As a point guard, Trey Burke has admired Russell Westbrook and John Wall when he was in college and since entering the NBA in 2013. As one of the newest additions to the Washington Wizards, Burke is now teammates with Wall and gets to work with Coach Scott Brooks, who helped turn Westbrook into one of the best in the world.
Burke joined the Wizards earlier this week from the Utah Jazz in exchange for a second-round pick in 2021. The Minnesota Timberwolves initially selected Burke with the No. 9 pick before trading his rights to the Jazz, with whom he spent the first three seasons of his career.
“I think it’s just a good fit for me, obviously playing behind John Wall,” Burke said during a conference call Friday afternoon. “He’s an established guard right now. Learning from him, I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the city. It’s just great to know that I’m welcome to another organization.”
Burke had fallen out of favor in Utah, where the Jazz entered this month with seven point guards, counting those both under contract and drafted. The Wizards reaped the benefits by acquiring Burke for a fraction of the cost of players such as Ish Smith, D.J. Augustin or Matthew Dellavedova, all of whom signed for between $6 million and $12.5 million per season in the opening days of free agency.
Coming off the bench in all of his 64 games last season, Burke averaged 10.6 points and 2.3 assists. As a rookie, Burke started 68 of 70 games, averaging 12.8 points and 5.7 assists.
“It’s a fresh start, a new start, a new organization,” Burke said. “It’s something that I haven’t really dealt with. Obviously being traded on draft night, that’s different than actually being traded once in the league. I’m looking forward to just joining the team and bringing more leadership to the team.”
Burke was in the nation’s capital briefly Thursday to sign his contract before flying back to Los Angeles, where he trains during the offseason. The former national college player of the year in 2012-13 met with Brooks, General Manager Ernie Grunfeld and owner Ted Leonsis.
Burke said he plans to travel to Las Vegas this weekend to meet more extensively with Brooks. The Wizards are playing three summer league games in Las Vegas, and although assistant Sidney Lowe is set to coach the team, Brooks will be on hand as well to evaluate potential prospects.
“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime,” Burke said. “Like I said, I got a chance to pick [Brooks’s] brain in a meeting yesterday. He said he’s excited to work with me as well, obviously the potential that I still have. I hear he always brings the potential out of young players. He pushes them. He’s looking for a competitive player with a chip on his shoulder, and I think he has a chip on his shoulder as well.”
Among his new teammates, Burke, 23, is closest with Bradley Beal. The two have known one another since they were in elementary school and subsequently played in youth leagues.
Burke also has been in touch with Wall and is well acquainted with starting small forward Otto Porter, who was also in the running for national player of the year in 2013 while at Georgetown.
“For me, I think my perspective on the game has changed as well,” Burke said. “It’s not all about the offensive end. I know I can improve tremendously on defense as well as just impacting the game in other ways. I would say just being more consistent, being more efficient finishing in the paint, just continuing to watch film. The more I watch film, the more the game slows down for me, and I think the better I am as a player.”