The 2022-23 Michigan Wolverines basketball season came to an end over the weekend, and attention immediately turned to next season.
Isaiah Barnes has already entered the transfer portal, and it wouldn’t surprise to see Kobe Bufkin and Jett Howard leave for the NBA Draft.
Then there’s Hunter Dickinson, who could return for his senior season, but also could look into the NBA.
Finally, Joey Baker and Jaelin Llewellyn could very well be back for one more year, as well.
With the incoming class of center Papa Kante and guard George Washington III, the Wolverines could have anywhere from one to four open spots, and that doesn’t even include the possibility of any other players possibly transferring.
There’s no doubt there’s work to be done with the roster, so let’s take a look at some guys Howard and should target in the portal.
Former Pitt Forward John Hugley
Hugley has already heard from Michigan, according to On3:
Pitt transfer John Hugley has heard from the following schools, per source:— Joe Tipton (@TiptonEdits) March 16, 2023
That is a laundry list of schools looking for the services of the 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward, so there is a lot that still needs to play out.
Hugley sat out most of the season as he worked on his mental health, but is ready to get back. With the two-big sets that Michigan liked to play in with Tarris Reed Jr. and Dickinson last season, Hugley could be a great alternative for either.
He’s more of a shooting threat than Reed Jr., as he has shown the ability to knock down some shots from deep. If Dickinson stays, it could make sense to start Hugley beside him. If not, Reed Jr. plugging into Dickinson’s spot and Hugley at the 4 would also work.
The 4 was by far the weakest spot on the team this year. The development of this position is paramount for the Wolverines this fall, so perhaps an upgrade is in order.
Former Delaware Point Guard Jameer Nelson Jr.
This one makes sense for a lot of reasons, but let's state the connections first. Juwan Howard and Jameer Nelson both had excellent NBA careers and played for nine years together. Nelson was a first round pick by the Orlando Magic after playing for four years with the St. Joseph’s Hawks in a run where he won the Naismith Player of the Year. His coach was now-Michigan assistant Phil Martelli.
Michigan has loved bringing in crafty playmakers and scorers at point guard, and Jameer Nelson Jr. would be no different. He transferred away from a bad situation at George Washington to Delaware after his sophomore season. Since then, he has been lighting it up. As a senior, he had 20.6 points, 3.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. He was a first-team All-CAA performer and was named to the CAA All-Defense team, leading the conference in both points and steals.
Jameer Nelson Jr. has entered the transfer portal.— SLAM University (@slam_university) March 14, 2023
2.4 SPG pic.twitter.com/mtKRHWvfz9
He could be a great replacement for either Llewellyn or Bufkin in 2023, but he is going to be one of the most highly coveted players in the portal. Nevertheless, the current depth at guard is very thin, and Michigan needs answers for next season.
Former Butler Guard Jackson Paveletzke
Unlike the other two guys mentioned, Paveletzke is a little bit younger. He’ll be entering his second year of college basketball after lighting it up at Wofford in 2022. The Kimberly, Wisconsin native knows the midwest and is exactly the kind of guard the Wolverines could use.
Paveletzke shot 49.3% from the field as a true freshman while scoring 15.1 points per game. He is a shot creator and hit 39.3% of his shots from deep, which was a tremendous flaw for the Wolverines this season. Their top performers from behind the arc are all likely headed elsewhere, and they need to add more shooters if they want to compete next season.
Adding a guy like Paveletzke would help mitigate the thought of losing Howard, Bufkin and Baker in the same offseason. Without adding shooting depth, the Wolverines could be a one-dimensional offense next year like they were a few times this season.
Freshman Jackson Paveletzke played great today. He finished with 25/4/3 and was efficient shooting 64% from the field. pic.twitter.com/Ura6546y8G— KJ (@Kjpistons) January 23, 2023
Teams like Wisconsin, Virginia, Ohio State, Gonzaga and Penn State have already reached out, and Howard would be wise to add Michigan’s name to the list.