With the 2021-22 Michigan men’s basketball team kicking off their season in November, Maize n Brew will be previewing what fans can expect from each position group in the coming weeks, starting with the point guard position.
Point guard is considered by many to be the most important position on the floor; without a good floor general, offenses can lack direction and many players may struggle to get good shots.
Many talented point guards have donned the Maize and Blue over the last few seasons, with Trey Burke winning the 2013 Naismith Award and others like Derrick Walton Jr. and Zavier Simpson being key parts of NCAA tournament teams.
Last year’s team had Columbia transfer Mike Smith quarterbacking the offense, and while he was a great scorer in spurts, he wasn’t nearly as consistent as the three guards mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Here’s an overview of what Michigan fans can expect from the point guard position this upcoming season.
Likely starter: DeVante’ Jones, Senior
2020-21 season with Coastal Carolina: 19.3 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game, 2.9 assists per game, 48.7-36.8-86.2 shooting percentages on field goals, threes, and free throws, respectively.
Another transfer will likely be starting at the 1 for the Wolverines this season, as DeVante’ Jones is an electric guard coming in from a quality school in the Sun Belt Conference.
Back in June, I compared Jones to Bruce Brown of the Brooklyn Nets, as both players are built like running backs who can excel as an on-ball defender, finish in the lane with a nice floater, and just bring a buttload of energy to the floor general position.
My biggest takeaway from breaking down Jones’ game is he likes to play fast, and being a leader on the fast break could lead to a lot of easy buckets and confidence boosters for players like Brandon Johns, Terrance Williams and Caleb Houstan.
While Smith took a bit of time to be a consistent defender in Ann Arbor, Jones is known as an excellent defender, finishing third in steals per game (2.8) in all of DI men’s hoops.
Much like Smith did a few times last season, Michigan fans can expect Jones to lead the team in scoring on a few occasions, while also getting a few steals and creating shots for his teammates.
The combination of Jones and Eli Brooks gives the Wolverines a talented defensive back court that possesses both leadership experience and the ability to take over a game offensively if need be.
Smith was able to average nine points per game last year, shooting just over 41 percent from the field. I could see Jones exceed those numbers, as it seems realistic he could average around 12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and three assists a game for the Wolverines.
It shouldn’t surprise Michigan fans if Jones is the second or third leading scorer, behind Hunter Dickinson and perhaps Brooks as well.
Likely reserve: Zeb Jackson, Sophomore
Stats from 2020-21 season: 5.2 minutes per game, 1.0 ppg, 0.8 rpg, 0.4 apg, 19.2-15.4-57.1 shooting splits
At least in the beginning of the 2021-22 season, despite the humble statistics from last season, this seems like this is Jackson’s job to lose.
The stats above aren’t very pretty, and Jackson seemed slightly overwhelmed in the short spurts he did get to play last season. I would argue with a crowded backcourt of Smith, Brooks, Franz Wagner and Chaundee Brown, there wasn’t a lot of playing time for Jackson to get a rhythm going.
My biggest hope for Jackson this season is he is able to establish some sort of confidence. The swagger he played with was a huge part of his game coming out of high school, when he had more than a few highlight dunks and step-back threes while using his quick first step to get to the lane and find open teammates.
There are a lot of talented prospects nipping for Jackson’s heels. Based on having a year on the freshman class and how the roster shakes out right now, I think the backup point guard role is Jackson’s to lose to start the season.
Likely reserve: Frankie Collins, Freshman
There is a world where Collins passes Jackson on the depth chart almost instantly, as being the seventh ranked point guard out of all 2021 recruits, Collins brings a lot of talent and potential to the position.
As Tim McCormick mentioned in an interview with The Michigan Insider, Collins should greatly benefit going against some experienced guards in Jones and Brooks at practice every day.
Collins already possesses a poise at the position that is rare in high school prospects, as the Nevada native is quick as lightning and possesses excellent court vision. As you can see from the clips below, he is especially explosive and could be on the receiving end of more than a few alley oops in his time in Ann Arbor.
I’m interested to see how creative Michigan’s coaching staff gets with their rotation, as playing him at the 2 with Jones — or even going guard heavy with Collins, Jones and Brooks in a fun-sized lineup with lots of scoring — could maximize his potential as a scorer when slashing to the basket and finishing with finesse.
Jones will likely get the bulk of the minutes at the 1 this season, but Michigan fans shouldn’t be surprised if Collins earns a decent chunk of those minutes as the season goes along.
Other potential options at PG
-Like he did last year when Smith needed a breather and Wagner was in foul trouble, I could see Brooks playing the 1 in short spurts, where he has the capability to be a microwave scorer.
-It likely won’t happen this season due to the litany options at the position, but I’d love to see what the offense looks like with Kobe Bufkin running the point. He has the chance to be the best shooter in the 2021 recruiting class for the Wolverines.