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Wolverines in the NBA: The highs and lows of former Michigan basketball stars

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How are former Michigan basketball players faring at the start of the NBA season?

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors
Former Wolverine Jordan Poole (3) is restrained by a referee while arguing with Rodney Hood of the Portland Trail Blazers
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Former Michigan basketball head coach John Beilein was extremely successful developing NBA talent over the course of his time with the Wolverines, and eventually worked himself into a position for a promotion to the big leagues.

Beilein left after last season to take the same poisiton with the Cleveland Cavaliers, making him the 11th member of the Michigan basketball chain currently in the NBA. With all the attention that new coach Juwan Howard and this year’s team have received recently, it’s easy to lose track of how these Wolverines are performing at basketball’s highest level.

Here’s an update on how the Wolverines in the NBA fared in their first full week of action:

Trey Burke, Philidelphia 76ers

Burke has not yet seen time with his new team. After time with the Knicks, during which saw him have a 42-point scoring outburst, appeared to resurrect his career, the 25-year old was traded to Dallas. After finishing last season with them, he signed with the 76ers in the offseason.

With Ben Simmons getting the majority of the minutes at point guard, Burke’s best hope for court time is to compete with Shake Milton for minutes as the backup. In the first seven games, it’s been Milton and Raul Neto spelling Simmons in the backup role.

Derrick Walton Jr.- Los Angeles Clippers

Walton Jr. has played in two contests to this point with his new team. He spent last season playing overseas as a teammate of Franz Wagner’s with Alba Berlin. The 2017 graduate has yet to score in a game with the Clippers, playing just three minutes total.

On a Clippers team loaded with talent, it is unlikely Walton Jr. will get consistent minutes. A G-League assignment to the Agua Caliente Clippers is likely in order for the third year man.

DJ Wilson- Milwaukee Bucks

Wilson has appeared in three game for the Bucks, all coming off the bench. He has scored just five total points, and appears to be an afterthought when it comes to the consistent rotation.

Shooting just 28 percent from the floor isn’t ideal for Wilson, and that number will need to go up in order to have hopes at cracking the rotation. Wilson has already spent time with the Wisconsin Herd, Milwaukee’s G-League affiliate, in the past, and will likely be there again at some point this season.

Ignas Brazdeikis- New York Knicks

The 20-year old likely faces a long road toward obtaining consistent minutes in the NBA. In the Knicks’ first eight games, Brazdeikis has checked in just twice. In his debut against Sacramento, he scored four points on 1-of-2 shooting from the field.

Brazdeikis will likely spend some time with the Westchester Knicks, the Knicks’ NBA G-League affiliate. He put together a solid performance in the NBA Summer league, averaging 15.4 points in his five contests in Las Vegas.

Jordan Poole- Golden State Warriors

When it comes to playing time, Poole has been the beneficiary of injuries to the Warriors’ “splash brothers” and has recently been inserted into Golden State’s starting lineup. Throughout the season to this point, Poole has averaged 26 minutes per game.

He has been up and down. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin native has averaged 10.3 points per game on 25 percent shooting from the field. The 31 percent from behind the arc is perhaps a better stat to judge his performance, as his style of play fits well with the Warriors’ scheme.

As was usual with Poole in his time with the Wolverines, there have been moments of awe as well as moments of disappointment early on in his career. His first two games saw him go a combined 3-of-22, but he also has a pair of games in which he’s shot over 50 percent from downtown. It’s been an extremely streaky start thus far from Poole.

Here is perhaps his most noteworthy play to this point:

Duncan Robinson- Miami Heat

Here is perhaps the most improved Wolverine. A year ago, Robinson played just 161 minutes. He scored only 50 points and made just ten threes. For a player who makes a living off the long ball, he looked to be out of place.

However, things have turned around for him. After a strong showing in the Summer League, Robinson has cracked the Heat rotation and made the most of his opportunity. In just the first seven games, he has already surpassed last year’s totals in points and made field goals. He went into Thurday night’s contest against Phoenix averaging 10 points a night at a 51 percent clip from the floor.

Robinson’s biggest highlight to this point is a 23-point, seven three-point make outburst against the Houston Rockets. Highlights below:

Glenn Robinson III- Golden State Warriors

Robinson III is another beneficiary of the injuries to Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. He’s averaging a career high in minutes, getting 30.1 minutes per game. It appears as though he has locked down a role with the Warriors after spending the majority of last season on the bench of the Detroit Pistons.

Robinson has started all eight games to this point with the Warriors. He scored a season high 17 points in a loss to Phoenix. He’s been in double figures four times, averaging an even 10 points on the year.

Below are highlights from his performance in a loss to Charlotte:

Tim Hardaway Jr.- Dallas Mavericks

Averaging 10.4 points a game, Hardaway Jr. has found a role coming off the bench for the Mavs. Hardaway has struggled from the field to this point, shooting career low percentages in both field goals (37 percent) and three-pointers (30 percent).

He has scored in double figures in each of Dallas’ last five games, highlighted by a season high 14 points in a win over Denver that saw him shoot 4-of-6 from three-point range. He will likely be a mainstay in the Mavericks rotation as part of a young squad looking to make a playoff push.

Moritz Wagner- Washington Wizards

Wagner was traded to the Wizards from the Los Angeles Lakers over the summer during the Lakers’ effort to clear room for Anthony Davis. This trade was a win-win, as it allowed the Lakers to secure Davis, while the Wizards now possess the talented youngster.

Wagner has made the most of his change of scenery, making strides in almost every statistic. His points per game is up to 11.1, shooting at a 59 percent clip. He’s also up to 41 percent from three-point range, an impressive total for the second-year forward.

Wagner has been in double figures in all but two games this season, scoring a season-high 14 points in a loss to Minnesota. He has become a formidable option off the Wizards bench alongside fellow big man Davis Bertrans.

Caris LeVert- Brooklyn Nets

Here we have the only “star” to come out of Michigan to this point. LeVert was looking at a potential Most Improved Player award last season before a nasty injury derailed those hopes. However, he has come back as good as ever to start this season.

LeVert has averaged 19.4 points per game to this point, while shooting career high percentages in field goals (45 percent) and three-pointers (37 percent).

Here’s a short feature that the Nets’ Twitter account did on the fourth year player:

John Beilein- Cleveland Cavaliers

When he jumped to the NBA and took the job with the Cavaliers, Beilein was inheriting a bit of a dumpster fire. However, he looks to right the ship with his fundamentals-based approach that should fit well with his young team.

He’s off to a 2-5 start with his new squad. Colin Sexton appears to have taken a bit of a step forward in his second season, scoring 17.4 points per game. Veteran Kevin Love leads the team in scoring with 18.9 points per game, and forward Tristan Thompson is also a fixture in double digits with 16.9 points per night.

Not much is expected of this Cavalier squad in year one of the Beilein era, as the team is comprised of both old veterans and young rookies without a “happy medium.” However, Beilein’s growth oriented mindset will likely embrace the challenge that this type of roster offers.