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Looking at Michigan’s guard depth, projected starters with Jaelin Llewellyn’s return

Michigan finally has the back court depth it desperately needed last season.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Michigan Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines men’s basketball team will have one thing in 2023-24 that they desperately needed in 2022-23: guard depth. This issue was looking to get even more dire with the number of players leaving for the transfer portal or the NBA, the Wolverines are getting a big boost in the form of a previous transfer.

Maize n Brew has confirmed that Jaelin Llewellyn, who is recovering from a torn ACL, got his medical waiver approved and will be returning to Ann Arbor next season. With the suspected return of the former Princeton Tiger now confirmed, let’s break down Michigan’s guard depth and give some way-too-early predictions for who’s going to start at the 1 and 2 for the Wolverines.

Projected starters: Dug McDaniel (PG), Caleb Love (SG)

While Llewellyn did begin last season starting at point guard, I think Dug McDaniel proved enough in his freshman year to earn the starting spot to start the 2023-24 season.

With Hunter Dickinson, Jett Howard and Kobe Bufkin all leaving, McDaniel averaged more points per game (8.6) than any other returnee. His freshman season had some highs and lows — as you would expect with any freshman guard — but he showed enough potential in conference play to warrant retaining that starting spot. As we saw with Bufkin last season, young guards tend to make a leap in their sophomore season, and I want McDaniel to be starting when that happens.

Caleb Love is the obvious choice to start at shooting guard. He led North Carolina in scoring this past season, and we know from UNC’s 2022 March Madness run that Love can carry a team down the stretch of a close game.

Michigan might mix things up and try different things as the year goes along, but I’d think these two are the most likely to start for the bulk of the season.

Reliable bench players: Jaelin Llewellyn (PG), Nimari Burnett (SG)

You can never have too many experienced guards in college basketball, and the Wolverines have the luxury of having a guard whose played in 84 college basketball games coming off the bench.

I see Jaelin Llewellyn, at least to start the year, coming off the bench as he recovers from his torn ACL. Fanbases tend to fall into recency bias, and he didn’t look great in eight games last season, but we know how good he can be from his time at Princeton, when he averaged 15.7 points per game in his final season.

I don’t know a ton about Nimari Burnett, but with how this depth chart shakes out, I’d imagine he’d come off the bench and play the 2 and sometimes the 3. He’s not super efficient from three, but he’s an excellent defender and is great in transition. He has the chance to be everything that Michigan fans wished Isaiah Barnes was.

The wild card: 2023 commit George Washington III

One piece of Michigan’s back court that can’t be forgotten is George Washington III, a 4-star guard who led his high school team to a deep postseason run and was named the Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year. Washington is a super talented player who has the potential to develop into a reliable, three-level scorer who could eventually led the Wolverines in scoring.

That said, I don’t see how he plays more than 10 minutes a game with Llewellyn returning. Unless he beats out Burnett as the first 2-guard off the bench, I’d bet he plays spot minutes his freshman season like what Bufkin did in 2021-22. If you can’t find those minutes for him, I’d imagine he’s a likely candidate to be redshirted.