Deonte Burton Playing Within Himself, Preparing for 2019-20
LAS VEGAS -- An open-mouthed smile revealed a toothy grin as the words, “I see you, I see you!” burst forth from Thunder forward Deonte Burton. On the floor at Summer League, there’s a little bit less noise and fanfare, little in-game music and limited production.
Burton’s voice carried across the court, not just to the teammate he was hyping up but in through the stands as well. In his second year at Summer League, Burton’s voice holds a little bit more weight, even he personally has slimmed down. Toned muscles curl out of the Thunder jersey – Burton is still burly, but fit. He’s made a commitment this summer to cut out fried foods, minimize snacking and drop a few pounds through diet.
“It’s still a work in progress. Some weeks are better than others,” Burton quipped.
“(Deonte) has really bought into it. You gotta give him credit,” added Summer League Head Coach Dave Bliss. “He’s lost a lot of body fat, really slimmed himself down. But he still has that explosiveness and that power but just building up and endurance, that capacity.”
As a somewhat position-less athlete, Burton has the ability to handle the ball and make plays as a guard, serve as a screener like a forward and defend multiple positions from point guard to power forward. He has to be nimble but sturdy, powerful but quick. That requires constant attention to his body and preparation, and while he’s approaching the work in the weight room and in practice like a serious professional, he’s taken a different approach to each game here in Summer League.
“I’m going in like a child, I’m going in free. Free of ego. Free of everything,” Burton said. “I’m just going to work.”
“My thing with Deonte has been just play the role that you’re going to play with the Thunder and get experience that way,” Bliss explained. “You’re going to have the ball in your hands at times, but a lot of times that’s going to be setting screens and separating, playing out of the corners, catch-and-shoot threes and then driving closeouts, making second plays.”
There’s nothing weak about Burton’s game. He plays with force and every play – a dribble drive, a pass or a rebound – is done hard, for better or worse. As he continues to develop his feel for the game, those bang-bang plays will smoothen out and create opportunities for himself and others on the floor.
For many second-year guys at Summer League, there’s a temptation to prove something with high scoring nights, ball dominance or showy dunks and blocks. Burton has eschewed that pull to make a name for himself. He’s played within his role, taken the opportunities in front of him, gotten his teammates involved and played to the Thunder’s system on both ends of the floor.
With his athleticism and talent, fans will always notice Burton on the floor, but he wants to jump out as a player who makes the game flow more cohesively for the entire group rather than just for himself.
“I never feel basketball is about the numbers. I’m not big on analytics,” Burton said. “When you’re playing together, everything will happen how it’s supposed to happen. Some nights it will go your way, some nights it won’t. When you play the correct way, most nights it will go the right way.”
“He’s done a good job of keeping it simple. He hasn’t necessarily jumped out at you in terms of wow, he’s not scoring 30. That was never the plan with him,” Bliss noted. “I really think his ability to execute game plans, execute spacing, really dial into the details is really getting better.”