Soph. G/F Zak Irvin: 6-foot-6 215 lbs.
It was clear early last season that there weren't too many three point shots out there that Zak Irvin would pass up. The "Just A Shooter" reputation that floated around Nik Stauskas the year before was hardly mentioned around Irvin, most likely because it was obvious. Everything Irvin did on the court was in service of the three-point sho, and he gave thanks to the gods of the outside arc with many an offering.
Okay, so that's a ham-fisted way of saying that Irvin shot a lot of threes in very little time. He had 146 attempts on the season, which was one less than Caris LeVert. In contrast Irvin played just 38% of available minutes (compared to 84% for LeVert), and 75% of his shots came from outside. Just. A. Shooter.
Further confirmation of "Just A Shooter" status: The 6'6 Irvin had a lower defensive rebounding rate than both Michigan's PGs, a lower assist rate than both Michigan's centers, and the lowest free throw rate on the team. Nine of out every ten three point attempts were assisted, and again, three out of every four of his shots was from outside.
- Three-point shooting: Despite the scouting reports that said "Just A Shooter" and Irvin's best attempt to exist exclusively outside the three point line, he was still a damn effective shooter. That is what can happen when you're 6'6 with a high release point and quick release. Irvin was a murderous outside option for a Michigan team that was well set up to reward three point gunners who could spot up on the wings.
- Everything else: Can Michigan get along with Irvin existing in his freshman year form for a second year? Yeah, probably. But if the Wolverines want to keep the offense rolling along at a breakneck pace while overcoming what are sure to be bouts of post-defense and rebounding woes, Irvin is going to need to expand his skill set outside of hoisting up every long shot he gets the opportunity to throw up. Michigan could really use a multi-faceted scorer, not just a shooter.
If you're looking for the biggest x-factor outside of Michigan's very young front line, this would be a good place to start. Irvin is a five-star former Mr. Basketball in Indiana. He has plenty of game outside of just shooting from a long ways away, and he spent the summer in Ann Arbor working in Camp Sanderson — Michigan's now famous summer off-season conditioning program that has helped transform other Wolverines over the past couple off-seasons. The physical gains are already there. He put on 15 pounds over the summer and increased his athleticism.
Furthermore, those gains have showed up on the court. In Michigan's summer Italy trip Irvin was a force to be reckoned with. Irvin led the team in scoring with 20 points per game while grabbing 7.3 rebounds per game (a vast improvement). However, his FTRate was still a paltry 12.5%, and he had just 1.3 assists per game. The level of competition wasn't very high overseas, but these are positive signs of growth.
Still, it is foolish to expect Irvin to turn into the next Stauskas when he just hasn't flashed that sort of potential. Nik's "Not Just A Shooter" meme grew from the fact that even as a freshman he flashed the potential to be an on-ball offensive creator in the pick and roll. It is hard to remember a time when Irvin so much as dribbled in a half-court set as a freshman. A stark contrast to the "game, blouses" dunks that peppered Stauskas's first year.
Thankfully, Michigan doesn't need Irvin to be anything but a scorer. Glenn Robinson fit well in Michigan's offense last year as a volume scorer and Tim Hardaway Jr. fit in that type or role before that. Between LeVert and Walton, Michigan has options through which it can initiate its offense. Irvin's role will be finishing possessions. The more he can do so from inside as well as outside the arc, the farther he can take Michigan.