Sophomore point guard Trey Burke of the undefeated and third-ranked Michigan Wolverines is off to a tremendous start again this season and the more I watch him the more he reminds me in many ways of Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Burke, the No. 84 overall recruit in the Class of 2011, was a great scoring point guard for Satch Sullinger at Northland (Ohio) High School and for the All Ohio AAU Program. Burke also excelled off the ball because of his ability to score in a variety of ways.
But his point guard skills and feel for the game have reached an elite level since he started running the show for the Wolverines. Burke leads 8-0 Michigan in scoring (17.0 ppg) and assists (7.1) and has only 19 turnovers in 269 minutes of play.
Paul and Burke are both very smooth and efficient point guards that get teammates involved and have a great feel and excellent basketball IQ. Both are composed under pressure and attack under control, resulting in a high level of consistent production. They both take care of the ball and when they gamble, they usually come out ahead and make the defense pay. Defensively, they are both solid on and off the ball. They are alert and will slide over in help and take a momentum changing charge.
Let's take a look at the point guard tale of the tape between Paul and Burke:
Height/Weight: Paul is 6-foot/175, while Burke is 6-foot/190. Both are very similar athletically in terms of bounce and lateral foot speed and quickness.
Leadership: Paul is a great court communicator; there is no doubt who is in charge of the team when he is on the floor. Burke has become more vocal with teammates when I watch him in the huddle and after setting up a teammate. He leads more by example now so this is probably the category with the most difference, but his on-court communication has improved and will continue to do so as he matures and grows as a player. Even now, there is no doubt who has the other four players' undivided attention when Burke is running the show for the Wolverines.
Handle: Paul and Burke both have the ball on a string and can get to their sweet spot through contact. They push the pace on the break, probing the defense looking to make a play. They both run the offense to perfection and make the right decision in end-of-the-clock situations. They both attack with their head and eyes up surveying the floor and are great at keeping their dribble alive. Both can break intense ball pressure, change speeds and directions on a dime. Both can turn a broken play into a great play with their ballhandling escapability. Both can beat most single defenders off the bounce to score or get a teammate the ball in position to score at will.
Passing: Dropping dimes is an asset of both Paul and Burke. They get teammates involved and their passes result in scores because their passes are on time and on target whether on the break, within the offense or when the shot clock is running down. They also can deliver the ball with flare and get the crowd to their feet with a look away or drop-off pass for a dunk in heavy traffic.
Scoring and shooting: Both Paul and Burke are crafty finishers deep in the lane. This includes great floaters with touch and body control, mid-range jumpers off the catch or dribble and open 3s. Both are capable of big numbers when they want or when the team needs their scoring. Both are great at picking their spots and knowing when it is time to take over the game.