We are just under five months out from the beginning of the 2018-19 season for the Michigan Wolverines. Over the coming days I’ll be posting my way-too-early projection for each position on the Wolverines roster.
Today, we are highlighting the point guard position.
The Starter: Zavier Simpson
It is pretty obvious that Zavier Simpson will be the starter come November for the Wolverines. Simpson put the team on his shoulders for parts of the regular season, and was a great floor manager for Beilein and the team.
Simpson made drastic improvements from his freshman to his sophomore season. He shot the ball better, was less erratic on the court, and remained a great on-ball defender.
Defensively, Simpson was arguably the best defender on the team. He averaged almost a steal and a half a game, which was the third best in the Big Ten. He also finished sixth in the Big Ten in defensive win shares at 2.2.
On the offensive end, he played with composure and court vision moving the ball around, and kept the flow of the offense well finishing fifth in the Big Ten in assists with 150. This is why Simpson was the only true point guard that got a considerable amount of playing time.
However, Simpson is still not a great shooter, shooting only 28.6 percent from deep, and did not perform very well under pressure.
He was a turnover machine during their National Championship run, and didn’t seem like he was in a good rhythm shooting or passing the ball. Against Houston, Simpson was 1-7 shooting with only four points and had three turnovers in 37 minutes.
Similarly in the Final Four game against Loyola-Chicago, he went 0-6 and didn’t record a single point, and tallied four turnovers.
This will have to change now that Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Moritz Wagner are no longer on the roster. Simpson is now leader on this team, and one of its best players. He has to take the next step to becoming a consistent leader and shooter no matter the importance of the game.
Simpson ended the season averaging 7.3 points, 3.7 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game, which will more than likely earn him the starting nod heading into the 2018-19 campaign. Especially with another off-season to improve upon his game under one of the best coaches in America in Beilein. However, if his trend of poor performances transfers over to next season, he could be in jeopardy of losing his starting role.
The Backup: David DeJulius
The other contender for the starting job is incoming freshman David DeJulius. DeJulius is a 4-star who is the 17th ranked point guard in the 2018 class. According to 247Sports, DeJulius is the third highest ranked player in Michigan’s 11th ranked class. But he is my favorite of the group.
DeJulius contrasts in many ways to Simpson. He is a shoot-first point guard, but also is an incredible passer. An apt comparison is the 2017-18 national sensation, Oklahoma point guard Trae Young. DeJulius averaged 26 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds in his senior season at East English Village Prep.
Unlike Simpson, DeJulius is an incredible shooter. He can spot up and pop it right in a defenders face. He has the ability to pull up from range and make something out of awkward situation. Shooting is definitely DeJulius’ strongest ability, and will get the freshman some playing time this year.
DeJulius also has great handles and can keep defenders guessing with his shiftiness with the ball, and the ability to pull up from the elbow or drive to the hoop.
The future Wolverine is exactly the type of point guard that the basketball world is changing to, and the kind the Beilein thrives with. He is electric and can spark a huge run in the matter of moments. His ability to shoot the three pointer will make him an extremely valuable edition to the spread out offense Beilein likes to run.
DeJulius also has great court vision, and can move the ball around the offense working off pick-and-rolls and finding open players in transition. The more I watch his film on the offensive side of the ball, the more I fall in love with the player I can see him becoming.
However, there is a reason DeJulius was only a 4-star. He plays with a lot of confidence, which sometimes rubs off as a bit of an attitude. He also isn’t a great defender, and seems to get a little frustrated when things aren’t working very well for him.
Offensively, there are times where he doesn’t seem to be a lot of flow or ball movement when he runs an offense. Because of that, his shots selections are little forced whether they go in or not. But he will play some kind of role for the Wolverines this season, and it will more than likely be in the form of a backup unless sophomore Eli Brooks jumps leaps and bounds.
Third String: Eli Brooks
Brooks came out as an early favorite for the backup point guard role at the beginning of last season. He was spoken very highly of in the preseason, and Beilein and the staff really liked what they saw out of the former 3-star.
But this hype did not translate to his on-court performances. He shot a horrid 30 percent from the field, and 24 percent from deep in his 10 minutes a game this past season. He found himself getting caught in foul trouble, and started turning the ball over quite a bit.
His play early in the season set the tone for where he would end up on the depth chart by the end: the bottom. Fifth-year senior Jaaron Simmons took over the backup role by the end of the season, and Brook’s name was rarely called on towards the end of the year.
Now with a top-100 recruit like DeJulius coming in, Brooks could continue to see his name fall in the depth chart if he cannot turn things around. He will compete for the backup spot, but I expect DeJulius to hang onto it in the coming season.