Basketbullets: Simmons Fit, Scholarships, Detroit In Detroit

Submitted by Ace on April 25th, 2017 at 3:16 PM

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.


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:

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:

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.


Trader Jack

April 25th, 2017 at 3:23 PM ^

Come on, man. Isaiah Livers won Michigan Mr. Basketball this year. Don't forget about him in the projected lineup breakdown for next year; he's definitely going to play.

I think Jordan Poole will get more than 5 minutes a game, too, but that's another discussion.


April 25th, 2017 at 3:29 PM ^

I like his game, but if Wilson and Wagner come back, it's hard to find many minutes out there for him. I could take a few off Wilson and give Livers spot minutes, but Beilein tends to play a tight rotation and Duncan Robinson is going to command plenty of minutes at the four. It's not a commentary on Livers, just how the roster shakes out at the moment. Quibbling over a few minutes here or there kinda misses the purpose of the post anyway.

Trader Jack

April 25th, 2017 at 3:32 PM ^

I understand that's not the point of the post, but you listed Brooks as getting spot minutes or redshirting so I honestly thought you just forgot about Livers and wanted to bring that to your attention.

If it's just that you don't think he'll play enough to list him then that's fine. We disagree but, like you said, it's not really the point of the post.


April 25th, 2017 at 4:03 PM ^

like your first post suggested? Or do you think he'll get spot minutes (mop up time) or redshirt?  Definitely two different roles.  I think Ace could have listed him in the same way as Brooks in the 4 spot with no allocated minutes. He is highly unlikely to play any meaningful minutes if Moe and DJ come back and could certainly be headed for a redshirt.

Longballs Dong…

April 25th, 2017 at 4:22 PM ^

Assuming Wilson and Wagner come back, where do you see Livers getting minutes and how many?  If they both come back, i hope Livers takes a red shirt.  If he's playing, it's only minimal minutes OR Charles Matthews is a bust.  

If only one of Wilson/Wagner leave, I think we'll rely more on Davis/Teske at 5 and put Wagner at 4 more.  I don't see Livers getting any time at 5 so he's still probably the 3rd option at the 3 or 4 (though Robinson is the 2nd at both 3 and 4 so maybe he's the 2.5 option).  

If they both go to the NBA, I think Livers plays off the bench with Matthews at 3, Robinson at 4, Teske/Davis at 5 to start the season and a chance he breaks through at the 4 and Robinson backs up the 3/4.  

At any rate, let's not get ahead of ourselves with a freshman.  Very few are prodcutive right away in Michigan's system.  


April 25th, 2017 at 10:54 PM ^

Brooks at five minutes or redshirt, you should have done the same for Livers.

Also, I would be surprised to see MAAR get 30 minutes with all the guards we have now, unless he ups his game.

You hit two key points about Simmons. The obvious, that he shores up the point guard position, but also that he gives us another go to guy in big shot situations. We lose our two best guys for that role and I didn't see Simpson or Mathews as filling that need.


April 25th, 2017 at 3:53 PM ^

Every year people want to throw in 10 man lineups and almost every year Beilein ends up with a 8 man rotation once things matter.  Frankly the last 4-5 weeks last year was basically a 7 man rotation!

If the 2 bigs come back you are looking at those 2, Duncan, MAAR, Simmons as 5.  Teske OR Davis would get the bulk of 1 spot, Matthews and one assumes X is next.  That's your 8.  On off nights for Teske/Davis the other of Teske/Davis goes in I assume.  Unless X gets displaced right away by a freshman that seems to be your lineup on most nights.

Now if the big 2 leave than we are going to be very young again and everything about goes to the pooh pooh pile.


April 25th, 2017 at 4:01 PM ^

rotation, and that's if you assume the winner of Poole/Watson and Teske/Davis actually get 5 minutes a game.  I think that by only allocating 5 minutes as the third option at their respective positions acknowledges that none of the four could see meaningful rotational minutes.  Certainly possible we run with a 7-man rotation of Simmons, Simpson, MAAR, Mathews, Robinson, Wilson, Wagner.

My best guess is that Poole proves to be a nice shooter off the bench for 10 minutes a game, similar to Irvin's role as a freshmen and that we go mostly 8 deep.

Longballs Dong…

April 25th, 2017 at 4:27 PM ^

I think a combination of Teske/Davis will have to get some minutes at the 5.  I know Wilson played 5 well late last year but we need some help there.  Other than that, I mostly agree.  I'll be surprised if a true freshman plays any useful minutes unless Wilson/Wagner leave or we have an injury.  


April 25th, 2017 at 7:06 PM ^

improve his defense and ability to stay out of foul trouble such that he can go 30 min a game, with DJ spelling him the other 10 min at the 5 (since Robinson can slot into the 4).

I just don't see how Teske/Davis can possibly improve enough to the point where getting them minutes is worth having Moe or DJ on the bench for more than 10 minutes.  And honestly, the more likely path to playing time is they force Robinson into fewer than 20 min a game and keep DJ at the 4 for most of the game.

That's possible if they make a HUGE leap, which would be nice, but I don't see them getting much time unless Moe or DJ leaves.  But I want more of Moe, not Teske/Davis yet.


April 25th, 2017 at 3:25 PM ^

I'd love to get Mo Bamba. And if Wilson or Wagner leaves, he would be a huge asset.

But given how highly he is ranked, he seems like a pretty good bet to go to the NBA after one year, which suggests that the calculus on him vs. a Wilson return or a transfer PG is more of a "who helps us most this season" question than a deeper question of potential and development. 

And if W&W came back, the bigger hole would definitely be in the backcourt. 

Not that Bamba is that likely to come here anyway, but still.


April 25th, 2017 at 3:27 PM ^

ScottyP is confused?

"Adding Simmons also provides insurance in the case of Wagner and/or Wilson departing."


How does a PG provide insurance for two big fellars??


"On the whole, I really like this pickup; if the big men withdraw from the draft"


Can you explain more ACE? Or just say eff of ScottyP. 


April 25th, 2017 at 3:45 PM ^

because him running the PnR with Moe and/or DJ is a very enticing prospect indeed.  Duncan/other big/MAAR spotting up in the corners.  Hopefully Mathews can shoot well enough to spread the floor too.  I'm confident he will given all the spot up opps he'd get (and others) with a Simmons plus Moe/DJ PnR drawing a lot of attention.

But yes, if Moe AND DJ leave, having a creator like Simmons will be huge.  A lot of that responsibility would have otherwise fell on...Mathews, maybe?  X of course too.  Don't count him out for a sophomore leap.


April 25th, 2017 at 4:03 PM ^

I think we'll see quite a bit of Matthews lining up in the corner on PnR plays looking to make cuts to the basket to take advantage of defensive help. While his outside shot is a question mark his athleticism and ability around the rim are not. Getting himself in a bit of space near the paint puts him in good position to finish a quick dish or go for a put back off a miss.


April 25th, 2017 at 3:37 PM ^

If he's still not enrolled and isn't positive he's not entering the draft, does that also leave the option open for his scholarship to be pulled if a miracle happened and Bamba wants to commit?  At which point, it seems like the scholly would/should become contingent on DJ and/or Moe leaving.


April 27th, 2017 at 9:02 PM ^

so you're saying that if we had the choice between Bamba and Simmons, they both were ready to enroll, we'd take Simmons?

I think I agree with you, based on need, since this is all predicated on DJ and Moe staying. Tough one though.  Bamba is a potential game changer so you almost have to take the gamble that X can provide good enough PG play to get a guy that can totally change the game.


April 25th, 2017 at 8:14 PM ^

Yeah it is pretty ridiculous... though I'l still probably go.

Looks like the ACC was at Barclays this past year, but that was because of the HB2 law in North Carolina. I'd rather play there and not adjust our schedule (though I live in Brooklyn, so maybe a bit biased). Or of course, somewhere actually closer to all the other Big Ten schools


April 25th, 2017 at 4:39 PM ^

It is always fun to project and debate minutes for the upcoming season.  I even posted an entire Diary about just that a few weeks ago (link).  I mostly like what Ace put together, but here are some observations:

  • I don't think Brooks will redshirt even if he plays just a few minutes.  I say that because they're going to need him the following year and they have other guards coming so the benefit of a redshirt is limited.  He'll be the Dakich minutes guy.
  • I think Robinson may play more minutes and Mathews may play fewer, but I do agree that about 50 minutes between them seems close.
  • I don't think Wilson will play 10mpg at center, probably more like 5.  The reason I say that is partially because I don't think a Robinson/Mathews forward pairing will be as comfortable for Beilein as having Irvin out there was.  Irvin could get away playing defense in the post or perimeter more than those two I think. If they want to play Wilson more at the 5 then you might see Livers get 5-10mpg when that happens.



April 25th, 2017 at 7:30 PM ^

I don't think you don't redshirt just because you have another PG coming in.  That's too presumptive that the next guy will be good enough to make one of them redundant.  If he's not ahead of Simpson for backup PG next year, he wouldn't play any meaningful minutes (wouldn't even get Dakich minutes - he was an actual backup). You probably have to redshirt him if he's third string. Especially since you can do it after the 7th game or something, right?  

Then let him and DeJulius compete the following year for backup or even starter over X, and you have four more years left with the winner, whomever it may be. If Brooks is the loser, he'd almost certainly grad transfer, if he sticks around that long, so you're not tying the scholly up an extra year, unless he's your starter which is fine. And if DeJulius is the loser, you redshirt him for the same reason.  Rinse and repeat. 

Good point about Irvin being able to play the four, but it's possible Duncan is able to bulk up (maybe? even though he's already like 25, he can still add some muscle right?), and it's possible Mathews can hang as well.  Remember a lot of teams are playing small(er) ball as well so there should be plenty of matchups in which M can go small too.


April 25th, 2017 at 4:49 PM ^

This reminds me a little of Michigan picking up Jake Rudock before the 2015 football season.  Both Simmons and pre-2015 Rudock are/were guys whom you could look to for needed stability and who you had some reason to hope might blossom under Michigan's superior coaching.


April 25th, 2017 at 5:04 PM ^

The primary reason I like this signing is because he is a huge assist rate guy who got a lot of those assists via the ball screen.  Our two best players next year (Wilson & Wagner) should be salivating at the idea of running the offense with a facilitator like this.  

As much as I love Derrick Walton, he wasn't a very good ball-screen creator until his senior year.  Prior to that his assist rates were pretty modest and he deferred to other creators.  Part of that was no doubt due to the struggles Michigan had at the front-court positions during his career, but look at these assist rates:

  • 44% - Darius Morris (10-11)
  • 41% - Jaaron Simmons (15-16)
  • 37% - Trey Burke (12-13)
  • 35% - Jaaron Simmons (16-17)
  • 29% - Trey Burke (11-12)
  • 27% - Derrick Walton (16-17)
  • 24% - Derrick Walton (15-16)

Competition level obviously inflates his numbers, but he's also not passing the ball to guys with NBA potential either.  I think Wagner and Wilson should thrive with him running the ball screen and I also think we'll see plenty of alley-oops to Mathews - something we have barely seen at Michigan since GR3 left.  


April 25th, 2017 at 5:08 PM ^

Is there a strong sense Wilson is leaving? That seems to be the stronger of the two candidates, and that worries me a bit simply because he's a really good player who would be great to have around next year. Wish him luck if he leaves, but I wish there was some clarity.


April 25th, 2017 at 7:26 PM ^

Agreed that playing time no longer an issue, but the strong consideration of a transfer means he is most likely to follow what he deems is better for him. This is healthy, and I have zero issues with it.

However, I think it I means he is more likely to go to the NBA in a 50-50 situation than say a Jourdan Lewis or a Jake Butt whose chance of increasing their stock with another year was roughly 50-50 (or worse).



April 25th, 2017 at 7:34 PM ^

I think the people who make decisions against their own best interests like Miles Bridges and Darius Morris are the minority.  Wilson will leave or stay based on the information he gets back from the draft board and the teams, like most people, and will have nothing to do with how he briefly considered transferring after the '16 season.

5th Van Tyne

April 25th, 2017 at 5:08 PM ^

I KINDA think that Simmons' game looks a lot like Trey Burke's from his freshman year.

Pencil us into the Final Four Folks, I see no possible way my predictions could be wrong.


April 25th, 2017 at 5:45 PM ^

I like what you're proposing.  I also like the idea of expanding it even more and maybe we play both teams in a weekend.  Or maybe they add some directional schools to the mix and there are additional games throughout the weekend (EMU, WMU, CMU, and a rotating 8th team from the Div-2 schools).