What to like about the new Detroit Pistons: Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel

·4 min read

It's been a busy few weeks for the Detroit Pistons.

The NBA draft and the trade of leading-scorer Jerami Grant were followed by another trade Tuesday night, with the Pistons acquiring Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks and two future second-round picks.

Detroit intends to keep Noel and Burks for the 2022-23 season, rather than trading them away or buying them out. The acquisition means the Pistons will absorb around $19 million in salary, which essentially eliminates them from signing the NBA's top restricted free agents targets.

So, what is Detroit getting in Noel and Burks? Here's what you need to know its newly acquired veteran duo:

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Nerlens Noel is no stranger to Pistons' brass

Noel, the No. 6 pick in the 2013 draft by the New Orleans Pelicans later traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, joins the fifth team of his NBA career. During Noel's stint with the Oklahoma City Thunder from 2018-20, current Pistons general manager Troy Weaver served as the team's assistant general manager and vice president.

Weaver was hired by Detroit near the end of Noel's run in Oklahoma City. Noel then signed with New York in November 2020, where he's played since. The 6-foot-11 center averaged 3.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game last season as the Knicks finished 37-45.

In the 2020-21 season, Noel's supporting role helped New York capture its first winning season and playoff appearance since 2013. Noel averaged 5.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game as the Knicks ultimately fell to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round.

Weaver's reunion with Noel could feature the big man mentoring Jalen Duren, a rookie 6-11 center.

Alec Burks has been an elite shooter

Burks has now played for seven teams in his 11-year career, shooting 38.0% from 3-point range, which should boost Detroit's offense which shot 32.6% from 3 a year ago.

Burks' best scoring season came in 2019-20, when he suited up for the Golden State Warriors and was later traded to the 76ers. While in Golden State, Burks appeared in 48 games, starting 18, and averaged 16.1 points and 37.5% from 3. After being acquired by Philadelphia, his average scoring dropped to 12.2 per game, but his 3-point shooting rose to 41.6%.

While playing for the Jazz in 2014, Burks scored a career-high 34 points in a 118-103 win over the Denver Nuggets. Seven years later, while with New York, Burks replicated his career high in a 94-85 win over the Pistons.

Battling the injury list

According to a running injury report by Fox Sports dating back to late 2017, Noel has suffered 34 injuries. In the 2021-22 season alone, he had 10 reported medical issues, most commonly in his knee. The Malden, Massachusetts, native also had his college career at Kentucky cut short when he suffered a torn ACL in February 2013.

Prior to his injury, Noel was projected the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who ended up taking Anthony Bennett. Noel fell to the 76ers and, after taking off the 2013-14 season off for recovery, was a key component for Philadelphia in its franchise rebuild shepherded by now five-time all-star Joel Embiid.

How many games Noel, who is on an expiring contract and is a future trade candidate will play for the Pistons is key.

Burks' small town ties

From Grandview, Missouri, which has a population of around 25,000, Burks played at Colorado for two seasons before declaring for the NBA draft. Despite being named Missouri's Gatorade Player of the Year, Burks flew under the radar as a high school prospect as 247Sports ranked as the No. 196 best player in the country in 2009.

However, the three-star recruits run with the Buffaloes was successful. He gained national attention during his first year as he was dubbed the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, and that attention only grew when he was named to the All-Big 12 first team as a sophomore.

Burks was selected with the No. 12 pick in the 2011 draft by the Utah Jazz and has flourished in supporting roles across the league. Much like Noel, the acquisition of Burks is likely to help mentor the younger Pistons, a move which might pay dividends for the franchise's future.

Chandler Engelbrecht is a reporting intern at The Detroit Free Press and can be reached at CEngelbrecht@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @ctengelbrecht.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Meet new Detroit Pistons Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel