Position By Position: Point Guard

Dylan Burkhardt

There are plenty of options at the point guard this year but probably no real playmakers. The point guards on the roster (alphabetical):

  • Kelvin Grady – 5’11” Soph.
  • Laval Lucas-Perry – 6’3″ RS Fr. (combo guard, eligible at midseason)
  • CJ Lee – 6’0″ 5th Yr Sr
  • Dave Merritt – 5’10” 5th Yr Sr

It’s hard to pick a starter at this point, Kelvin and CJ both got  substantial playing time throughout last year, both starting for stretches. Merritt came on strong at the end of the year (who could forget his effort in last year’s Ohio State game). Here is a side by side comparison of Kelvin, CJ, and Merritt’s stats from last year. Kelvin started 25 games to CJ’s 7.  Here are the quick hitters from their stats last year:

Kelvin 24.4 5.6 40.3 35.93 2.8 1.3 2.15
CJ 11.4 2.1 33.3 28.03 1.3 .6 2.17
Merritt 10.7 1.6 38.5 50 .9 .6 1.5

For right now I’m going to focus on the bulk of the non-conference season before Laval Lucas-Perry is eligible. At this point I have trouble handicapping the race at starting point guard. I wouldn’t be shocked if any one of CJ, Kelvin, or Dave trotted out next Thursday as the starting point guard. This might sound like crazy talk to some people who just expect Kelvin to be the guy but I don’t expect Kelvin to be the starter early on.

Kelvin GradyThe popular choice to start at point guard from the fans perspective is Kelvin Grady, he is the scholarship point guard and everyone expects him to be the answer. Thus far he just hasn’t shown that he can separate himself from the pack and be the guy. Kelvin Grady clearly has the most potential and best athleticism of the bunch, he even has the best shooting numbers and a comparable assist to turnover ratio to CJ Lee. The fact remains that all through last year he just couldn’t eliminate the poor mistakes. Whether it be forcing passes, shots, or just dumb turnovers, Beilein isn’t going to accept that at the point guard spot on this team.

CJ Lee appears to be the leader of the group, someone who isn’t afraid to talk on the court and help out his teammates. CJ plays smart and takes relatively good care of the ball but he just isn’t a threat to score like Kelvin is. CJ shot only 33% from the field to Kelvin’s 40%. Kelvin was by no means a consistent player but when he was on he could hit the three and score the ball better than CJ. Throughout most of last year CJ’s jump shot was not a thing of beauty.

Dave Merritt is a guy who doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses or glowing strengths. I think CJ is a better defender than Merritt while Kelvin is better at scoring the ball but Dave is just the safe play out of the group. Merritt isn’t going to force passes or shots, but he isn’t going to make any plays on his own either. I worry about Merritt against tight ball pressure but he didn’t have that high of turnover numbers so maybe this is just in my imagination.

Beilein is in a jam because Kelvin is the younger guy with the most potential and 2 more years ahead of him. But with the arrival of Darius Morris next year you have to to wonder if Kelvin will ever be the starting point guard for this team. If Kelvin can’t beat out CJ and Dave this then you have to think that Darius Morris would be the starting point guard for this team next year (he might be anyways).

Because of Kelvin’s higher ceiling (athletically and offensively) it is critical for this team for Kelvin can elevate his game and take it to the next level. Beilein has said that he only wants to go eight or nine men deep and if he does it appears someone at the point guard spot is going to be left behind.

I think that CJ Lee is your early season starter but the minutes will break down pretty evenly (with some coming at the two). Beilein will probably use CJ, Dave, and Kelvin situationally. CJ is the better defender, Kelvin the better shooter, and Merritt is the most transparent.

I frown about putting two 6 foot and under guys on the court at the same time but with Manny’s move to the wing, lack of depth at the two-guard, and Laval sitting out until December 20th I’d assume it will have to happen in the non-conference season. None of the three are good enough scorers to be a traditional two-guard but both guard spots play similar roles in Beilein’s offense.

I’ll look more at the two guard in my next position breakdown and more about Laval Lucas-Perry’s addition to the roster in December.

  • josh

    No, No, No. I understand that Kelvin has struggled at times, but he has the best #’s and simply is the most talented. Manny needs to be the leader of this team, not CJ Lee. I have no problem with Lee or Merritt, but KG is the man we should stick with. The kid can play. Look, he is only a sophomore. he will come out and prove many wrong. He is OUR PG. Things may change when LLP is eligible, but KG is a better defender than DM and a better offensive player than Lee. Best Overall PG we have period. GO BLUE!

  • We’ll see, but don’t say I didn’t warn you…

  • josh

    By the way Dylan thanks for the breakdown, things will definitely get interesting when LLP returns. From what you have heard, is LLP more fit for the 1 or 2. Thanks

  • Game of a two guard, size of a point guard.

  • josh

    K, Thanks

  • WTHEF?

    Completely agree with your assessment. Let’s hope KG has improved and wins the job, but it won’t be surprising to see CJ Lee as the starter.

  • Voice of Reason

    It would seem to me that KG is the one that you have to “develop” as your primary point because he will be the one that will be here for the next two years, not CJ or D-Merrit. Even when D-Morris comes, you will still need a stable foundation at that position onto which to build while the freshman is learning the system. KG should be better this year, and hopefully will improve with time. It will probably be running the point by committee as usual.

  • Brick

    I think a prediction is tough at this point. My bet is Beilein lets them all play early and settles into a PG based on who earns it on the court. It really doesn’t matter who starts next week. I hope KG got better at leading the fast break and finishing at the rim. He seems to have the most “upside” of the bunch.

  • Jay

    Grady is terrible, and unless Jesus is wearing his jersey next year I dont see much improvement. If big bro wasnt playing football, KG would prolly be playing for Aquinas College! I rather go with the poise of Lee, then the erratic nature of KG! Even though he from G Rap, he had no business in the starting lineup last year. KG(last yr)=Turnover waiting to happen!

  • Sid

    I don’t know what Beilein will ultimately decide, but count me among the KG supporters. His potential – for a sophomore – far outweighs his downside IMO.

  • Steele

    I agree that KG has a lot of potential and I wouldn’t be surprised if he won the starting PG spot, but he’ll have to show a lot of improvement for that to happen. I like the idea of developing him as much as possible since he’s still around for another couple years. As for Dave Merritt- his numbers might not show it, but I was constantly scared when he had the ball in his hands last year.

    Less than two weeks until we start getting some answers!

  • Adam

    Was I watching something different than everyone else last year? Everyone acts like KG was the worst player on the team, but I thought he did fine for a freshman point guard without any shooters around him. I’m not sure if the rest of you were expecting him to be DJ Augustine or something but he was formidable. And on the thought that CJ Lee is a more steady, less turnover prone player again I ask were we watching the same thing last year? He had the exact same assist to turnover ratio as Grady, and I swear in his 11 minutes per game I always saw a dumb turnover or 2. Point guards are naturally going to turn the ball over because they have the ball all the time so 1.3 TO’s per game is not bad. Lets put this into perspective.. Chris Paul, the best point guard in the NBA, averaged 4 turnovers in 39 minutes per game last year. Grady committed fewer turnovers per game in that amount of time. I’m not saying he is even close to CP3 as a basketball player but he’s not committing as many turnovers as you all think.

    Name MPG PPG FG% 3FG% A TO A:TO
    Kelvin 24.4 5.6 40.3 35.93 2.8 1.3 2.15

    That is not a terrible stat line at all for a true freshman PG in the Big Ten. So I will be shocked if he’s not the starting point guard. It’s difficult to be the PG if EVERYONE on the team is learning a new system and there are zero, count them, zero shooters on the team. He will be better this year as the whole team will be more accustomed to the offense and he will have some shooters to dish the ball to.

  • Jay

    Adam, yes you were watching a completely different game. Your talking about a guy who started the majority and didnt show much. I am not talking about scoring when down by 20 or 30, but rather when the game is still competitive. For Michigan it wasnt to many last year past the 10 minute mark of the first half! Grady was a disaster, he played way to scared and should of just wore a jersey for the opposing team most games

  • The Oracle

    Jay, I think you were the one watching a completely different game than everyone else.