In the build up to the current 2016-17 NBA D-League season, Ridiculous Upside put on their prognostication cap in attempt to predict how each NBADL squad would do. One of the squads that we looked at during that process was the Long Island Nets, where we tried to forecast how they’d do and what they’d look like during their debut season. During that preview, we were probably too optimistic as we stated that the Nets would be a competitive force in the Atlantic Division.
Obviously, those predictions turned out to be false as the Nets have struggled during their inaugural season as they currently sit with a 16-31 record. The Nets struggles could be explained in a variety of different ways; from the team’s lack of chemistry, Ronald Nored’s inexperience as a head coach, defensive struggles or their inability to find an on-court leader after Yogi Ferrell’s call-up to the Mavericks.
Although most of those issues will remain unanswered for the remainder of the season, Long Island have found their leader in the post-Yogi Ferrell era. That honor would go to Long Island forward Trahson Burrell, who has massively exceeded expectations during his rookie season. As a rookie, Burrell has averaged 13.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.4 steals on 50% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc on 2.4 perimeter attempts in 30 minutes per game.
While those numbers might not be as eye-popping as Quinn Cook, Darius Morris or even Jameel Warney, it does showcase that Burrell has been able to shine as one of the more versatile players in the entire NBA D-League. From day one, Burrell has shown an ability to help a team out in a variety of different ways which include: perimeter shooting, on-ball cutting, facilitating, offensive rebounding and even working as a perimeter defender.
Although that do-it-all approach hasn’t pushed the Nets to playoff contention, it has established Burrell as arguably the best “Swiss Army Knife” in the entire NBA D-League. Among the multitude of ways that he can contribute, Burrell probably does his best work as a facilitator.
While he occasionally showcased his skills as a distributor during the early stages of the season, Burrell really shined the Nets point forward once Ferrell was called up to the NBA. Since January 28th, when the Mavs signed Ferrell, Burrell has averaged 4.2 assists per game with a solid 1.64 Ast/TO ratio.
Those numbers were due to Burrell being able to a great job of utilizing his 6’7 frame to see over the court and make the necessary read. Although he can utilize those skills in half-court sets, Burrell probably does his best distributing while working in transition. A prime example of that is seen in the play below where he throws a great behind-the-back pass to Cliff Alexander.
Coinciding with that work as a facilitator, Burrell has really shined as a player that can be a reliable shooter whether he’s squaring up from mid-range or beyond the arc. In either of those two areas, Burrell has been pretty damn efficient. Since January 28th, Burrell has shot 39% from mid-range and a phenomenal 43% from beyond the arc on 3.4 perimeter attempts per game. That shooting is a significant improvement to the 30% from beyond the arc that he shot during his two years at Memphis.
Moving away from the perimeter, Burrell has really shined as a solid cutter, whether he’s working on or off-ball. In either area, Burrell is regularly able to make his way towards the rim as he maintains pretty solid quickness for a 6’7 forward. Coinciding with that quickness, Burrell has stood out as one of the more athletic players in the entire D-League, which allowed him to compete in this year’s dunk contest.
Burrell’s last method of attack on this end of the court comes from his work as an offensive rebounder. In 30 minutes per game, Burrell has averaged 2.5 offensive boards per game, which allows him to be one of the finest rebounding forwards in the NBA D-League. His success on the offensive glass is due to the combination of his athletic frame and just outworking that he plays against.
That phenomenal work ethic has allowed Burrell to progress from being a relative unknown into a possible NBA call-up candidate in a span of only six month. With the Nets, Burrell has separated himself from the pack due to his status as a do-it-all forward that can help any team in a variety of different ways. While Trahson Burrell entered the NBA D-League as a player that many overlooked, he’s been able to push himself to the position where any NBA squad needs to keep their eyes on him. Because if they don’t, there’s a chance that they could miss out on a pretty talented player.