When considering the New York Knicks’ most underrated player, most may point to third-year shooting guard RJ Barrett. Barrett established himself as one of the best players on the team last season, averaging 17.6 points, 3.0 assists, 5.8 rebounds, and shooting 44% from the field. However, I would argue that Barrett is rated properly and took a significant step forward in his development at 20 years old.
The one player who simply doesn’t get enough credit for his contributions is shooting guard/small forward Alec Burks. Burks is a former first-round pick from back in 2011, and at 30 years old, signed a three-year, $30 million extension this off-season with the Knicks. The third-year is not guaranteed, so the deal is essentially a two-year, $20 million contract if the Knick elect to opt-out during the 2023-24 season.
Burks was one of the Knicks’ top scorers last season, averaging 12.7 points off the bench. The team needed Alec’s ability to curate instant offense, which is something they desperately needed during the first half of the season when they were one of the worst three-point shooting squads in the NBA. Burks finished the year shooting 41.5% from range over 49 games. He averaged 25.6 minutes per contest and even picked up the slack at point guard before the front office traded for Derrick Rose at the deadline.
He’s one of those savvy veterans who can’t be overlooked, but fans and analysts often forget his value to the team as a consistent scorer and solid defender. Burks posted a 56.4% true shooting percentage this past season, including a 15.2 assist to turnover ratio. His net offensive rating was extremely comparable to his defensive performance, indicating consistency on both ends of the floor.
This upcoming year, the Knicks will use Burks in a similar way, featuring him off the bench to help mitigate fatigue for players like Evan Fournier and RJ Barrett. His role is essential in keeping the starting team healthy and fresh over the course of a game, let alone the entire season. His impact in the 4th quarter last year was massive — his timely shooting and burst of energy on offense were awesome.
Interestingly, Burks scored 23.8% of his points in 2021 from inside the paint; 49.2% of his points came from three-point range. Burks is a well-rounded player for the Knicks, and given his extension, the coaching staff agrees.
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