I will apologize right away for being a terrible journalist and forgetting to pack my camera before going to work in the morning. Thus, any observations I make will be evidence-free. You’ll just have to take my word for it. I also was not able to stand my ground and routinely had my view obstructed or completely blocked, making my already shaky notes completely unreliable. Now on to the action.
(In case you missed it, and also because it’s awkward to have all text with no visuals, here’s some of his highlights from the NBPA Top-100 Camp brought to you by NY2LA.)
Whereas Duane Wilson exudes swagger, Deonte Burton is all muscle. That is not to say he isn’t confident in his abilities—his trash talk game is highly developed—but rather Burton is a beacon of strength. When he hits the Al McGuire basement, he’ll be the one showing strength coach Todd Smith a thing or two.
His prodigious strength is both a blessing and a curse for the high school game. While it means he can muscle past every defender trying to stop him no matter what position, it also means he gets to play the “five” most of the time on defense. He played center about 75 percent of the time in the three halves I watched him, holding his own, but clearly taking a beating. In the second game of a back-to-back, this one against Milwaukee-Riverside, Burton had the tough task of guarding a beast of a high schooler who was quite nimble around the rim despite weighing cover 300 pounds. Burton wasn’t great but wasn’t bad either, due to good positioning and a quick pair of hands, bringing down 13 boards in the game.
Alas, Burton did not have the flashy game Wilson displayed on Tuesday, so I have no eye-popping stats to throw your way. That is not to say Burton did not impress me, far from it, he simply was played well when attacking the hole and didn’t have his shot falling from the perimeter, not to mention the toll having to bang possession after possession takes on a body. Nevertheless, he finished with a double double, adding about 20 points to his 13 boards and going about 7-17 from the field.
Without further ado, some random observations from today’s games.
With his size and strength, you don’t expect him to fly the way he does. It’s more of a glide than a run too. When he gets a running start at the basket, it seriously only takes him two steps to reach the rim. Burton played on cruise control for a large portion of the game so these moments were fleeting. I’ll be very interested to see them game in and game out in a year’s time wearing blue and gold.
2) Sweet lefty hook
This was the biggest takeaway of the night for me. Many players with his athletic ability never develop the short game required to score the ball consistently once the opposition is no longer 5-11 (Blue, Vander). But Burton has a lefty hook that is smooth as silk. The best part about it is that it was not a freak occurrence, he went to it about 5 or 6 times in the course of the game, hitting three times. With his size, he will be able to back down defenders and finish over them no matter how long they may be.
3) Convincing Fake
I had to ask myself if DJO had snuck on to the court, that’s how good Burton’s up-fake was. He got in the left corner, did a quick pump fake which had his defender flying by, side-stepped him before pulling up and draining a long jumper. A few possessions later he repeated the maneuver, only taking it hole this time and nearly finishing with a Dr. J style one-handed reverse. As long as Burton continues to work on his shot, this will be a deadly maneuver.
4) Bull with a soft touch
I’ve mentioned his strength and size, but when he gets to the rim he has one of the softest touches. He knows how to play the backboard and can already finish with both his left and his right. This ability to finish with either hand again reminded me of DJO, but unlike that lefty, Burton does not appear out of control when driving to the basket. He has great body control and uses his athleticism perfectly.
This is tough to measure quantitatively, especially in a summer league environment, but Burton showed he has “IT.” He was being played very physically all game and was the focus of the defense every time he touched the ball. He struggled a bit in the second half, and the opposing players let him know about it. With less than two minutes left to go and the score knotted at 60, Burton took the reigns. Handling the point duties, he scored six of his team’s last nine points, dishing out a beautiful assist on the other three points as the defense collapsed against him. It may have just been a meaningless summer game, but Burton would not let his team lose. What’s not to like about that?