Photo by Juliana Bledsoe / Nevada Sagebrush
No by Eric Uribe
The upcoming 2014 NBA Draft class is being widely heralded as the best since Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade took the NBA by storm in 2003. For good reason, too, with the likes of Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Joel Embiid waiting in the horizon.
An abundance of franchise-altering talent for June’s NBA Draft doesn’t bode well for Nevada’s own Deonte Burton’s draft stock.
If that wasn’t ominous enough for Burton, the point guard position is knee-deep in talent, as well. Floor generals Marcus Smart, Dante Exum and Tyler Ennis are nearly shoe-ins to be lottery picks. Shabazz Napier, fresh off carrying Connecticut to a national championship, Jahii Carson and Elfrid Payton are other first-round talents at the position.
So where does Burton, the Wolf Pack’s second all-time leading scorer, fit into the NBA Draft equation? He is a lock to be drafted for sure, but being selected isn’t nearly enough. Burton has to be one of the top 30 picks, or his NBA playing future is seriously jeopardized.
Being picked in the first round guarantees a player a multi-year contract. No such thing is guaranteed by a second-round selection, after which most players are sent to the NBA Development League or outright released.
And right now, I don’t see Burton being drafted in the first round.
Sure, Burton’s athleticism is off the charts. Sure, his ability to drive inside and finish at the rim is top notch. And sure, he’s got a clutch gene, as Skip Bayless would say.
But Burton’s imperfections are magnified in such a star-studded draft class.
At a pedestrian 6-foot-1, Burton’s frame doesn’t exactly scream NBA caliber, especially compared to his NBA Draft peers like Payton (6-foot-3), Smart (6-foot-4) and Exum (6-foot-6). The top point guards in the NBA right now (Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard) are all at least 6-foot-3, with the notable exception being the six-foot Chris Paul.
Further holding Burton back is his jump shot. While an absolute scoring machine near the basket, Burton’s mid- and long-range jumper isn’t nearly as impressive. Burton’s three-point percentage actually dipped from 37 percent in his sophomore campaign to 30 and 31 percent in his junior and season seasons, respectively.
I’ve always felt Burton was a shooting guard stuck in a point guard’s body. To me, he is more of a scorer than a facilitator — which usually doesn’t fare well in the pros. Burton’s shot selection at Nevada was head scratching at times, jacking up low-percentage shots regularly.
The final knock on Burton will be his age. Come draft day, he’ll be 23. Burton’s loyalty to his school is admirable and a rarity in college sports today, but his four-year run with the Wolf Pack isn’t going to work in his favor come draft day. He will be compared to an array of 19 and 20 years olds who took advantage of the NBA’s one-and-done rule. Those young bucks have a higher ceiling, with their bodies yet to fill out. As the case with all athletes, careers last only as long as your body lets you, and an extra four years of service goes a long way — especially when NBA recruiters are gambling guaranteed money on first-round picks.
There are still more than two months until the draft on June 26 — plenty of time for Burton to maneuver himself into the first round if he excels in combine and individual workouts.
Burton is a great player, but so are three dozen other incoming rookies. With so much talent in this year’s draft, I think Burton will get lost in the shuffle.
Eric Uribe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yes by Alexa Ard
Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen. Kobe Bryant had Shaquille O’Neal. Nevada’s Ramon Sessions had Nick Fazekas. The Notorious B.I.G. had Puff Daddy. The Fresh Prince had Carlton Banks. And heck, even Batman had Robin.
All the greats need a partner in crime.
However, in Deonte Burton’s four years at Nevada, he was counted on as the lone wolf. He swooped in to save the day for the Wolf Pack on numerous occasions.
The accolades he garnered at Nevada are impressive — the kind of achievements that only someone with NBA talent could pull off.
Burton had perfect attendance for the Wolf Pack with 129 consecutive starts. He never missed a game, even if he was sick. He nailed a total of six game-winners for Nevada. He scored over 2,000 points in his college career, second only to Nick Fazekas who competed for the Wolf Pack from 2003-2007. In Burton’s final season at Nevada he averaged 20 points per game, and for the majority of the season, he was the leading scorer in the Mountain West Conference.
Many say he is a shooting guard in a point guard’s body. However, with Nevada often struggling to win, Burton had to take on that scoring role. At the end of the day, the most points win the game. So the six-foot-one point guard had to do what he had to do to get that “W” for the silver and blue.
Burton also played the shooting guard position since he picked up a ball at 9 years old. It wasn’t until he competed in a Nevada jersey in 2010 that he took on the point guard position. Playing point guard was a role that he worked extremely hard to earn at Nevada. His performance in his first college season made him the Western Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year.
He really broke out during his sophomore year because he was able to lead the team to a 28-7 season and a WAC Championship, with help from Malik Story, Olek Czyz and Dario Hunt, all of whom averaged double-digits in scoring. Burton was also named the WAC Player of the Year for the 2011 -2012 season.
However, he never played alongside a fellow NBA caliber player as a teammate while at Nevada. Story, Hunt, Czyz and even Jerry Evans Jr. were good players, but they were not great NBA-level players. Just imagine how far Burton would have been able to go in a season with teammates like Kirk Snyder, Nick Fazekas, Luke Babbitt or Javale McGee. Burton is the best player the Wolf Pack has ever seen who didn’t take a trip to the “Big Dance.” He could have if he had another NBA-caliber player chipping in.
Even with the odds against Burton, he has consistently been able to prove the naysayers wrong.
He didn’t play during his junior season at Compton Centennial High School — arguably the most important year for a high school athlete to shine for college coaches — because he was a transfer. When it was time to start his senior year at Centennial, that chip on his shoulder was large and heavy.
“I was just so poorly ranked, so I wanted to prove to everyone that I belong in that upper-class of rankings too,” said Burton reflecting on his time at Centennial in an interview in May 2013. “I was pretty mad, but I used it as motivation to succeed and to try to work on my game and get better.”
He received many scholarship offers following that senior year, which included Marquette, Cincinnati and UCLA.
Burton felt the chip back on his shoulder following a last place finish in the Mountain West Conference during his junior year at Nevada. He dominated in his senior season with the Wolf Pack averaging 20 points and 4.4 assists in 38.6 minutes per game. He landed on SportsCenter Top 10 twice for dunks — one against Boise State garnered national attention when he earned the top spot. He is the only player with not one, but two dunks in the contest for dunks of the year.
Burton will last in the NBA because was able to get the job done without an NBA caliber partner in crime. He will sustain because he is mentally strong. And I don’t care what number he is in the draft because he has proven that he can defy the doubters on numerous occasions. He is well-spoken, he listens to feedback, is crazy athletic and loyal and he’s a leader. It’s obvious that Deonte Burton is NBA caliber.
Alexa Ard can be reached at email@example.com.