The role player the Detroit Pistons can’t win without

Detroit Pistons guard Alec Burks (5) dribbles defended by Philadelphia 76ers guard Matisse Thybulle Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Pistons guard Alec Burks (5) dribbles defended by Philadelphia 76ers guard Matisse Thybulle Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

Alec Burks has missed the last three games for the Detroit Pistons and it has shown.

In the absences of Bojan Bogdanovic and Monte Morris, Alec Burks gave the Pistons an offensive boost off the bench and a veteran presence on both ends of the floor. He’s exemplified the type of veteran leadership the Pistons need as the young core grows and develops, and even though he is a role player, having him out has been a massive problem for Detroit.

Of the five lineups that have played at least 10 minutes together, Alec Burks is part of the best three on offense and defense, giving the Pistons a huge boost on the offensive side of the ball while not taking away anything on the other end.

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Detroit’s offensive efficiency rockets up by nearly 40 points just by flipping Burks and Killian Hayes in the starting lineup, and his veteran savvy helps them in a number of ways.

Specific ways Alec Burks helps the Detoit Pistons’ offense

In the game against Oklahoma City, Cade Cunningham kicked the ball out of the post to Burks, and Burks had the presence of mind to wait a beat, let Cunningham reset, and pass the ball back into Cade in the post. Cunningham, having gained position, used his size to spin, double pump, and score.

A younger, less experienced player would’ve looked for different action. Burks allowed Motorcade to break the defense down and exploit his advantage. That type of veteran presence allows for development. Detroit has been rushing their offense at times and moving too slowly at others. Burks helps with pace, as he knows his spots, when to take a shot and when to keep it moving.

Burks sets tight screens and reads defenses well, knowing whether to drive or drop back for an open look. By being in the right place at the right time, he creates opportunities for assists and makes the lives of his teammates easier. Turnovers continue to be a problem with or without Burks, but the Pistons were getting better shots with him in the lineup.

Burks has also provided a calming presence with some clutch shots in moments when the Pistons were struggling to get a hoop. Without a secondary scorer, they’ve relied heavily on Cade Cunningham in these situations and Cade has been turning the ball over egregiously, partly because of this overuse.

Burks also knows how to draw a foul and talk to the refs, something that has been an ongoing issue for the Pistons this season, as they aren’t getting whistles without Burks (who is leading the team in free-throw attempts) and are spending too much time complaining to the refs about it.

Although Williams’ time with Detroit and Alec Burks has only started and he’s still adjusting to his players and developing plays for their tendencies and advantages, he’s deployed his veterans well. When Bogdanovic and Morris return, I look forward to seeing how they fit into the game plan.

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