Jaaron Simmons: How Does He Fit?
Simmons gets a lot of tough buckets at the basket.
Michigan added a significant piece to the roster late last night in Ohio grad transfer Jaaron Simmons, who's in line to be the starting point guard provided he doesn't jump to the NBA. While that seems unlikely given his draft stock—he's unranked on DraftExpress and listed as "likely undrafted" on NBADraftNet's rundown of potential early entrants—Simmons told MLive's Brendan Quinn he's discussing that possibility with John Beilein:
In a phone interview with MLive on Tuesday, Simmons said he is indeed transferring to Michigan and has accepted the program's lone available scholarship. However, having previously declared for the NBA Draft, he does not yet know if he will withdraw [and] spend next season in college basketball.
"I haven't decided yet," Jaaron Simmons said (pronounced "Juh-Ron"). "Me and coach (John) have been talking about that, but I haven't decided."
Simmons said he'll continue to talk to his family and Beilein about the choice to stay in the draft or withdraw and "come up with the decision that's best for me."
Simmons said whether he receives an invitation to the Draft Combine or not will not weigh in that decision. He said he does not have a timeline for his final decision, but does not plan on waiting until the NCAA's May 24 withdraw deadline.
Beilein can't comment on Simmons until he's officially added to the roster, but I can't imagine he'd accept a commitment for the last open 2017-18 scholarship without a pretty good idea that Simmons would withdraw from the draft. Unless his projection changes dramatically, it's hard to imagine Simmons would want to stay in the draft anyway.
Brian covered the basics on Simmons when news of his commitment broke last night. He's first and foremost a pick-and-roll creator, and he took on a huge usage load at Ohio, where his efficiency was hurt by having to create the vast majority of his shots. After the jump, I'll explore how he fits into the projected lineup for 2017-18.
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Making the not-at-all-safe assumption that Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson withdraw from the draft, here's a guess at how Michigan's rotation will look with Simmons in the fold:
PG: Simmons (25), Simpson (15), Brooks (spot minutes or redshirt)
SG: MAAR (30), Simmons (5), Poole/Watson (5)
SF: Matthews (30), Robinson (5), MAAR (5)
PF: Wilson (25), Robinson (15)
C: Wagner (25), Wilson (10), Teske/Davis (5)
The jury is still out on whether Xavier Simpson is the long-term answer at point guard. Adding Simmons gives John Beilein another year to develop Simpson (especially his jumper) without having too many of his growing pains occur during actual games, and this also buys incoming freshman Eli Brooks time to hone his game before getting thrown into the mix.
As Brian mentioned in his post, Simmons takes a lot of shots that'd be considered questionable in Beilein's system. Given his circumstances at Ohio, I don't mind that too much. Michigan has to replace a huge portion of their late-clock scoring with Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin gone. Only so many of those shots are going to be of high quality, and when an offensive set is stymied, Simmons has proven he can create his own look and finish some tough shots.
Simmons will be the primary ballhandler; he was sixth nationally in assist rate as a sophomore and 21st as a junior, albeit with elevated turnover rates that are hopefully the product of him having to force too much of the offense. While he's not going to be as efficient as Walton, especially as a three-point shooter, he can take on a similar number of ball-screen possessions. Michigan's offense should be a lot of Simmons and Charles Matthews drives while surrounded by shooters; hopefully they can develop the pick-and-pop chemistry that Walton had with Wagner this past season.
Simmons isn't going to be on the level of senior Derrick Walton, but his efficiency should improve in Beilein's system, and Ultimate X Factor Charles Matthews could be enough of an offensive upgrade over Irvin that a year of progression from the rest of the team keeps the offense producing at a similar level to last season. The big question for both Simmons and Matthews is outside shooting; Michigan will run into spacing issues if those two can't at least provide a viable threat from the outside. Simmons should be passable: he's a 37% career three-point shooter despite an unusually high percentage of unassisted attempts.
Adding Simmons also provides insurance in the case of Wagner and/or Wilson departing. While it'd be far from ideal, Simmons could conceivably take on a high usage role similar to the one he had at Ohio, and Duncan Robinson would benefit from the catch-and-shoot looks Simmons creates off the high screen.
While Michigan is technically out of scholarships for 2017-18, don't expect this to impact their pursuit of five-star center Mo Bamba, who would probably only come here if Wilson or Wagner departed anyway. Beilein essentially said as much today:
Beilein wouldn't/couldn't confirm the Jaaron Simmons news but said U-M could offer more players than there are scholarships.
— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) April 25, 2017
On the whole, I really like this pickup; if the big men withdraw from the draft, Simmons answers the biggest looming question facing this year's team—he'll be very comfortable running a ball screen-heavy offense and adds scoring punch that Simpson is unlikely to provide.
Scheduling: Beilein vs. Bacari in Detroit
The other big basketball news to break in the last day: Michigan will face Detroit Mercy on December 16th at newly built Little Caesars Arena in Detroit as part of a doubleheader that will also feature Michigan State vs. Oakland. The Titans are coached by former Michigan assistant Bacari Alexander, who didn't fare so well in his first year on the job, going 8-23 and finishing 302nd on KenPom. Hopefully a year-two turnaround keeps Detroit from being an RPI anchor on Michigan's schedule; I otherwise love the idea of featuring Detroit-area basketball in the new downtown arena.
The game won't just feature Alexander facing his former boss; former Wolverine Kam Chatman will be eligible to play for Detroit after a transfer-mandated redshirt last year.
In the press conference announcing the doubleheader, Beilein mentioned a couple more scheduling tidbits:
Beilein also discussed schedule this year, confirming U-M will play the Big Ten/ACC on the road, host UCLA and play at Texas. No Gavitt
— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) April 25, 2017
That's all as expected; the UCLA and Texas games will be the latter halves of home-and-homes started last year.
New 2018 Offer
Per TMI's Josh Henschke, Michigan extended an offer to 2018 Canadian prospect Ignas Brazdeikis, who's ranked 90th overall on Scout and an unranked four-star to Rivals. The 6'7", 220-pound wing holds offers from Baylor, Memphis, Oregon, Pitt, SMU, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and USC, among others. He's off to a hot start for Canadian-based AAU squad CIA Bounce, averaging 22 points, seven boards, and three assists through four games while shooting 28/48 on twos and 7/15 on threes.