Position by Position: Point Guard

Dylan Burkhardt
NCAA Michigan Basketball

Michigan had eleven players start five or more games last year, everyone but Eric Puls got at least 5 starts.

This much starting lineup variability is not optimal and with a team that returns so many players, it is unlikely that we will see a similar situation next year. John Beilein’s best teams have been extremely consistent with the starting lineup. For example, in 2006 John Beilein’s Elite Eight team had the same starters in 32 of 33 games, the one exception was senior night and Pat Beilein got the start. His 2005 team had four consistent starters and his 2007 team started the same five players every game.

It is clear that Beilein would like to stick with one starting group and ride them as far as he can. There were circumstances last year, namely Laval Lucas-Perry’s eligibility situation, that made things a little more complicated but down the stretch Beilein found a group that worked: CJ Lee, Stu Douglass, Manny Harris, Zack Novak, and DeShawn Sims. That group started the final 10 games and went 6-4 including big wins over Purdue, Minnesota, and Clemson.

Despite Michigan being a team that returns so much of their production (points, minutes, etc.) there is a remarkable number of question marks with the starting lineup. The only player who is really locked into a position is Manny Harris. The rest are question marks: Who starts at the point guard? Does DeShawn Sims play the four or the five? Does Zack Novak stick in the frontcourt or move back to guard?

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be going through each position and examining the candidates to play at each spot as well as some of the requirements of the position. Today, we’ll start with the point guard position.

The Requirements

cjleeBeilein’s offense is called a two guard offense because it can be run without a true point guard. Instead of relying on a point guard to do all of the ball handling, the ball handling duties are distributed between both guards. That being said, in last year’s offense it was typically very easy to distinguish to point guard and the off guard.

Kelvin Grady, Dave Merritt, and CJ Lee got the bulk of their minutes running the team while Stu Douglass played the point guard sporadically down the stretch. With Lee and Merritt’s graduation and Grady’s shift to the gridiron it’s back to the drawing board.

There are some obvious strengths that you look for in a point guard – ball handling, passing, dealing with pressure, understanding the offense, etc. – but I think the key is defense. Whoever is the best defender will play, and play a lot.

The Candidates

Stu Douglass (Report Card)


Stu is definitely not a prototypical point guard, he is much more of a natural two guard. I think he is best coming off screens for three point shots rather than setting up teammates. However, he has shown the ability to run the team for stretches. He is a competent ball handler and a surprisingly good passer. He isn’t going to get in the lane a lot but he should be reliable with the ball.


  • Passing – Stu might not be a creator but he can get the ball where it needs to be. Stu also has the highest returning assist rate of anyone on the team besides Manny Harris. Stu is also probably the best on the team at getting the ball into the post.
  • Experience – Stu has the most experience of any of Michigan’s point guard candidates. He went through a lot in his freshman year and knows Beilein’s offense better than any of the other candidates. He didn’t play the point guard a lot last year, but even a little bit is more than anyone else.


  • Playmaking – Stu didn’t show the ability to get in the lane during his freshman season. He’s not going to drive and dish like Manny Harris can. Without this threat, Michigan’s offense isn’t nearly as dynamic.
  • Trying to do too much – Stu still has to learn when to make the smart pass and when to make the fancy pass. Decision making is key in the backcourt and Beilein is going to stick with the guy who holds onto the ball. Less alley oops and more bounce passes.

Laval Lucas-Perry (Report Card)

baker (caption) Michigan's newest addition Laval Lucas-Perry puts up a gliding jumper in the second half. Lucas-Perry, playing in his first game with Michigan since transferring from Arizona, scored 14 points, hitting four of six from three-point range. Lucas-Perry was a prep star at Flint Powers Catholic.  *** The Michigan Wolverines defeated the Oakland Grizzlies 89-76 at The Palace of Auburn Hills. It was the first game as a Wolverine for Laval Lucas-Perry, the Flint Powers Catholic star who transferred to Michigan from the Arizona Wildcats. Lucas Perry scored 14 points, hitting four of six from three-point range. Photos taken on Saturday, December 20, 2008.  ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )

Judging by Laval Lucas-Perry’s summer plans, which included a trip to Point Guard College, he wants to get a shot running this team. Laval was thrown into the fire last year, he sat and watched as Michigan cruised to huge upset wins over UCLA and Duke and then tried to join the team in mid-December.

Laval had his ups (early on and also at Minnesota) but he also struggled mightily at times. Throughout the Big Ten season I thought Laval looked lost within the offense, and often was thinking more than reacting with the ball. It’s important to remember that Laval is also only a sophomore this year and he definitely has potential to make a huge improvement.


  • Shooting – Laval was streaky last year, but he has a pretty stroke and I think his shooting will be much more consistent this year.
  • Defensive Potential – Laval didn’t really show it last year but I think he has the potential to be a great defender. He was a two sport athlete in high school and has reportedly dropped 10-15 pounds. If he can develop into a lock down defender, he will be on the court.


  • Confidence & Decision Making – Laval never really looked comfortable in Beilein’s offense. This is partly expected due to his transition but it is definitely an issue. With time under his belt, it’s only a matter of time until the lightbulb clicks and the offense becomes more natural.
  • Passing – Laval didn’t show much passing the ball last year. He posted an assist rate much lower than Stu Douglass and was essentially just a shooter. Hopefully as Laval becomes more comfortable, he becomes a better passer. He has shown more ability to get in the lane than Douglass, although his penetration often led to a circus shot.

Darius Morris (Commit Article, Interview)

dmo dariuspass

The Darius Morris hype continues to build and I am  guilty of adding to it myself, but in my opinion he has earned most of it.  Darius was recruited to be the point guard of the future, but I think his role this year really depends on how quickly he adjusts.

His skill set is unique to this team, a penetrating guard. If he can do the little things and understand the offense, it will make Michigan a much harder team to defend. I think that Darius is too good to keep off the floor and although it might take him a while to “click”, he will find his way onto the court.


  • Playmaking & Penetration: Darius’ game thrives off getting in the lane and making plays for himself or others. This is absolutely huge and what sets Darius apart from the other candidates.
  • Size – Darius has the size to be a great defender in Beilein’s defense. He looks to have gotten stronger and at 6-foot-3 he should be able to hold his own a little bit more on the bottom of the 1-3-1.


  • Experience — Playing well against high school competition isn’t quite the same as playing Division 1 basketball in the Big Ten. Darius doesn’t have any experience in Beilein’s system yet and Michigan fans will be hoping he is a quick study.
  • Shooting – While this isn’t the primary concern at the point, shooting isn’t a strength of Darius’ game like it is for Stu and Laval.


I think we will see Stu Douglass start at the point guard early in the season but I am confident that we will see Darius Morris starting by year’s end. Laval will get a shot but he just hasn’t shown me anything to make me believe he projects as a point guard long term. Stu doesn’t either, but at this point I think he’s more ready for spot-duty.

Let’s hear your thoughts, who starts at point guard on November 14th? December 31st? March 6th?

  • JayRich

    November 14th—-LLP

    December 31st—Darius Morris (with LLP backing up SG and PG)

    March 6th—Darius (Same)

    I just think Stu is best off the ball and JB will keep him there. The thing I am interested in is the SG position this year. With Novak, Douglas, LLP, Vogrich…who is the odd man out. I think LLP gets a lot of minutes as backup point and some at SG. Are Manny and Sims our front court again? I was hoping a big guy (namely Cronin) would fill the center slot. I guess it is a good problem to have, just wish there was more talent upfront

  • Dave

    anyway you slice it i think darius is in the starting line up and its going to either be stu or llp depending who shows the best decision making, poise and promise from here until the first game

  • James

    It’s either going to be Stu or Darius to start the year. Stu is likely going to start all year, either at the 1 or 2. It will be interesting how Beilein handles his rotation if Stu is both the starting SG and backup PG, which I think is likely.

    What happens with the 4 & 5 is obviously going to be most interesting.

  • Tweeter

    I would guess it would be Darius to start the year, but I would not be surprised if Douglass ended up the starter to begin the year. I would be surprised if it is LLP. He has a long, long ways to go in terms of ball handling and passing to be a lead guard. I know this is not your typical lead guard offense, but you still have to be able to be a pressure release type of player. When things get messy in the full court or half court, you need your pg to step up, get the ball and reset everything.

    LLP looked very weak with the ball last year, and I dont trust him to be a guy who can slow things back down when it gets wild. Maybe he has improved over the summer, but he had a long ways to go from last year.

    What about a fourth choice Dylan? Namely Manny Harris. I dont think he would ever be the starter, but I think you could use him as a back up and maybe cause some matchup problems for opposing teams.

  • Dave

    idk if llp’s handle is the problem hes better at handling the ball than stu, but i would agree that his decision making, and ability to run a team is definitely in question

  • Ken in Vegas

    I love that first picture. I just wish I knew what they were all smiling at. Maybe Ben Cronin running lay-up drills? My hope is that Darius starts off on the bench until he can prove himself on gameday. No point in rushing him out there and then yanking him back. That could hurt his confidence. I love the depth regardless. I’m interested to see whether Vogrich makes a real contribution this year. I haven’t really heard much about him in practice yet. Let me know if anybody has any reports.

  • bones

    If it’s not morris after the first 3 games, then I begin to worry about the season. There is no one who can create off the dribble besides darius…well, maybe manny but not from the backcourt.

    this offense may be a 1 guard and 4 others this year…shooting guard and small forward are interchangeable and there are alot of guys who can fill those spots.

  • V.O.R.

    If the question is who will “start” at point I would guess:

    November: Douglas
    December: Douglas
    March: Morris

    By March, Morris will have effectively mastered key portions of the offense.

  • ScottGoBlue

    I agree with folks who are saying Stu will start in November. D-Mo will hopefully take over by the second half of the season. But I think that Stu gets the nod at 1 to begin the year. And I think that LLP starts at the 2 to begin the year. In my opinion, that gives you the best of all worlds. The frosh gets time to develop without the pressure of being the starter. You’ve got experience leading your team. You’ve got two great shooters, two adequate ball-handlers, one great passer (Stu), and one great creator/score-er (LLP).

    Rounding out the philosophy: Novak @ 3, Manny @ 4, Peedi @ 5 … as starters at the beginning of the season. Gibson and Cronin aren’t established and we open the season with some cupcakes. Go with what works.

    By season’s end, I think starters will be: D-Mo, LLP, Manny, Peedi, & Cronin. You could swap Stu for LLP, but either way they’ll each get lots of playing time. As will Novak, somehow, because he does everything you need him to and more. I think those 7 will get the largest share of the minutes. Others will get chances and make important-though-occasional contributions.

    Can I just say, I’m so stoked about this coming season. Go BLUE!

  • I see Douglass beginning the season as the starting PG. Then a gradual merging of Morris into that spot, with Douglass moving over to two guard.

    Most optimal starting lineup is Morris, Douglass, Harris, Sims, Gibson. Novak does so much for this team but he’s just not starter material for the Big Ten. But I see him and Laval playing lots of the bench, as well as Vogrich. Morgan and Cronin, well that’s a crapshoot, but this team needs Gibson’s size and athleticism in B10 play. Sims at the center spells doom.

    Where does Wright fit in? Who knows. But like last year Beilein will easily be able to use different guys when certain ones are not playing up to par. A good problem to have.

  • David

    Ryan, although we have better depth, I think Novak is going to start pretty much the entire season. The team just plays a lot better when he’s on the floor. Beilein sees that.

    I’m guessing Manny and Peedi end up being the main frontcourt players again. We have have much better offensive talent at the guard positions. Beilein is going to want to get minutes for guys who can shoot it like LLP and Vogrich, who will both likely be coming off the bench.

  • UMIndy

    Yeah, I agree with David. I don’t know where the idea that Novak isn’t a B10 caliber starter comes from. He did a damn fine job of it last year as a freshmen playing out of position. Let me repeat the key parts of that last sentence: Freshman and out of position! What more does the kid have to do to get some respect?

    If he is not starting as one of the forwards, he would certainly start ahead of LLP at shooting guard. Didn’t he begin last season coming in off the bench as a replacement for Stu at the 2?

    I think the biggest question mark this coming season is Cronin. I really have no idea what we’ll get from him.

  • JB

    I hope Darius can run the point sooner than later. I think Stu is a pure shooting guard and I hope we see him at the 2. There are some question marks, I don’t know what to expect from vogrich or cronin (or truthfully darius). here’s my guess for the most common starting lineup next season
    2-Stu, Vogrich
    5-Peedi, (or possibly cronin and peedi at 4)
    we’ll see

  • Dave

    cronin is an occasional look inside and an extremely large defensive presence………and ive said this a few times already….this years team is going to look like a beilein team ……..things are going to be much different from last year……….wright will get garbage mins at best novak did a great job last year but when it comes down to it beilein isnt going to go with what works in the beginning of the year he doesnt want to juggle a lineup around like he did all last year………novak doesnt start at the 4 and will rarely play the 4………wouldnt be surprised if stu and novak share a lot of mins and they both see around 15-20 a game……….something has to give here …..6 guys cant get 30 plus mins a game here ……people like stu and novak are going to be subbed in and out

  • Dave

    theres to much size for novak to play anything but a guard spot and to many guys more talented than he for him to be playing extensive mins………sorry guys but doubt he starts and doubt he gets more than 20 mins a game

  • ToBlav

    Douglas understands the game and has an amazing basketball IQ. Novak has concentration, a powerfull will, and determination. All I know about the new guys is, as the saying goes, what I read in the papers (o.k. on the web). Some people are going to have to be really special to bump Stu and Zach out of the starting line up, because they won’t lose the spots someone will have to win them. Isn’t this a great situation we in.

  • Dave

    some people played a lot of mins last year because they had to because we didnt have anybody else, now that jb has players at his disposal many things are going to change

  • JB

    i agree that a lot of things will change, but stu and novak have a great advantage for playing time because they have spent a year in the offense and both had good freshmen seasons. Stu will get a lot of playing time. Zack’s minutes at the 4 will likley decrease, but he could easily start there, at least for most of the season. i dont see novak playing a lot of two guard since stu, llp, and vogrich are there. zack will start over gibson like last year. cronin and mclimans are tbd. they should develop a lot as the season moves along. we’ll see. expect more big things from zack at the 4. he’s the best shooter from last year’s team. he nails it off the dribble, off of screens, when it’s highly contested, it doesn’t matter. he’s earned a lot of pt.

  • JayRich

    Vogrich is going to play…no doubt about it….he just kept going right up the rankings. I think he is really going to cut into Novak’s minutes and Stu is just “better” than novak. Maybe more “gifted” is a better way to put it. No one plays harder than novak (I really think of him as our Kramer from Purdue) but it terms of pure skill, I think he is the one losing out. LLP has him in ballhandling and is supposed to be able to shoot as well. I think it will be tremendously interesting to see what the blogs are about when we get to the SG amd SF positions since this is all we are talking about and this one is supposed to be about PG

  • Kenny

    My concern over LLP is that he has been in the system a lot longer than Stu and Novak but is slow to get it. The PG duty will fall on Stu, at least at the beginning. and depend on how Morris progress, the latter will get more and more minutes as the season progress. LLP will play point only under emergency, and he probably will also back-up at 2.

  • ScottGoBlue

    It is worth noting that Beilein isn’t locked into playing a traditional PG. Somewhere on this blog, it was noted that Beilein developed this offensive scheme in his early days (at Nazareth in Rochester, maybe) specifically because he lacked a true PG. Someone mentioned to him that he could go old school with essentially two PGs, both of whom could handle the ball, pass, and shoot.

    If that’s true (and it may not be; correct me if I’m wrong), then I would expect to see the guys who know how to run the offense getting the starts at the beginning of the season. Therefore, I expect Stu and LLP to be named the 1 and 2. Obviously Manny and Peedi are starters all year (barring an injury). And then it’s either Novak because of his experience, or Cronin because then we have the right “type” of player at each position.

    Once Darius is able to run the offense, he’ll break into the starting line-up. The question is when will that be? I expect he’ll pick it up by mid-season, so the starters by mid-season will be: D-Mo, Stu, Manny, Peedi, Cronin.

    And I love Zack Gibson, but he’s not a starter. He’s a 5th-year senior who’s had plenty of time to show whether he’s a starter. And he’s not. He’ll play a valuable role off the bench, spelling Peedi and Cronin. That’s it.

    Novak and LLP will get good minutes, and Vogrich might too. But I bet they’ll all be coming off the bench the 2nd half of the season. As noted elsewhere, this is a good problem to have.

  • Tom, Also


    How do you figure that LLP has “been in the system a lot longer than Stu and Novak”?

  • He arrived on campus in the middle of Beilein’s first year.

  • ks makhan

    I realize this is a pg topic…but I am curious about what to expect from ben cronin. How was he touted coming out of high school? is he completely healthy now? How was he in the couple games he played last year?

    Basically, is he something to look forward to this season or should he be viewed more valuable as depth, for now.

  • I agree with ToBlav. Isn’t it amazing that we’ve gone in one off season to having very little quality depth to wondering where we are going to get everybody’s minutes from? I’d much rather be dealing with this side of the equation.

  • David

    Jay Rich: “Vogrich is going to play…no doubt about it….he just kept going right up the rankings. I think he is really going to cut into Novak’s minutes and Stu is just “better” than novak.”

    I disagree strongly. I think Novak has earned more respect.

    I love Stu’s game, and I’ve heard Vogrich is a pure shooter. But Novak can stroke it too, he rebounds and defends several positions, and he is more experienced. Beilein will make sure to get him 30 mins a game — probably at different positions throughout the game.

  • Champswest

    To start the season: Stu, Zack, Manny, Sims & Gibson. By 12/31: DM, Stu, Manny, Sims & Cronin.
    I can’t wait to see if JB is going to go Big or go Small or Both. With the bigs we have now, I expect Zack to be a 2.
    By mid season, we could back up the starters that I mentioned above with LLP, Zack, Vogrich, Gibson and Morgan. Not a bad 2nd unit and you still have McLimans, Wright, and the new walk-on for spot duty.

  • David

    No way Zack is a 2 with LLP, Stu, Manny, Vogrich, and Morris all getting minutes.

  • JB

    i agree, no way zack’s gonna be a 2.

    the 2 guard position is deep right now and it’s only going to get deeper during zack’s next years at Michigan. The oldest 2 guards are his year.

    he’s a phenomenal shooting option from the 4 position(great weapon for the offense we run). he is small for the position but that’s where he fits best given our roster.

  • Dave

    jb has brought in guys because he doesnt want novak to play the 4 ……..idk why you guys think he will play that position ever this season, it doesnt make sense……there is no reason for him to ever play the 4 ever this entire year or the rest of his career at michigan …….people need to realize that novak amongst others definitely are not going to play an average of 30 mins a game this year………..hes a warrior but a 6’5″ guy playing the 4 is not beileins system, which is a system he used for 30 years, hes not going to play novak at the 4 because it worked last year, last years team was used that way becasue it had to be………those days are over and thats it

  • Dave

    manny is not the 2 he is the 3

  • JayRich

    David: Do you really not think that Stu is more talented all around than Novak? (don’t read this the wrong way…I am not attacking you, just a serious question). You mentioned my comment about shooting stroke…which I still think Stu is better…but I mentioned other stuff that makes Stu a more valuable player.

    Also, for those thinking Novak won’t play the 2 ever or the 4 ever…I think he will play both some…along with playing the 3 for the 5 minutes Manny is out of the game. If he doesn’t play those positions…he would never play.

    Don’t get me wrong either…I love Novak, he plays the right way (and he reminds me of how I played in high school, not as talented as others but always overachieved because I worked harder).

  • JayRich

    I just realized I didn’t put the stuff i was thinking in my previous post about why Stu is better than Novak. Basically it comes down to ball handling, ability to come off screens, (compared to Novak being more of a spot up shooter), passing, athleticism..etc.

    Though obviously Novak still brings a lot to the table but I just don’t believe as much

  • David

    JayRich, I see your point. Stu is a better offensive talent, but Novak’s ability to rebound and defend will get him just as many minutes.

    Dave, Manny is the 3, but Novak usually defends bigger (i.e., post) players. Manny would more likely defend a quick 2-guard than Novak, no?

  • Champswest

    I believe Novak will play at 2,3 & 4, but that JB will want to go with bigger bodies at 4 (now that we have some). I love Zack, but he is too small to guard most 4’s. Gibson and Sims were rarely on the floor at the same time last year, because there was not anyone to spell them. Now we have Cronin, Morgan and McLimans to rotate in, so Zack can be used at other spots. Any way you look at it, the depth issue is good for the team. We can throw a lot of bodies at people and wear them down.

  • maxwell’s demon

    Other than Sims and Manny I would make sure Stu gets a lot of minutes. Maybe have him run some 2 when Morris is running PG and let him run PG when Morris is out. I also see Novak coming off the bench for Manny.

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  • Lynette

    The link for the center hyperlink is broken, or rather it is the same as for the point guard info. Thanks.