Michigan point guard Zavier Simpson’s value has never been questioned. His basketball IQ has proven to be off the charts and he has been a floor general in all three seasons he has worn the Maize and Blue.
Defensively, Simpson had never had much to question, as he has shut down some of the best Big Ten point guards the league has thrown his way.
The biggest question marks with Simpson have always been his poor shooting ability across the board, and especially at the free throw line. That is why the junior only averaged four and a half points per contest on just about four shots per game in his first two seasons.
Lately, something has clicked in Simpson’s game that has elevated the entire Michigan roster. It is apparent Beilein has given this kid the green light to shoot the basketball from anywhere on the court in some unique ways.
One of the odd ways Simpson has found a way to put the ball in the hoop this season is via a Kareem-style hook shot. Just look at just how saucy this shot is:
Solidifying a shot like this has benefited the Michigan offense, but it still wasn’t enough to vanquish the kryptonite of Simpson’s poor shooting.
The first time Michigan faced off with Northwestern this season on Dec. 4, the Wildcats’ defensive plan was to leave Simpson open in order to force him to shoot.
Simpson was 0-for-5 from the three point line in that game and was held to just 10 points on 10 shots.
Coach Beilein and Zavier knew this had to change for the offense to be successful.
It all started against Western Michigan about two weeks later, where he had his second career game with three or more 3-pointers made. He was 3-for-4 from behind the arc and led the offense by scoring 15 points in a game the Michigan offense had to keep up with a 31-point performance from the Broncos’ Michael Flowers.
His next big performance came close to the reintroduction of Big Ten play against Illinois, where he tallied 16 points and eight assists in 38 minutes of game play. His performance garnered this praise from Illinois head coach Brad Underwood:
“Zavier Simpson, in my opinion, is the MVP of the league to this point just simply because if you took him away from their team, you saw what happened when they took him out.”
Following this high praise from the Illinois coaching staff, Simpson responded with his best game in his time at Ann Arbor against Northwestern.
In Game 2 of the season series, Northwestern attacked the Michigan offense similarly to the first game; leaving Simpson open. This time, he made them pay. He shot 5-of-10 from deep and scored a career-high 24 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Simpson’s worth ethic is apparent, as he seems to be developing his long-range game and has mastered a hook shot that came straight out of the ‘80s. His improvements have begun to be noticed by coaches in the Big Ten and his value has been praised by Beilein.
I believe the best of Simpson is still to come, and if he keeps playing like this, Michigan will be even more difficult to beat this season.