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It's Time to Pay Attention to Tyler Burton
Tyler Burton has slid under most radars, but the Richmond Junior is producing at a level that is impossible to ignore.
Every year role players emerge from mid-major programs who end up having quality NBA careers. This year, that prospect very easily could be Tyler Burton, the Junior small forward for the Richmond Spiders. At 6’7 215 pounds, Burton has an NBA-ready body, but it is the transformation of his game that suggests he could be ready to make the leap to the NBA.
When simply looking at Burton’s box score numbers, it is hard to not be impressed as his scoring efficiency has skyrocketed while also producing in other areas. So far this season, Burton is averaging 18.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 0.6 blocks. Even more impressive, though, is the efficiency Burton is showing, as he’s shooting 51.3 percent from the floor on 11.8 attempts, 42.2 percent from three on 5.2 attempts, and 80.5 percent from the line on 4.8 attempts. To further expound on Burton’s scoring efficiency, he is scoring 1.193 points per possession (PPP) overall (97th percentile), per Synergy.
The vast majority of Burton’s scoring opportunities come as an off-ball shooter. So far this season, Burton is scoring 1.182 PPP spotting up (86th percentile) and 1.264 PPP shooting off the catch (82nd percentile). Burton’s mechanics are consistent, and he is proving that he can’t be left open. Even though he uses too much arc and will have an elongated dip of the ball, Burton has sped up his release and eliminated a lot of the variance in his mechanics from last season. Being a consistently reliable off-ball shooter is one of the best ways to earn minutes at the back of a rotation, and Burton has proved that he can fill that role.
Burton’s off-ball scoring isn’t solely limited to spot-up shooting, though. Burton is an active off-ball mover and a tremendous athlete. When these traits are combined, it results in Burton being a highly effective cutter as he is scoring 1.6 PPP on cuts (95th percentile). He is adept at finding the open pockets in the defense and timing his cuts perfectly to counter the defense’s rotations to the weak side. With a clear lane to the rim, Burton can then use his athletic gifts to finish above the rim.
Burton’s athleticism is also displayed in the open court as he is scoring 1.375 PPP in transition (89th percentile). Burton is an excellent rebounder which allows him to initiate the fast break, and his tendency to defend on the perimeter enables him to contest and leak out of easy buckets regularly. Burton is difficult to stop once he’s given a path to the rim.
Burton is also scoring 1.462 PPP as the pick-and-roll ball-handler (99th percentile), but he has only recorded 13 such possessions. Additionally, Burton is scoring 1.429 PPP in isolation but has only run seven such possessions. Even though Burton’s on-ball reps are scarce, there are flashes of him showing an improved handle and ability to do more than simply spot-up or cut.
The defensive end of the floor is where Burton has the most work to do. His numbers aren’t bad by any means, they net out as about a league-average defender, but there is certainly room for improvement. Burton is at his best as a defensive playmaker where he can use his athleticism to jump passing lanes or block shots at the rim, both of which spur his transition offense.
Burton’s on-ball defense has been erratic as some possessions he’ll fully utilize his athleticism and show exquisite footwork. Unfortunately, he’ll follow those possessions up with sloppy footwork and be slow to react to dribble moves.
The worst part of Burton’s defense, though, is his general off-ball defense. He frequently gets caught ball-watching, leaving him susceptible to back cuts and being late to chase his assignment off screens. The hope is that Burton’s off-ball woes are a symptom of an increased offensive load or his desire to be a defensive playmaker. In a more defined role, Burton should hopefully return to being a more reliable off-ball defender as he was the previous season. Even though Burton has struggled as an off-ball defender, it isn’t all bad. He still exerts tremendous effort and knows how to fully maximize his athleticism to recover.
While it can be misleading at times, comparing a prospect’s numbers to others can show us similar stories of success/failure or how historically unique their season is. Burton’s potential NBA role will likely consist of primarily off-ball shooting and rebounding. Burton is one of six players to have an eFG% of at least 60 (Burton is 60.6), a TS% of at least 60 (Burton is 64.5), a defensive rebound percentage of at least 20 (Burton is 21.5), and attempt at least nine threes per 100 possessions (Burton attempts 9.5), per Barttorvik.com. Notable names also on the list include Sam Hauser, Dylan Windler, Mo Wagner, and Darius Days (another potential NBA player). This list isn’t littered with superstars, but it is a group of players who have carved out spots on NBA teams.
Even though he isn’t the biggest name in the class, Tyler Burton provides the off-ball scoring and athleticism that every roster can benefit from. The Richmond wing is one of the best off-ball scorers in the country and is proving he belongs in the NBA.