2010-11 Player Profile: Zack Novak

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Zack Novak is one of the few known quantities on this Michigan team. He started 53 games in the first two years of his college career and averaged 33 minutes, 7 points, and four rebounds per game last season.

It’s tough to succinctly define Novak’s game. He stands about 6-foot-3, despite the roster stating otherwise (he’s actually 6-4 this year, rather than 6-5), and has played the power forward for a majority of his first two years in college. Offensively he’s been inconsistent – capable of bursting for 20 points at any time but often times reduced to a non-factor. On the defensive end, he does all the little things and influences the game in ways that can’t be measured on the box score.

Novak’s role looks to change this year as Beilein plans to move him to the off guard, a position he’s only played for short stretches of his career. Novak’s most notable performance at the two guard was versus Duke when he netted four three pointers for 14 points. I don’t think he’s a perfect match for any single position on the court but two guard appears to makes the most sense at this time.

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Reasons for Excitement

  • Rebounding: Gone are the days of Novak banging against players that are 5 to 7 inches taller than him at the four spot (hopefully). Novak was not a good rebounder for the power forward but he showed some rebounding ability. He should be an above average rebounder for an off-guard as he battles players his own size.
  • Shooting: Despite his meager end of season total, Novak has shown signs of shooting the ball well. His freshman year he shot 34.4% from long range and during conference play last season he shot just under 36%. The 11/46 (24%) that he shot in non-conference play skews his average by a significant margin. Novak also shot 33% (7 of 21) in the four European games and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect him to be a 33-35% three point shooter this year.
  • Leadership & Experience: Novak has a fiery personality, he’s hit big shots, he’s been through it all over the first two years of his career. He has always appeared to be comfortable with the offense and he’s a team captain.

Reasons to Worry

  • Defense: This might sound crazy, because Novak is one of the hardest workers, hustlers, and most aggressive players on the team, but it remains to be seen how effective he can be guarding opposing two guards.
  • Diverse Offensive Game: Last year Novak won the Midnight Madness slam dunk contest and we were sure that we’d see more than just three point shooting from Novak. Instead we saw more of the same, as Novak took 68% of his field goal attempts from three point range (down from 78% the year before) and rarely ventured to the free throw line. Here’s the catch, when he did shoot the ball inside the arc, Novak connected on 52% of his twos last season.

Outlook

Tim Hardaway Jr. and Evan Smotrycz are both going to play major roles in this offense but Novak will also shoulder a bulk of the scoring burden. He’s Michigan’s most efficient and experienced returning offensive player and the shots are there for the taking. Improving on his 7 points and 4 rebounds per game should be a given, 10 points and five or six rebounds per game seems to fit the reasonable range of expectations.

He will undoubtedly cameo at the power forward spot, especially early on and if either freshman (Smotrycz or Christian) struggles out of the gate, but he should play the majority of his minutes at the off guard. Don’t expect to see Novak off the court often; with his versatility and such a young team, I would expect to him play even more than the 33 minutes per game he averaged last year.

The encouraging news is that Zack has consistently been mentioned as the most consistent player in practice. He also averaged 10 points and three rebounds in Europe and should be ready to the ground running. Getting off to a quick start would definitely be a pleasant surprise for Novak who was shooting just 27% from three entering conference play last year.

Quotable: “I remember my freshman year someone kept complaining to the refs about what I was doing,” Novak said, shaking his head. “I said: ‘Bro, I’m like 6-2. What are you complaining about? You should score on me every time. What’s going on?’” – NWITimes.com

  • georgeesq.

    That’s a very fair analysis of Zack. I think that he can handle most 2 guards on D in the Big 10 because most of them don’t drive the ball much anyway = Bohannon, Deibler, etc. I’m really hoping that he can get comfortable at the 2 and bump his three point shooting above 35%. Part of his struggles shooting last season could be attributed to the amount of energy expended defending 4s in the paint.

  • Kenny

    Novak will fair much better defending 2 guards than big fellows, and we will see a lot of zone in situation with clear mismatches.

  • ZRL

    From the Stu Douglass profile, but Stu shot 34.8% in Big Ten play, not 32.1%. I went through it and for some reason the mgoblue totals don’t count BTT games as conference play. I don’t think it’s fair to count shooting as a strength for Novak but as a reason to worry for Stu. Both have shot around the same % their first 2 years, and now Novak may have a harder time getting his shot off while being guarded by 2’s.

  • http://www.umhoops.com Dylan Burkhardt

    ZRL, good call on the BTT. Stu did shoot 32.1% in the 18 conference games but he was 6 of 12 in the two Big Ten tournament games. And for what it’s worth, Stu did have shooting listed as both a strength and weakness.

    Also worth noting that Joe wrote that profile and I wrote Novak’s. It will be interesting to see how both players shoot this year.

  • Nate the Newt

    “Novak connected on 52% of his makes last season.”

    No wonder we were so wretched last year. Most teams make 100% of their makes.

  • http://www.umhoops.com Dylan Burkhardt

    Oops! Should be 52% of his twos.

  • JBlair52

    Looks like Bartelstein and Person both lost an inch as well

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