In just three years, Shaka Smart has taken the VCU Rams on a meteoric rise from relative obscurity to the new "Gonzaga" of the east coast, and he owes a lot of his success to his security blanket, the NCAA's all-time leader in consecutive starts, Bradford Burgess.
Just as Smart's coaching style is understated, yet unique, so too is Burgess's game. Though not very strong or explosive, Bradford is a smooth athlete whose years of experience have enabled him to get to his spots and take control of games without dominating the ball. This isn't to say that Burgess is a primarily off-the-ball player; on the contrary, he has developed into the team's go-to option when the shotclock is winding down, and indeed can create his own shot in a number of ways. But Burgess is at his halfcourt best when attacking a vulnerable, off-balance defense. In these situations, the 6'6'', 225-pound swingman has a powerful if not lightning-quick first step that enables him to easily dribble into an effective pull-up 3, or advance into the lane, where he utilizes a good feel for the belly of the defense. Around the elbow area, Burgess is adept at changing directions with a nice spin move, from which he can finish on leaners with either hand in the case that he doesn't get all the way to the rim. One would like to see him develop a dependable fadeaway in this situation, since he doesn't have much of a floater, nor the elevation to get an uncontested mid-range jumper. But Burgess is at least aware enough not to force the issue, and if necessary can find the open man on the perimeter once the D collapses on him. His quickness driving left with his off hand afford him the opportunity to utilize a nice hesitation move on dribble drives, and he protects the ball well through the lane, cradling it like a runningback on his last two steps. He's also comfortable shooting with his left hand from 7 feet in.
Over the years, Burgess has seen his role change a bit as Smart has tried to integrate younger players while still applying his trademark "Havoc" coaching philosophy. This approach to the game includes a lot of ball pressure on defense, from full court to quarter court, and an uptempo offense that refuses to reset until all ten men are past halfcourt; and even then, plenty of VCU's fastbreaks end with trailer 3's. Burgess has especially thrived in that situation, comfortable stepping into and hitting treys at the top of the key just as defenses think they have a chance to regroup. But as VCU's most experienced player, Smart needed Burgess to take on a bigger role on both ends of the floor for the system to succeed, and as a result, Burgess found himself playing multiple positions, including the 4. This no doubt seemed to be a major reason why Bradford bulked up to 225 pounds, and in doing so, he may have lost a bit of burst. He still has very good potential as a defender at the NBA level, due to his energy, length, and NBA body, but it'll be interesting to see if Burgess decides to drop a few pounds before the pre-draft season gets into full gear.
The hopeful expectation for a team that might draft Burgess is that they'd be getting a James Posey-type role player, with the potential to perhaps be a bit more. For his career, Bradford Burgess has always hovered around 40% from 3-point range, and has a good base on set shots, with a fluid stroke. He never shot under 48% from the field until being called upon by Smart to carry the offense this past season, and his 4 years of Havoc have made him a relentless, indefatigable defender. Combine that with his potential to beat small forwards off the dribble, and Burgess would appear to have the highest floor of any 2nd-round swingman.
Rank 106th Overall (25th SG)
Strengths Good shooter
Strong, versatile defender
Weaknesses Limited to being a role player
Creating shot off the dribble