Coach Rick Barnes made a big splash on the recruiting trail by signing the fourth-ranked prospect in South Carolina away from USC coach Frank Martin. D.J. Burns is a big body with an even bigger upside. He has a skill set that serves Rick Barnes half-court system well.
At 6-9, 245lbs., Burns is a true post player who can make plays with his back to the basket or facing up. The first thing one notices on film is his outstanding footwork on the block. He easily creates space with his post moves and has the ability to fool his defender with ball fakes. He scores often with an up-and-under move or mid-range, lefty jumper. His passing skills are above average and displays the prowess to find open teammates consistently.
Lacking natural explosiveness and the ability to get up and down the court in a hurry, Burns reminds one of a young Zach Randolph or former Tennessee great Ron Slay. He must improve his conditioning and body composition and become more aggressive on the boards. His defensive skills are average and opposing offenses will look to pull him away from the basket. All this can be improved upon once he arrives in Knoxville.
The potential of D.J. Burns is off the charts and his success will come down to his work ethic and the ability of the Tennessee staff to get the most out of him they can. His competition in high school wasn’t elite so it’s difficult to get a read on how his skills will translate to the SEC basketball level. His pace and average athletic ability would hinder him at many other schools, but Coach Barnes system will be a perfect fit. It hasn’t changed much since his Texas days and LaMarcus Aldridge can attest to it favoring a skilled big man.
It will be at least two seasons before D.J. Burns becomes a significant contributor for the Vols, but he gives hope to Tennessee fans about the continued success of the program in the future. He can become an anchor in the paint for Tennessee and continue the tradition of bruising post play that Grant Williams is currently using to abuse SEC big men.
A future SEC POY candidate, Burns will be in a Tennessee uniform for three years minimum and there should be no fear of him leaving before then. His future, and the future of Tennessee basketball, looks bright.