An irregular series about next year's basketball team. Previously: Point guard.
bench mob no more [JD Scott]
Jordan Poole (So): [cartoonish SUPER VILLAIN] Oh no! An OVERDOSE of SWAG. [/dies]
(108 ORTG on high-ish usage, 52/36 shooting, 82% from line, needs work on defense, breakout candidate)
Adrien Nunez (Fr): Just a shooter?
Ibi Watson (Jr): played about 3 MPG, shot 46/32, other numbers useless due to sample size.
Mystery Man (???): He's either pirated from other spots on the roster or a mid-major who thought they really had something.
I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS
Didn't Ace already write this post?
Sort of! Kind of! Mostly, yeah.
Questions one through five at this spot are "what happens to Jordan Poole?!," and Ace just posted one of those one-Q mailbags about Poole and his recent Michigan comparables:
I've used Bart Torvik's invaluable site to pull the statistics of Poole and his comparables against top-50 (venue-adjusted) competition. When you ignore minutes and usage for a moment—two factors with clear explanations I'll get to momentarily—there's a clear match for Poole: Stauskas.
Trey Burke, mostly thrown in as an extra data point, had far different usage as a pure point guard. The rest are wings and therefore more comparable. The numbers that give me optimism regarding Poole are his two-pointers—taken with relative frequency, finished with efficiency—and his combination of high usage, extant assist rate, and low turnover rate.
Stylistically, Poole is absolutely more Stauskas than any other Beilein-era SG/SF. Both are archetypically Not Just A Shooter. The freshman versions of both attacked closeouts relatively well, hit free throws, sniped from the outside, rarely turned it over, and had a healthy-for-a-freshman-NJAS assist rate. Their FT rates are nearly identical; their 3PA/FGA rates are nearly identical.
There's obviously a big gap in minutes, but roster composition explains all of that. The only vaguely guard-shaped objects on the bench in 2012-13 roster were fellow freshmen Spike Albrecht (short) and Caris Levert (willowy). Poole was on the same roster as the senior version of Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Charles Matthews, The Kentucky Transfer.
If we overlook minutes, the main differences between the two are efficiency and usage. Stauskas hit 44% of his threes as a freshman versus Poole's 36%. Stauskas was a fourth banana with 17% usage; Poole got more shots up per 40 than anyone on the team not named Moritz Wagner. Stauskas was surrounded by Trey Burke, Naismith Edition, and a junior Tim Hardaway Jr. Poole was surrounded by Zavier Simpson and Charles Matthews—good players but nowhere near that level.
This is part problem and part promise. Problem: Poole was a walking heat check as a freshman, which depressed his efficiency and upped his usage. Hopefully he'll play a little bit more within himself once he's on the floor for most of the game. Promise: Michigan needs someone to create shots. They need someone with some lip curl on offense. They need a guy who unbalances defenses. Poole can be that guy.
Ace suggests that a Stauskas leap is optimistic but achievable…
The Stauskas leap remains spectacular. He significantly upped his usage, improved his efficiency while taking on a much greater role as a distributor, and even improved significantly as a three-point shooter despite taking way more of his shots off the bounce.
I still think Poole can do something quite similar. He may not have played the early minutes Stauskas did, but he played a lot of important minutes and took on a bigger role when he saw the floor. Meanwhile, a lot of what he did on the court looked downright Stauskas-esque. Both are known for their unabashed three-point gunning, but what really separates the two is their ability to score from all three levels (rim, midrange, three).
…and yeah, it is. Ace didn't mention the other really encouraging thing about Poole: his age. He won't turn 19 for a couple more months, which makes him more Caris Levert (who turned 19 the August after his freshman year) than Stauskas (who turned 19 a month into his). Levert made an even bigger jump than Stauskas in year two, going from the overwhelmed guy in the table above to a 112 ORTG, 21% usage guy playing 34 MPG.
Poole will blow up. The question is "how much?"
[After THE JUMP: D though? Backups though?]
Okay, but what about [checks notes] uhhh… replacing MAAR as a perimeter defender?
Hard to remember at this juncture, but a couple years ago MAAR was the wrong kind of blow-by machine. Far too often he watched his guy get an uncontested layup and had to reply on the other end. Fast forward a couple years and he's mentioned in the same breath as Simpson and Matthews in a good coach quote article before the Final Four:
"They've got three really good on-ball defenders," one coach said. "Most teams don't have two, or even one. They have three. [Zavier] Simpson, [Muhammad-Ali] Abdur-Rahkman, [Charles] Matthews can really guard the ball. You don't have a matchup on the perimeter you can attack."
That is a hell of a transformation. And it's one Poole needs to match if Michigan is going to maintain its lofty defensive rankings.
He probably can't and won't and that's okay. He does need to improve a bunch from his regular season performance, which featured Early MAAR-style blow-bys and a bunch of back-cuts. This is already in progress:
Much of what held him back early in the season revolved around his defensive consistency and shot selection, skills that Beilein now considers to be much improved.
“Jordan Poole’s defense, right now — and it was not good in October, November — it is really coming on,” Beilein said Monday night. “He’s a pretty bright kid, and he gets that. And he also understands, ‘I’m going to play defense and I’m going to take care of the ball or I’m not going to play.’ ”
Speaking as someone who underwent a remarkably rapid, snotty transition from vaguely hoping Michigan wouldn't get lit up to being DISGUSTED whenever Michigan gave up an open look, I can vouch for this as well. Poole's D was leaps and bounds better during Michigan's late run in both postseason tourneys; he still got lost from time to time but when clear on his assignment he was far less exploitable.
What happens when Poole isn't on the court?
You know on the Great British Baking show when someone's showstopper is floppy and there's a lot of meaningful looks and then that person is regretfully ejected from the show with a lot of hugs and a stiff upper lip? Yeah… I kind of feel like Ibi Watson fumbling a sure dunk out of bounds and then immediately getting backcut in the Final Four was the equivalent of handing Paul Hollywood pastry that failed to laminate. This is a very long and roundabout and above all British way of approaching the idea that Watson's just not going to get there and that Michigan, which is otherwise utterly bereft of shooting guards, is going to have to get creative.
[UPDATE: Because the author is An Idiot he forgot about incoming freshman Adrien Nunez, who may break through to be a 10-15 MPG Just A Shooter in year one, obviating the need for weird matchups. Nunez displays an impressive suite of three point shots off the bounce and in catch and shoot situations; if someone else can create shots when Poole is on the bench he would be an excellent kickout target. That's his reasonable upside in year one, and he might be someone Michigan puts on the shelf, more or less, since he's the lowest-rated guy in this class. If that happens, then the following remains the situation.]
What works will be heavily dependent on matchups. Against teams that have an unthreatening guard who plays 10-15 minutes, dual-point lineups featuring David DeJulius or a breakout version of Eli Brooks appeal. Against teams that either have backcourt depth or a bunch of size, lineups with three of Livers/Brazdeikis/Matthews/Johns intrigue. In these lineups Matthews is the nominal shooting guard since he'll be the primary defender at the 2; the potential challenge is getting non-Poole lineups to score.
This is where Ignas "Iggy" Brazdeikis comes in. Brazdeikis would be a consensus top 50 recruit if Rivals and ESPN followed through on their ratings (five star and 88, respectively) with rankings (at worst 29th and 45th, respectively), and he's ready to go if early returns from the World Hoops Summit---where he weighed in at a very college-ready 223—are any indication:
More than 60 NBA scouts are getting a look at Michigan's Ignas Brazdeikis in workouts for this week's Nike Hoop Summit. One scout: "Canada has so much talent. I mean, Iggy is going to be a stud next year. He's going to be a really good player. He fits Beilein's system to a T."
— Brendan F. Quinn (@BFQuinn) April 11, 2018
…looked like the World team's best shooter. The Canadian is a strong and skilled offensive player who can stretch defenses and his 6-foot-7, 225-pound frame allows him to be a good post scorer as well. He looks like he should be ready to step right in and play important minutes for the Wolverines.
Brazdeikis is older than Poole—he turned 19 in January—and should hit the ground running.
The other option is finding an open roster slot and spending it on a grad transfer. The only reason this seems at all reasonable is Michigan's pursuit of South Dakota SG Matt Mooney. There are a lot of hurdles to clear there—losing Moe and seeing a playing time transfer and fending off half the P5 teams in the country—so this remains a longshot better addressed in the unlikely event it comes to pass.
If you're comfortable projecting a 12 MPG freshman to stardom this is just fine. It is abundantly clear that this blog is comfortable doing so.
There's a decent shot this transition is actually an upgrade, at least on offense. MAAR's final season featured a 118 ORTG on 19% usage. It's not a stretch to expect a young freshman to add ten ORTG points while maintaining his usage, and Poole's already at 23%. He's already displayed the ability to get to the bucket he'll need to be a three-level threat; it's just a matter of refining, reducing bad decisions, and Camp Sanderson.
The backup situation is slightly dodgy only because there isn't a smooth fit at shooting guard amongst likely contributors, but the worst case scenario here is a slightly awkward time for DeJulius/Brooks/Brazdeikis for 10 minutes a game. That's a good worst case scenario.