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Scouting Nimari Burnett and projecting where he could fit into Michigan’s rotation

Burnett will be a key piece for the Wolverines in 2023-24

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament Quarterfinals - Alabama vs Miss. St. Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan has picked up three players from the transfer portal in the midst of a turbulent offseason. One of those players is Nimari Burnett.

Burnett’s the only guard the Wolverines have added to their roster this off-season. Depth at the two and three was a big problem for the Wolverines last season, and after losing Jett Howard, Kobe Bufkin, Joey Baker, and Isaiah Barnes, it will likely be a concern for UM again this season.

Burnett has been a part of some solid NCAA tournament teams at Texas Tech and Alabama, and he said in an interview with The Next Round that he wants to be part of a successful group at Michigan.

“I’m a winner, and I want to be a part of winning at the same time as being a big impact guy,” Burnett said. “It was a great decision, a familiar team, a familiar coach.”

Burnett will be counted on to play a big role with all the turnover in the backcourt. Let’s break down his game and project where he could fit into Michigan’s rotation.

Scouting report

Burnett spent his first season at Texas Tech in 2019-20, averaging 5.3 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals in just under 18 minutes per game. He then transferred to Alabama, playing just under 15 minutes per game and averaging 5.6 points and 2.0 rebounds.

He scored in double figures five times this past season, including a career-high 18 points against Jacksonville State and 11 points in Alabama’s Round of 64 NCAA tournament game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

Burnett gets a lot of his points at the rim, as he does a great job taking advantage of bad closeouts and diving toward the middle of the lane. He’s also an excellent cutter off the ball, creating easy buckets for himself with assertive cuts like the one at the 8-second mark in the clip below.

He’s not the most efficient three-point shooter, as he only made 32.1 percent of his shots last season. However, Burnett has a smooth stroke and he can knock down spot-up threes while also being able to make a three off the dribble or making a curling cut off a screen.

Burnett has the ability to make defenders pay in transition and runs the floor well. Further, he handles the ball great in tight windows and has a high basketball I.Q., and will take the easy shot or make the easy pass. Alabama loved to play fast and move the ball in transition, and Burnett was a major beneficiary of that this past season.

He played a few more minutes per game in 2020-21 with Texas Tech than he did with the Crimson Tide last season. In those minutes in Lubbock, he proved to have quick hands-on defense, forced turnovers with quick feet, made the right read to find big men, and showed he can grab a rebound in traffic before going coast-to-coast and finishing (1:01 mark in clip above).

Burnett’s similar to a young Jordan Poole in a few ways — he’s not as good of a shooter, but both guys thrived playing fast with the ball in their hands in transition. Also like Poole, Burnett can score at multiple levels while also making threes off the catch and off the dribble. He’s also a much better defender than Poole, without being as prolific of a scorer.

Projected place in rotation

Burnett has only started in nine of his 39 collegiate games, but with how the Michigan roster shakes out, he’ll likely be starting for the Wolverines at the 2.

With the current roster, the most likely starting lineup would be Dug McDaniel at the one and Burnett at the two, with Tray Jackson, Olivier Nkamhoua and Tarris Reed Jr. filling out the rest of the group.

One would think 2023 commit George Washington III will at least get a chance to play some minutes at the two, but Burnett will probably take up most of the rest of those minutes at the shooting guard spot.

At 6-foot-4, he’s a little small to guard traditional small forwards, but he’s a good enough defender to hold his own if he needs to in smaller lineups. With so many power forwards on Michigan’s roster, he may be forced to play some minutes at the 3, unless we see massive improvements offensively out of Jace Howard or Youssef Khayat.

With how Michigan’s roster currently stands — and there still could be a late addition or two with Michigan’s pair of available scholarships — Burnett seems to slot in as the starting two guard. He’ll likely play more minutes in that spot than he ever has in his college career. Hopefully Burnett’s ready to take on a bigger role and be a guard the Wolverines can rely on late in games.