Many thought Alabama would land Nimari Burnett back in the fall of 2019, but Texas Tech managed to bring him in coming off of their tournament run where they finished as the national runner up. One year later, Alabama lands their guy in Nimari Burnett who was prioritized from the moment he entered the transfer portal in January. Alabama presents Burnett with a more natural fit for his skill set than what he had in his short stint with the Red Raiders. The former McDonald’s All-American joins JD Davison, Jahvon Quinerly, Jaden Shackelford, Keon Ellis, and Josh Primo in what will be a loaded back court. While his freshman year stats don’t jump off the page at you (similar to Jahvon Quinerly following his freshman season at Villanova), Burnett should add value in many areas for the Crimson Tide.
One reason the offensive stats were down for Burnett at Texas Tech was the style of play. Burnett is not the most athletic player, but he is better suited for an up-tempo system rather than the slower style that Chris Beard runs. He will be great in transition for Alabama, but also is a good finisher in the half-court off his own drives and getting fed off cuts. He is a high IQ player who takes the right shot rather than a forced shot more often than not. While his 3-point percentage at Texas Tech was nothing to get excited about (17.4%), I do expect that percentage to be much higher in this offense. Nate Oats and his staff have shown that they can improve players shooting ability in their time here. Not only did Jahvon Quinerly see his overall play, including becoming an elite 3-point shooter, develop into something special. The staff also took Herb Jones and made him a more complete offensive player by adding an improved 3-point shot to his arsenal during his senior year. These are just two examples of seeing players grow and thrive under this staff which gives me plenty of optimism to see Burnett develop into a real offensive threat while at Alabama. One area offensively that Burnett could help is getting to the foul line and knocking down shots from the charity stripe. In 12 games at Texas Tech, Burnett attempted 36 free throw attempts and knocked down 32 of them (88.9%). Following Alabama’s heartbreaking loss to UCLA where poor free throw shooting was the highlight, this is reason enough for Alabama fans to get excited about the addition of Burnett.
While Burnett has a lot of potential to grow on the offensive end, he is ready made on the defensive end and will add value from the jump. Many are curious how Alabama will replace Herb Jones on the defensive end, and the answer will be as a group buying in. Keon Ellis, Juwan Gary, and Josh Primo are already valuable assets on the defensive end with a year of experience under their belts. Add Burnett to that core group of switchable defenders who make life hard on offensive opponents. Burnett is about 6’4” but has a long, strong frame and is consistently in good position on the defensive end. As a Red Raider, he had 17 steals (1.4 per game) and 6 blocks (0.5 per game) in his 12-game season. Having a high IQ defender who is consistently in the right position and can force turnovers is key for Alabama. Alabama’s top 3 defense could and probably will still take a hit from losing Herb Jones, but adding a versatile player like Burnett only helps in replacing the value that Herb brought to the table.
Burnett joins Jusaun Holt, Langston Wilson, Charles Bediako and JD Davison in a loaded 2021 recruiting class. With the addition of Burnett, Alabama is currently out of room barring another transfer. With talented players still in the portal and receiving interest from Alabama, it will be interesting to see if Alabama is finished with what they have in this class and with what’s returning or if they will look to add another impactful rotation piece. Alabama is coming off its best season since 2004, and with how the recruiting trail has gone for this staff, Tide fans have a lot to be excited about in the near future for this program.
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