Philadelphia 76ers: Alec Burks has cemented his spot in the rotation

Alec Burks | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images)
Alec Burks | Philadelphia 76ers (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images) /
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The Philadelphia 76ers should have no qualms about handing significant minutes to Alec Burks.

From the onset of scrimmages in Orlando, it looked as if Alec Burks was on the outside looking in on the Philadelphia 76ers’ nine-man playoff rotation. After four ‘real’ games — including a massive outing in Friday’s win over the Magic — there should be no doubt about Burks’ inclusion in the rotation.

Burks scored 22 points on an efficient 8-for-15 shooting, including 3-for-7 from deep. He helped carry the halfcourt offense amid a lethargic Joel Embiid performance. And, in the absence of Ben Simmons, he played important minutes at point guard. The Sixers need someone of Burks’ ilk in the rotation.

The value of Burks in the rotation was obvious when Philadelphia traded for him, but now there’s no reason for Brett Brown to hold out. Burks is far from perfect — he’s oftentimes frustrating — but when push comes to shove, he can buoy the Sixers’ offense unlike anybody else in the second unit. In fact, he’s the best perimeter shot creator on the roster.

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One of the Sixers’ chief weaknesses is their inability to create shots when the offense breaks down. When Embiid isn’t pounding the paint, or when Ben Simmons isn’t pushing the tempo, Philadelphia tends to find itself at a standstill. Burks is a solution to that problem. He’s the only guard on the roster who’s comfortable consistently creating his own offense off the dribble.

The Sixers have used Burks in pick-and-rolls and two-man actions, but he’s at his most valuable when it’s just him, the basketball, and a defender. When the Sixers are unable to generate open shots, Burks is someone they can lean on to take (and, with relative consistency, make) difficult jump shots.

Burks’ is not the sharpest decision-maker on the roster. He’s not a point guard by trade, and he does have a propensity for ill-advised passes. It’s not ideal for the Sixers to need Burks as much as they do, but with Josh Richardson flaming out in the bubble, Simmons now injured, and Raul Neto being Raul Neto, there aren’t any other options. The Sixers need Burks to step in and get buckets for 20 minutes a night.

In the near future, Glenn Robinson III will return to the rotation. He’s someone who deserves playing time as well, but it shouldn’t come at Burks’ expense. Robinson can create his own shots periodically, but he’s much more suited to spotting up and cutting backdoor. In fact, if Burks and Robinson collectively pushed Furkan Korkmaz out of the rotation, you wouldn’t hear a complaint from me.

Philadelphia can’t count on Burks for 22 points each night, and he will have games where the poor decision-making overshadows the shot-making. But when you consider the limitations of the Sixers’ current personnel group, it’s impossible to argue against Burks’ sustained inclusion in the rotation. He’s the type of player who can come alive and win a playoff game or two.

Much has been said about Burks’ productivity in Golden State this season, but it bears mentioning again. Yes, the Warriors were in dire straights practically all year, but it’s still no small feat to average 16.1 points per game. Especially as a reserve. Burks has been able to put up points in bunches for a while. This is not a new development.

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The Sixers need to lean on Burks and all that comes with him. The good, the bad, the ugly — it will, more often than not, yield a positive outcome for a Sixers team devoid of individual creators.