When it comes to the new additions to the Golden State Warriors in the 2019 off-season, much of the attention has focused on D’Angelo Russell coming over as part of the sign-and-trade with the Brooklyn Nets for Kevin Durant in addition to the incoming rookie class. But the Warriors did make some moves that have flown a bit under the radar. Yet the free-agent signings of Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III were both acquisitions that will have an effect on how the Warriors’ 2019-2020 season goes and thus they are players we should take a look to consider what each could offer the squad.
Bad luck and poor circumstance set Burks back
Drafted by the Utah Jazz in 2011, Burks provided those teams with a solid offense effort over his first few years in the league. Burks averaged approximately 14 points in both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons, looking like a productive wing player at the beginning of a promising NBA career.
But Burks’ career got derailed thanks to a series of injuries that kept him off the court preventing him from building off those promising first seasons. 2016 and 2017 were lost years for Burks as he wasn’t able to play. When Burks was able to remain healthy, he found himself on the outside looking in with the Jazz’s plans and something of a redundancy given the other players the Jazz had on their roster.
Burks bounced between the Jazz, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Sacramento Kings in the 2018-19 season, unable to secure consistent minutes. But occasionally one could see flashes of what Burks can do when he was able to get on the court. When Burks was given playing time, which mostly came as a part of a depressing and depleted Cavaliers team, he was able to make the most of it. This included a 21-point performance against a good Boston Celtics team in February of 2019.
Burks hasn’t had the career befitting of a player taken with the 12th pick of the NBA Draft (one pick after the Warriors selected Thompson) but that might have more to do with being unlucky and poor circumstance. He’s not going to make Dub Nation forget about Durant and Andre Iguodala but given an opportunity to play with elite players, Burks might be able to re-capture some of that early-career form.
Can Robinson III grow into a big dog?
The son of Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson, Robinson III is a slightly different story than Burks. There hasn’t been quite as much evidence that this is someone who can be a real contributor to a top-tier NBA team and too much shouldn’t be expected of someone who’s been at the margins of the NBA for most of his career. But with all that said, there’s still a hint of promise when it comes to him and what he might be able to give the Warriors.
Robinson III’s best season was 2016-17 when he played on an Indiana Pacers team that made it to the playoffs, getting bounced in the first round by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers (with “Playoff P” Paul George being a noticeable no-show). In that season, Robinson III hit his single-game career highs in points and rebounds while being a rotation piece for a team that did make it to the postseason.
While Robinson III’s traditional metrics aren’t especially great, the more advanced ones as well as his numbers prorated-for-36-minutes (especially from that 2016-17 season) all show another potentially solid wing piece that the Warriors were able to pick up for not that much. Look at Robinson III’s advanced stats that season compared to Patrick McCaw’s from that 2016-17 campaign.
McCaw was a quality rotation player for the Warriors that season, putting up stats that were about the same as Robinson III. The Warriors definitely missed that element last season, lacking that consistent, somewhat solid wing play coming off the bench.
He doesn’t boast the same untapped or overlooked potential as Burks, but there’s enough there for the Warriors to take a flyer on him and hope he can be more consistent mid-rotation wing player that what the Warriors have had over the past couple of seasons.
Filling out the roster with under-appreciated players
I’m certainly not trying to argue that Burks or Robinson III can make up for the permanent absence of Durant and Iguodala or the temporary absence of Klay Thompson. I’m not here to tell you that by merely being in Stephen Curry’s presence and playing in Steve Kerr’s system that they will suddenly turn into superstars or even very good players. But what I do think is that both players can do certain things well on the court and that they haven’t had much of a chance to show it.
These moves both make me think of Moneyball, the film adaptation of Michael Lewis’ book on Billy Beane and the early 2000s Oakland Athletics, specifically these two scenes:
Given the salary-cap constraints of the Warriors, they are in a similar position as those Athletics teams where they had to look to the “misfit toys,” players that are undervalued and under-considered because of their flaws. But as the Warriors seek to replicate the production of players like Durant, Iguodala, and Livingston “in the aggregate” while constrained by that hard cap, those are the kinds of players to which the Warriors will need to turn. Though both Burks and Robinson III have been overlooked or put aside by much of the NBA, they do look like the kind of players who can be productive within the environment that the Warriors have created and help them be successful in the upcoming season.