Talk about a win-win move for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Who knows, maybe when Burke’s time on the open market crept into week two, Elton Brand decided his upside was simply too high to pass up? Even after landing their preferred reserve point guard, Raul Neto, on the second day of free agency, sometimes having two is better than one, especially after watching T.J. McConnell sign a respectable two-year, $7 million with the Indiana Pacers.
Despite being fully healthy for the entire season, Burke only appeared in 25 games without a single start, while averaging a career-low 5.9 points per game in 13.2 minutes of action a night. His 42.3 shooting percentage was easily the highest mark of both his career and of any player on the Philadelphia 76ers’ roster, but that didn’t matter too much when he was only able to put up 38 shots over 329 total minutes.
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So, needless to say, when the 76ers needed to free up a roster spot to convey Norvel Pelle‘s two-way contract to a full-on NBA deal back in February, the decision to move on from Burke was the most logical choice. Granted, it’d have made more sense to do so before his contract became fully guaranteed a month prior, but who could have really foreseen Pelle’s emergence a few days into the new year?
And to be fair, since having his contract converted, Pelle was having a pretty great 2020 all things considered. He’d officially supplanted Kyle O’Quinn as the team’s top reserve center not named Al Horford, made a name for himself as a rim-running paint protector, and even added a few new members to South Philly’s new favorite block party.
Sure, his stat line isn’t amazing, as he’s only averaging 2.1 points and three rebounds a game, but what do you really expect for a player averaging less than nine minutes of action a night? If you check out the Per 36 minutes, Pelle’s 12.1 rebounds and 5.1 (!?) blocks would even outpace Joel Embiid. Granted, Per 36 numbers aren’t real numbers and we may never see Pelle put up five blocks in a game, but then again, he’s already surpassed four in a single game, so to paraphrase Kevin Garnett, I guess ‘anything is possible‘.
Burke, by contrast, spent the rest of the pre-shutdown season unemployed, before receiving an oppertunity to re-join the Dallas Mavericks, his 2018-19 team, to replace midseason tradee Willie Cauley-Stein. After missing the Mavs’ first two scrimmage games due to quarantine, Burke made his NBA Bubble debut against his old team on Tuesday night, and needless to say, he went hard. Call it a chance to even things up after being waived midseason, but Burke was all over the court during his 22 of his minutes of action, putting up nine points and three assists on 3-8 shots from the field.
But let’s be real, Burke isn’t the reason the Sixers lost, or the Mavericks won. No, the reason the Sixers lost is because of their abysmal shooting in the first half, but even that wasn’t enough to keep the team out of it, as Alec Burks, filling a role similar to the one formerly filled by Burke, helped to bring his new team back as their top scorer coming off the bench.
Like Burke, Burks can create his own shot and knock them down from anywhere on the court, but his size, standing six inches taller and 39 pounds heavier, makes him a much sturdier defender and a more flexible wing scorer regardless of what position he’s technically tasked with playing.
Personally speaking, give me Burks, Pelle, and Glenn Robinson III over Burke, Jonah Bolden, and James Ennis III any day of the week.
Was it a tad unconventional to sign a 6-foot-nothing combo guard with a shakey defensive reputation to play on a team built around size and versatility? Yes. Was allowing his contract to become guaranteed before waiving him a month later a real head-scratcher? Most definitely. But ultimately, the Philadelphia 76ers’ decision to waive Trey Burke in favor of Norvel Pelle was the right call, as it puts both players in the best position to succeed moving forward even if their playoff roles are far from certain. At this point, isn’t that all that matters?