Monday, July 15, 2013

NCAA 14 review

By this point, you're probably already three seasons into your NCAA 14 Dynasty, but my review finally dropped on PopMatters. If for some reason you haven't already bought the game, let me try to convince you not to. Money quote:
What makes NCAA 14’s contemporaries engaging is the way in which players of MLB: The Show and NBA 2k create unique characters with strengths and weaknesses that can be felt in the gameplay. Too often in NCAA 14, playing as a quick-footed running back feels no different than a bowling-ball full back in the open field when a defender comes to make a tackle. Plowing over defenders requires pressing forward on the right analog stick while spin moves and a defender’s reaction to them still feel predetermined. There’s no learning curve to running with the football, creating an arcade-like experience.
The review more or less speaks for itself, but I'm disillusioned by EA's lack of progress. Not that this is anything new, but as another year passes with only minor changes, it's become clear America's Worst Company cares only about selling more copies, not putting out a quality product. It's disappointing watching this franchise deteriorate, and with any luck, EA will lose their exclusive rights to NCAA an NFL football soon.

Read the full review at PopMatters.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Trey Burke Summer League - Game 2

Were you to only look at the box score, Trey Burke would've appeared to have another bad game in the NBA Summer League. Burke's Jazz lost by 14 points to the Houston Rockets, and Burke didn't have the rosiest stat line: 11 points on 5-15 shooting, 1-6 3FG, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 turnovers. But Burke's struggles were not as pronounced as those numbers might indicate. A few of his missed field goal attempts were on putbacks/tips where he had no business being in the lane. And I also unofficially counted three open looks that should've been assists had his teammates hit open shots or finished alley-oops (no, really, a dude bricked a perfectly executed alley-oop from Burke). Certainly a better performance in game two, but still not the high-caliber outing Michigan fans grew accustomed to. Here are a few assorted thoughts:
  • Burke's off-the-ball movement in this game was abysmal. Once Burke passed the ball, he became a non-factor in the offense. This resulted in a lot of stagnation on offense and empty trips. Burke took a lot of shots at the end of the shot clock at Michigan. His ability to create his own shot was a major reason for this, but just as significantly, once Burke passed the ball, he would often stand 5 feet beyond the top of the arc, acting as an outlet. In yesterday's game, Burke would pass the ball and stand at the top of the key or use a few baseline screens only to end at the top of the key again. NBA defenses are too fast and recover too well for Burke to continue being a non-factor without the ball.

    Conversely, Burke was an entirely different player when he brought the ball up the court and attacked immediately. When he made a move early in the possession, he was able to draw help defenders and find his teammates for easy looks. But he rarely attacked this way and the Jazz struggled to get into an offensive rhythm.
  • Trey's defense was pretty bad in this game. He got picked off badly a number of times, forcing the Jazz to provide significant help defense, opening shots up for other Rockets players. He also got lost a few times in traffic, allowing wide open looks.
  • After struggling with the size of the Miami Heat inside in game one, Trey avoided shots in the paint for most of the game. Six of his 15 shots were from outside and most of his other looks were long two pointers and runners from the free throw line. I don't remember him making any of those runners, but that's a shot he'll need to improve significantly if he wants to attack the lane in the future.
This was an uneventful game for Burke. He failed to get to the free throw line because of a reticence to enter the lane. His defense was lacking, but that's not unprecedented. Burke is pretty far behind his contemporaries defensively simply because he hasn't played in an NBA defense before. More or less, Burke is progressing about as you'd expect albeit without the flare that many had hoped for.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Trey Burke NBA Summer League debut

The Utah Jazz just won their Summer League debut 69-59 over the Miami Heat. Relevant to your interests is the debut of Trey Burke, seen above wearing his shorts inside out*. Burke played most of the team's minutes at PG (32 of 40; there are four 10-minute quarters in the summer league) and struggled mightily the entire game. He shot just 1-12, scored 8 points (most of which came from the charity stripe where he went 6-8), dished 5 assists to only 2 turnovers, and nabbed 7 rebounds. But immediately evident were Burke's struggles with the speed of the game.

Burke shot 0-4** from outside, which isn't too disconcerting. A few of his long balls rimmed out and missing only 3 three-pointers isn't anything to get concerned about. However, his inability to score in the lane or even get off shots proved to be his biggest failing in this game. Burke had two or three shots swatted down, one of them violently from behind when he thought he had a clean fast break pull-up. But all of those circus shots he was hitting during his senior year at Michigan were flying wildly off the backboard as bigger, more athletic defenders were challenging his shots.

The other thing that proved problematic for Burke for the first three quarters was an inability to get any separation offensively. In the second quarter, he made a great in-and-out dribble that freed him for a mid-range jumper, but most of his drives to the lane were met with resistance, often forcing him back. Burke's lack of top-end foot speed really showed during this exhibition.

Burke had trouble running the offense and getting his players into positions to score. This should be taken with a grain of salt because the Summer League is basically a glorified pick-up game, but more than failing to find his teammates in the halfcourt, Burke seemed to be in a college mindset still when bring the ball beyond the timeline. Burke was frequently stepping over halfcourt as the shot clock hit 16 seconds and the Utah offense wasn't getting started until about 12 seconds left. This is easily correctable and I expect Burke to advance the ball with more urgency in Utah's next game.

It wasn't all bad. The Heat were down by double digits for most of the game and extended their defense. They often trapped Burke in the back court or just as he crossed the timeline, and Burke was able to confidently pass out of these traps. Late in the game, Burke was also able to drive and dish to a few of his big men. The Heat were challenging all ball carriers in the lane and Burke finally recognized the help defense, dumping the ball to his teammates for some easy dunks.

Summer League ball is sloppy and ugly and generally not indicative of future performance, especially for a PG like Burke who would've had four or five more assists had his teammates hit wide-open jumpers. But this was not a promising start for Burke who was visibly frustrated and struggled in the way that the more pessimistic scouting reports thought he might.

*I realized later that all of the Jazz were wearing their shorts inside out, but this still makes me laugh.
**It was really 0-3 because of a last-minute heave to end the first half.