I read an article from Complex Magazine listing 20 NBA Players who never played college basketball, and it got me thinking what it would have looked like if they did. More importantly, what would it look like if they played on Michigan?
What if you could build a starting lineup using past Wolverines drafted in the NBA, and NBA players who never played college ball? Let’s say you get three former Wolverines and two NBA players. So, who’s on your fantasy team?
Remember, the NBA guys you pick must have NEVER played in college.
This was tough on both ends of the spectrum for me. There has been some sincere talent in the NBA to come out of Ann Arbor. But I went with a combination of big men and super-skilled shooters.
My goal is to emulate the Warriors ‘death lineup’ or the ‘Hampton’s 5’ by creating a series of rapid-fire shooters from all over the perimeter, guys who can literally find space and make shots, period.
Here are my picks of three former Wolverines and two All-Stars:
1. Moritz Wagner
Obviously Mo Wagner made my list. Last season’s incredible journey to the NCAA Championship is still so fresh on my mind. He only just declared for the NBA draft in 2018, getting picked up in the first round by the Los Angeles Lakers.
Wagner not only can handle the ball well on both sides, but he can attack the rim off the 3-point line. And he’s good at creating space to make shots. In his last two seasons at U-M he shot 39.5 percent from three.
Wagner led the team in scoring (14.6 points per game and 7.1 rebounds, per ESPN). But it’s his 39 percent from 3-point shooting that is a valuable asset for my fantasy lineup.
2. Trey Burke
Considered by many one of the greatest players of the John Beilein era at Michigan. Burke played two seasons at Michigan (2011-12, 2012-13) before declaring for the draft in 2013.
Burke’s transition to the NBA from college was nothing short of tumultuous and unfortunate. The height of his basketball career was definitely his achievements at Michigan. According to SB Nation, as a college player Burke averaged 56.9 percent true shooting percentage in his last season. He was the ringleader in guiding the team all the way to the championship game. He won the Wooden Award as college basketball Player of the Year, averaging 19 points, 7 assists and 3 rebounds, with 46 percent shooting from the field.
He can shoot from deep and score off the dribble. He can control the tempo well while creating shots for his teammates off the pick-and-roll. He’s on the small side, but he’s got a long wingspan giving him range on both sides of the ball.
He’s perfect for my fantasy team because he has a higher release point on offense.
3. Jamal Crawford
After his 17th season in the NBA, Jamal Crawford has attempted 5,861 3-point shots in his career, the fourth-most in NBA history. He also ranks seventh among all active players having played 1,182 games. He’s one of four players over 35 years old still attempting 10 or more shots per game.
Crawford has a great basketball IQ, one that allows him to excel on offense. He’s big and quick, so he’s able to attack the rim on both ends. Although he’s never played on a winning team in the NBA, he showed a tremendous ability to score in his brief time at Michigan.
4. LeBron James
Of course I’m choosing LeBron James on my fantasy team. LeBron is arguably one of the greatest NBA players of all time. A 3-time MVP, 14-time All-Star and three-time NBA Champion. He’s broken numerous records in the league and has been the subject of comparison to the great Michael Jordan.
LeBron can play both ends of the court exceptionally well. His size, strength and speed allow him to attack the rim and contest shots. He’s highly skilled at creating space to make shots all over the perimeter. And he’s the guy you want to have the ball in high-pressure moments. He can make clutch shots.
But beyond all that, LeBron is a highly skilled basketball mind. He can anticipate and play off the moment very well. He’s a great leader and motivator to any team.
5. Tracy McGrady
Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady is my final pick. He’s a legend, lets be honest. His presence in the perimeter is invaluable. He’s tall, long, athletic and quick. He can make shots, but he’s physical enough to contest shots on defense. He’s the best of both worlds. Even Bleacher Report has compared him to a mix of LeBron James and Kevin Durant, even before they were the two prestigious players of the league.
So what players would you choose for your fantasy team? Comment below, and remember to include two NBA players that never played in college!