Sam Presti may have found another one. DJ Khaled voice
Deonte Burton has already built a cult following in his short tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder spearheaded by Down to Dunk/OKC Dream Team member Andrew Schlecht.
Burton was signed to a two-way contract on July 7th per a Thunder press release after an impressive summer league showing for the Thunders summer league side. Burton played in five games for the Thunder putting up stats of 10.6 points per game on 59 percent shooting to go along with 5.8 rebounds and three assists per game. A highlight for Burton was his 17 point, eight rebounds, and five assist game against the Orlando Magic that saw Burton hit a buzzer-beating game-winner after he took the game over down the stretch scoring nine points leading the Thunder to an 87-85 win. Burton was must-see for the Thunder with his size (6’5’ 250 lbs) and athleticism to go along with his aggressive mentality Presti couldn’t resist picking Burton upon a two-way contract.
Burton’s journey to the Thunder wasn’t the normal path taken to get to the NBA. Burton started his journey in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as a 39th ranked high school player back in 2013 on ESPN top 100 list. Burton would go on to play a total of four years of college basketball. Burton spent two years at Marquette University, former home to future NBA Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade and All-Star Jimmy Butler.
In Burton’s time with Maquette he would play a total 40 games with three coming as a starter, Burton would go on to average 6.8 points per game. Burton would go on to transfer from Marquette midway through the season to join Fred Hoiberg’s Iowa State Cyclones side in 2015/16 after spending a year and a half in Milwaukee. Burton would go on to play 61 games for the Cyclones seeing a big improvement in his time on the court as he started in 42 of those games for Hoiberg’s team. Burton would sit out the first half of his first season with the Cyclones because of his transfer he would still go on to average 9.69 points on 53.3 percent shooting in his first season while also being named the Big 12 newcomer of the year. In Burton’s second season with Iowa, he would see a massive jump in numbers going from 18.8 minutes per game to 29.5 per game. with the upgrade in playing time came a climb in stats as Burton would finish his time with the Iowa State Cyclones scoring 15.06 points per game on 45.6 percent shooting to go along with six rebounds and he would make the second-team All-Big 12 after his breakout year with the Cyclones.
Burton had to take his game International after failing to be drafted in the 2017 NBA draft. Burton would have a brief stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves but was later cut in training camp. Burton would find himself going 6,449 miles to South Korea where he would play professional basketball for Wonju DB Promy. Burton would play 63 games for the South Korean side averaging 23.84 points per game on 47.1 percent shooting, 8.75 rebounds, and 3.83 assists. Burton would end up earning the Foreign Player League MVP.
Then the Thunder came a calling. Burton would impress General Manager Sam Presti and the Oklahoma City Thunder organization earning him a two-way contract with the Thunder. More importantly for Burton through his grit and grind style of basketball paired with his thunderous dunks made him an instant fan favorite with Thunder Nation. Shortly after his Summer League stint, and signing with the Thunder Burton was seen all over his newly found teammate’s social media platforms as Burton could be seen playing at Rico Hines with former MVP and team leader Russell Westbrook along with other teammates such as Paul George, Hamidou Diallo, and Raymond Felton.
In his first pre-season, with the Thunder Burton would go on to average 5.5 points per game and two rebounds in a total of 13 minutes per game.
The Thunder have had an injury-plagued start to the season that has seen them turn to their rookies to help fill in the gaps that have shown up and they have been fantastic in doing so. Burton would see his first impactful game for the Thunder come in their second game of the season as Burton would play seven minutes scoring five points on 2-of-4 shots at 50 percent and 1-of-2 from three-point range at 50 percent he would also get a block. He would see an uptick in minutes come against the New York Knicks playing 12 minutes and scoring seven points on 50 percent shooting from both the field and three-point range. In the fourth quarter, Burton would show his explosive athleticism throwing down a strong dunk after blowing by a Knicks defender.
Burton has put in a great account of himself in his time with the Thunder with the highlight coming against the Charlotte Hornets. Burton would have a career night against the Hornets playing 21 minutes scoring 11 points on 4-of-8 shots shooting 50 percent from the field while going 1-of-3 from three-point range at 33.3 percent. Burton would also bring down two rebounds and two assists. A highlight from the game was a play involving Russell Westbrook assisting Burton on a vicious slam dunk over Hornets player Miles Bridges.
In his first 12 games with the Thunder, Burton has averaged 9.3 minutes per game averaging 3.9 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting and 36.4 from three-point range while also averaging 1.2 rebounds per game and a plus-minus of plus 2.8. Burton has been great coming off the bench and filling in with all the injuries the Thunder have had to deal with so far this season. Burton, as a two-way player, is available to the Thunder for a total of 45 days this includes practice days and game days this commences at the start of the OKC Blue season. In his short time with the Thunder Burton has built a great reputation and his contributions have been acknowledged by his teammates.
“[He] does a little bit of everything,” George said. “I classify him as a ballplayer; you don’t really put a position on him. He is just a hooper and you put him out there and he is going to make things happen. We have a couple of guys like that on this team who are positionless but when they get in that game, their talent comes out and it shows. He is a talented guy for us.”
Burton has seemingly also built a great relationship with Westbrook starting back from the preseason to now as every time Burton does something well on the court Westbrook is the first to give the rookie a high five, bump or slap on the head pumping the rookie up.
Deonte Burton has proven he can play at the NBA level. How far can he go? That’s unclear for now but what is clear is that Sam Presti and the Thunder need to lock Burton down by offering him a contract to keep him with the Thunder going forward. Burton has shown he can hit the three at a good clip while also throwing down highlight-reel dunks but more importantly Burton has proven he can be impactful on the defensive side of the ball bring a Westbrook level of energy to the team as soon as coach Billy Donovan calls his number.
Burton comes in a package of raw power and explosive athleticism that has the potential to be a lethal weapon for The Thunder if developed correctly. So far it’s looking like Presti strikes again.