Michigan Wolverines head coach Juwan Howard has embraced the transfer portal in this new era of college basketball, relying on it find players to start at point guard.
This will be the third season the Wolverines will start a point guard from transfer portal, with Princeton’s Jaelin Llewellyn following in the foot steps of Mike Smith from Columbia and DeVante’ Jones from Coastal Carolina.
Let’s compare these three point guards and break down why Llewellyn might up being the best player of the three.
2020-21 stats: 9.0 points per game, 5.3 assists per game, made 41.2% on field goals, 41.8% from three on 2.8 attempts per game, 79.3% from free throw line.
I’m sure many Michigan fans think of Smith fondly, as the 2020-21 team made it to the Elite Eight. Smith was a big reason why.
He went from being a go-to guy at Columbia, averaged 22.8 points per game his last season there, to being the fifth option on a stacked Michigan roster. He accepted that role gladly.
Smith was a bit undersized as a defender and struggled to get the rim at times because of that 5-foot-11 frame. But he made up for it with his quickness and craftiness, finishing with herky-jerky floaters and knocking down big threes with a just a sliver of space created by a slick step-back.
He played his role well as a veteran guard who looked to create for others first, but could hit a three when called upon and clearly wasn’t afraid of the moment. He never really had to do much with how talented that team was, but he was excellent as a role player in his sole season with the Wolverines.
2021-22 stats: 10.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.6 apg, 46.3% on field goals, 34.2% from three on 2.4 attempts per game, 79.2% from free throw line.
With some pretty high expectations heading into last season, Jones was supposed to step up and be a main scoring option, but he never really got there consistently.
Jones was solid in transition, but he got into foul trouble way too much. He would flash that blow-by speed like a running back hitting the hole every once in a while, but struggled to consistently knock down threes and create his own shot.
He’s probably the best on-ball defender of the transfer trio, but he would get lost help side at times and definitely went for the steal a lot, which didn’t always put him in the best position when his defensive gamble didn’t work out.
To be frank, a young Michigan team needed Jones to be more consistent during that roller coaster ride through conference play, and he just was never what Michigan fans dreamed he could be.
While his only year with the Wolverines isn’t remembered nearly as fondly as Smith’s, one of his performances needs to be mentioned: he played one of his best games of the year at Ohio State without Hunter Dickinson in a game that Michigan needed to win to secure an NCAA Tournament. For as tumultuous as Jones’ Michigan tenure was, that 21-point, nine-assist performance should not be forgotten.
2021-22 stats at Princeton: 15.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, 44.7% on field goals, 38.6% on 5.9 attempts per game, 69.6% from free throw line.
Michigan’s newest point guard transfer said at Big Ten media day he’s finding his fit on this young Michigan squad.
“It’s been a smooth transition,” Llewellyn said. “I’ve played a lot of college basketball and basically I’ve been trying to get the flow of the offense and figure out how to gel with the guys on the team, and I think that it’s pretty smooth so far. Definitely playing overseas helped us because it gave me the chance to get out the first-time jitters of playing with a new team and stuff like that, but I think I’m fitting in well.”
As I broke down when looking at his shot chart earlier this summer, Llewellyn is a good three-point shooter who thrives on the left corner and the right wing. He doesn’t take a lot of mid-range shot, but he does a good job creating his shot when he needed to.
On the drive, he doesn’t have the blow-by that Jones flashed, but he’s an incredibly crafty finisher whose shiftiness and patience helps him finish around bigs.
I’ve seen a lot of Michigan fans lump Llewellyn in the same bucket as Smith and Jones because they’re all transfers. The reality is if he stays healthy, he should be a much better point guard than either of those guys were in Ann Arbor.
Llewellyn is incredibly good at navigating the pick-and-roll — based off the film I’ve seen, I think he makes better decisions than Smith and Jones did. He also has higher upside as a scorer who created his own shot. It should also be noted that more schools were interested in Llewellyn than Smith or Jones, which speaks to how schools perceived his upside.
Smith didn’t get much recruiting interest in high school and according to 247Sports, he was only offered by Columbia. Jones went to Coastal Carolina and didn’t get much initial attention coming out of high school either.
While Llewellyn started his college basketball at a smaller DI school like the Michigan point guards before him, the difference is he was a four-star recruit who had offers from many other schools, including Purdue, Ohio State, Tennessee, Clemson and Creighton.
Llewellyn’s upside is higher than Smith or Jones, and other college basketball teams saw that.
He’ll be asked to be one of Michigan’s main offensive options next to Dickinson. If that duo can mesh well and create open shots for the three-point shooters around them, the offensive potential for the Wolverines is sky high.