question that will linger is: Would the Pistons have been better off by drafting Burke and signing a couple of cheaper players? Or are they better off with Jennings and Caldwell-Pope?
Jennings is a better point guard than Burke right now. But how long will that be the case?
“Brandon is finding the balance between being a scorer and being a distributor,” said NBA analyst Jerry Stackhouse, who played briefly with Jennings in Milwaukee. “He can be a dynamic scorer, but sometimes it is hard to find that balance. Sometimes you need to be more aggressive or sometimes you need to find ways to get guys involved.”
Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks defended his guys following a brief workout at the Pistons practice facility Tuesday. He said he will spend the next couple of days looking at tape on the Jazz because he has not seen Burke play yet as a pro.
“I like the guys we got,” Cheeks said. “I like Brandon with what he has done. He is like a sponge for learning the game, so I like that about him. I like his competitive spirit. I like the way he plays. I like everything about him.”
Caldwell-Pope has been praised for his length and defense. But he has shot the ball better in the last couple of weeks. He is averaging 11.1 points a game and shooting 51.7 percent from the floor during his last six games. He hit two big buckets during a recent victory over Phoenix.
“KCP is a work in progress,” Cheeks said. “He is a rookie like Trey Burke. The more minutes he plays, the more time he gets, the better he is going to get. The guys that we’ve got, I like them.”
Caldwell-Pope said he is feeling more comfortable in the offense and has studied veteran teammates on the way they come off curls and set up their shots.
“He is not afraid to take shots,” Stackhouse said. “He has the ability to get to the basket a little bit. I like his overall game and I think he will get better.”
Caldwell-Pope said it is all about comfort.
“I think I am handling it pretty well,” Caldwell-Pope said. “I am getting pretty confident with my team and with playing here. It is good to be out there. I know my shot will eventually fall because I am a shooter. And if I keep my confidence level up it will fall and I will continue to get better.”
He must get better because he will always be linked with Burke.