Report Card 2014: Zak Irvin

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Michigan vs Michigan State_11
Scott Mapes

Previously: Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas, Jordan Morgan

When Michigan needed points in a hurry this season, Zak Irvin was the man springing to action off the bench. The talented freshman was Michigan’s very own version of “the microwave,” providing instant 3-pointers on demand. Irvin’s unorthodox delivery combined with his length and elevation made for a nearly unblockable perimeter jumper he could get off over just about anyone.

And that is truly the story of Zak Irvin’s season. The Indianapolis native was the inverse of the cliche of the ‘not just a shooter’ cliché spouted about Nik Stauskas on nearly every national television broadcast of a Michigan game. Irvin was truly “just a shooter” — and while he was extremely good in that role, he left something to be desired in other areas of the game.

This is only the beginning for Zak Irvin. He displayed a diverse set of offensive skills in high school and was known as a lockdown defender. In all likelihood, Irvin will develop in those departments as his career goes on. This year, he was stunningly one-dimensional — and the perfect fit for a very specific role Michigan needed filled.

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2014 Stats: 6.7 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.4 APG, 117.8 ORtg, 19.4 %Poss

The Good:

  • 3-point shooting: Irvin was a 3-point shooting specialist, and he earned the title. Irvin was the second-best 3-point shooter on the team, and if he played for a team that didn’t have Nik Stauskas, he would have likely been the best. His 42 percent shooting from beyond the arc was critical for Michigan in multiple contests, and his reliability from 3-point land was evident early on in his career. It was also the vast majority of what Irvin contributed on the offensive end – 93.4% of Irvin’s shot attempts were jump shots.
  • Knowing his role: This is a somewhat underrated strength. Michigan knew just what it needed from Zak Irvin this season, and it got it. While the coaching staff would have liked to see him be better in some areas, Irvin never tried to do too much or play outside of himself. Just as Nik Stauskas bit the bullet and inhabited the role of spot-up shooter nearly exclusively last season, Irvin looked for his opportunities within the offense and let the game come to him. Irvin attempted over three two-point field goals only twice, and only took a lot of threes when he was especially hot — games at Minnesota (5-for-8), against Coppin State (6-for-10) and against Nebraska (4-for-9) come to mind other than his forgettable performance against Charlotte in Puerto Rico.
  • Feel for transition: This may sound strange, but Irvin was one of the best transition scorers in the country. A majority of his few made two-point baskets were in transition, but he was especially adept at finding space on the wings or as a trailer on the break and burying transition threes. Irvin had a 80.7 eFG% on transition attempts and scored 1.68 points per transition field goal attempt. Irvin was heady and filled the lanes when he was on the floor and — as always — knew how to find his scoring opportunities.

Room for Improvement:

  • Rebounding: This was an are Michigan definitely would have liked Irvin to be better in. The coaching staff mentioned it on numerous occasions and everyone knows how John Beilein loves players who can rebound and start the break right away. Irvin did not seem to have much interest in boxing out. He grabbed 3.3 percent of offensive rebounding opportunities while he was on the floor, and while that isn’t good, it wasn’t the worst on the team — Nik Stauskas and Spike Albrecht both offensive rebounded at a worse rate. But his defensive rebounding — where he really could have made a difference — was the worst on the team at 7.7 percent. Compare that to Derrick Walton’s 12.4 defensive rebounding percentage, and it just doesn’t cut it for someone that played most of his minutes at the four.
  • Defense: In high school, Zak Irvin was routinely matched up with the other team’s best player — not out of necessity to his team, but because he relished the challenge. But in his freshman year, Michigan fans saw little of that defensive reputation. While Irvin was a fine one-on-one defender, throw another player into the mix, say in the form of a screen, and he experienced serious difficulty staying in front of his man. These references aren’t entirely fair because of how few minutes he played, but Irvin consistently graded out poorly on defensive score sheets (Michigan’s game at Purdue stands out as particularly bad).
  • Driving to the basket: I guess we really don’t know how good Irvin is at driving to the hoop at the collegiate level, simply because we have almost never seen him do it. A little over five percent of Irvin’s offense occurred around the rim, and he wasn’t particularly efficient in those situations, despite their scarcity. He was almost never in an isolation situation, but when he was two things invariably happened: he drove left, and he did not score. I don’t mean to be harsh on Irvin. He spent the year learning his role as a spot-up shooter. He has the ability to drive to the basket, and given his game in high school, it is a near certainty Michigan fans will see much more of that next season.

Shining moment:

Quotable: John Beilein, after Michigan’s home win over Nebraska: “He just has the ability to make shots. Truthfully, that ball goes in the air and because his delivery is so unique, it’s like you don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s been going in at 40 percent, so I just close my mouth and say, ‘keep shooting it, Zak.’”

Grade: B

Zak Irvin did what he was asked this season: make shots. He was a prodigal shooter from the start and bailed Michigan out of a few sticky situations with timely shooting. That being said, his game was decidedly one-dimensional and there is plenty of room for improvement. Irvin had a very solid freshman year, and he will be just fine.

  • Champswest

    Fair or not, thanks to Trey, Nik and Carris, Zak is going to be one of those players that Michigan fans are expecting to take a major leap from Freshmen to Sophomore.

  • sp1ms

    Good post. Really looking forward to Zak taking on a much larger role next year. Hopefully a higher usage and more consistent and varied involvement in the offense will keep him engaged with the team defensively as well.

    Dark horse for an All-B1G type season with Caris, ime.

    • BlueRev

      How about Levert 1st Team B1G, Irvin 2nd, Walton 3rd, Donnal honorable mention. Could we still have 3 of the top 15 players in the conference (out of 14 teams!) after 5 guys sent to NBA in 2 years?

  • CoachD178

    Zak is my pick for breakout player of the year next season. This season he did his job. He was a shooter off the bench. In high school he had a much more aggressive and diverse offensive game. He could drive and finish, drive and dish, hit the mid range jumper off the dribble and of course shoot the three. My prediction is actually that by the end of the season Zak will be Michigan’s best player, if not for most of the season. I like LeVert, but Irvin is the more talented player.

    I like to look at his numbers compared to Nik Stauskas’ from his freshman season. In 30.5 minutes per game, Stauskas scored 11.0 points. In 15.4 minutes per game, Irvin scored 6.7 points per game. Their shooting percentages were very similar, with Nik shooting 46.3 percent compared to Zak’s 43.4 and Nik shooting 44.0 from deep compared to Zak’s 42.5.

    Also interesting is that in the games where he played at least 18 minutes, he averaged 11.7 points in those games. If you average out his points per minutes played to give him the same amount of time Stauskas got as a freshmen his average would have been 13.3 points per game. If you give him the minutes Glenn Robinson III got his points are at 14.6 per game.

    I realize there are a lot of factors that go into whether or not he would have produced at that level and I’m not arguing that he should have played more, etc. I am just making the point that he has clearly shown the ability to score the basketball. As his time increases, his role expands and we see him get back to playing the all-around game that made him a 5 star recruit I believe we’ll see him become one of the best scorers in the Big 10 next season.

    I cannot wait to see how this team unfolds. I don’t see the overall star power of the last two teams, but I see it being a deeper team, a longer team and a bit more athletic all-around.

    • Richmond_Eric

      I was extrapolating Zak’s minutes and ppg in my head and feel much the same. However, I do believe that starting the game will make a big difference in productionminutes. Couple this with his basketball abilities (one does not earn Mr. BBall in Indiana being a one dimensional player) and I think we have a star in the making.

      I believe Zak proved he is a team player staying within his role this past year. I also believe that role will be greatly expanded this coming season. With that probably comes a more aggressive mind set too.

      The drive against Kentucky and there was a game (I forget which one) where he moved to his left and from the elbowfoul line extended, rose and nailed a beautifully executed jump shot a la GR3THjr. Also, he gave up a sure 2 points to alley-oop to Glenn. Again, I believe these are indications of what is to come when he is starting the game and hopefully playing 30-35 minutes.

      Derrick, Zak, Caris form a great core with lots of “firepower”. Any (maybe all?) of them could average 15+ per game.

      Add in Kam, Donnal, Wilson, Spike, Max, Doyle, and I think we will have a team capable of contending in the B1G and definitely a dangerous team next March.

      Unbelievable how young a team (again) they will be. Trust in coaching up talent with high character!

      Go Blue!

    • kam

      The only way he becomes more talented than caris is if he gets a dribble game

      • CoachD178

        Not saying if he plays the same way he did last year he’ll be better. But I am saying he is the more talented player. He’s bigger, more athletic, a better shooter and he’s stronger. He did what he was asked to do this season. In high school he was a dynamic player and did far, far more than just shoot. That was his role this season, but it wasn’t last year.

        Caris went from 2.3 PPG as a freshman to 12.9 PPG as a sophomore. Zak only played about 5 minutes more per game. If he puts in good work this offseason there is no doubt in my mind he’ll eventually develop into UM’s best player during next season. Who would have thought Stauskas would do that for UM this season? I think we all knew Stauskas was going to be a good player, but what he did this season? As much as I love Stauskas, Irvin has even more upside.

        His high school experience should also help him with the transition. Remember, he was a sidekick to Gary Harris his first couple of years. Then Harris went to MSU and Irvin had to take on a new role. He did it with flying colors, dominating as a senior, rising to a 5 star and winning the Indiana Mr. Basketball award, no small feat. During his senior year there were 5 other players ranked in Rivals Top 150 that went to major D1 schools.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Py9MHdTY7CM

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpAkZqUtAGg

        • kam

          first off caris is taller and longer than irvin. u do know caris is projected a top 15 draft pick on like 5 early draft sites right? also you cant judge high school highlights. Glenn was great at driving in high school but couldn’t do it in college. Irvin needs to prove it first. He’s also not as quick or as athletic as caris. One of irvins weaknesses coming out was being an average athlete.. Id love to see him be as good as you’re saying but i need to see it.. Irvin is also barley younger than caris. I think Irvin will be very good but He’s not taller or more athletic than caris. For sure the better shooter though

          • CoachD178

            Well I was hoping to find a Michigan site where people could actually have good back and forth conversations without resulting in condescension, I guess this isn’t the place. I used to get paid to evaluate basketball players and write ups on them so I’m not just making stuff up here. I realize you don’t just watch highlights and assume that a guy will do that in college. I also know how to evaluate film, evaluate a players good and bad points and then project that to the next level.

            I don’t care if Caris projected as a Top 15 pick. Where were Glenn and Mitch projected? It doesn’t always mean that is where a guy will go. Caris is a good basketball player and I love how he has progressed. I love that he worked his butt off to get to that point. I’m a Michigan fan so I am hoping he continues to develop into an even better player. This isn’t a “Caris isn’t very good” kind of comment. It’s more about how good I think Zak can be. Caris isn’t a great shooter at this point, he’s streaky. He was very streaky this season, going for hot stretches and cool stretches. He will continue to improve on that and it will make him a better player. But to me he is not a No. 1 guy. Just like Glenn wasn’t a No. 1 guy. Zak is a No. 1 kind of guy.

            I am not sure who questioned his athleticism, other than Scout.com, one of the worst evaluating sites in the business for both football and basketball. Anyone who watched him in high school and came away with “average athlete” doesn’t know how to evaluate athleticism.

            Here’s something from ESPN, some snippets:

            “Strengths:
            Zak is an aggressive scorer with high skill and excellent athletic ability. When he puts the ball on the floor he can get all the way to the rim and score or find an open player. He has really good length and a great Division I basketball body that should continue to fill out. His skill level is what separates him.”

            I will move on to another board in hopes of finding people who actually respect each other and don’t attack each other, since we are supposedly all fans of the same team.

          • kam

            Caris shot 40% from 3. Please explain how that isn’t very good? I cant believe you judged the skill of players if you think 40% isn’t very good. And I’m not attacking you haha i just disagree

          • kam

            am i not allowed to disagree? If you think irvin will be better thats fine, my point is that you saying caris isn’t a good shooter is false.. He shot 40% from 3. saying he’s streaky also isn’t really true either. He went like 10 games straight averaging over 15 PPG and shot over 50% from the floor towards the end of the year. Also the difference between glenn and carries is that Caris can shoot and create his shot. Glenn couldn’t do either very well(shot 34% from 3). Im not insulting or attacking I’m just disagreeing which people do on sports boards

          • jkuofm27

            I love both players, but Irvin is a fluid athlete that could have probably played 2 or 3 sports. He has good hips and moves smoothly. Levert is disproportionate and many times looks like my 12 year old son growing into his body. His dribbling, passing and shooting scare me because of his awkwardness. You can’t really compare Levert and Irvin this year, because of 2 years in the system against 1. Also, Caris was put at the “best” position for him. Irvin was asked to take a limited role and even play 4, which I don’t think he is best suited for. As far as strength wise there is a reason why Irvin was allowed to play the 4 and Levert is strictly a guard. As far as driving to the basket, it is much more difficult to drive (ask GRIII) when you always get the ball in the corner or on the baseline. When you get the ball at the top of the key or on the sides of the 3pt line there are many more angles to attack and your defender is on an island. When Irvin is given the opportunity with the ball in the same positions that Stauskus and Levert were this year he will produce the same or better results.

            Size and Height from MGoBlue:
            21 Zak Irvin 6-6 200 Guard FR
            23 Caris LeVert 6-6 185 Guard SO

          • kam

            Irvin couldn’t dribble at all this year. caris may have looked awkward but i don’t care how you look as long as you get the job done. But it would be nice if youre right because that would mean irvin would be really good

          • Justin

            I’m with Kam on this completely.

            Caris Levert entered college as an extremely lean player who had a good handle and a solid shot who could be a defensive presence because of his long reach.

            CARIS NOW: A 40% 3-pt shooter, anything but streaky was very solid. Caris can handle the rock and is so tall he can see over defenders, he can create his own shot at will, he can finish at the cup, he has long arms and is a plus defender. He has all-kinds of NBA potential because of his handle and overall length. He is great with ball screens and because of all this he will be a late lottery pick next season.

            CARIS this offseason – will continue to get stronger, has 20 pounds more that he can put on that frame to make him finish even more around the rim and be a better defender plus could develop a turn around jumper in the post against smaller guards. He will continue to get better shooting the basketball and rebounding will rapidly go up this next season plus he is now the go-to-player on the team.

            As for Irvin…He is the best shooter on the team – no doubt. Irvin doesn’t have the length and handle that Levert has and because of that he will not be the best player by seasons end on UM. I expect Irvin to avg 11-13 ppg next season. He needs to get much stronger, he is not as quick as Levert, how many times did you see him drive to the rim and rise up to dunk it. Very few, yes he is athletic but not an above average level right now. There is no doubt that Irvin needs to be right there with Levert next season in scoring..Levert will just have a lot more assists than Irvin.

            They are completely different players and as of right now and at the end of the 2014-2015 season. Levert will be a better overall player with much higher NBA upside. He will be drafted higher than Irvin guaranteed.

          • BlueRev

            I expect Irvin to score more than–I’d go with 14-16, nearly as much as Levert and largely because Caris will demand a lot of defense and get Zak the ball. And though I agree Levert has the higher upside, I can’t agree he will be drafted higher than Irvin GUARENTEED–any more than I would have projected Stauskas over Robinson or McGary. My money’s on Levert, but Irvin has plenty of potential too!

          • Justin

            As far as going to another board. if you cannot take some disagreement, clearly you don’t belong discussing sports.

            I too used to scout basketball players and I’ll be here to argue and use my points whenever is needed.

            If you can’t take the heat. Get out of the kitchen!

          • BlueRev

            I would encourage you to keep coming back. A few of these guys are grumpy, but for the most part this board offers good evaluation, realistic optimism regarding UM hoops and appreciation of fellow UM fans.

            As far as your comments, I still go with Caris’ upside, but Irvin definately has oodles of potential too–I just hope we don’t have to hear “He’s not just a shooter” all season when he starts driving past people to score or assist.

        • kam

          oh and There were a few on here and other sites that thought Nik would break out..Highschool also doesn’t matter at this point. what he did in high school doesn’t matter now. also if you really wanna look at that highlight watch his points, they’re mostly all jumpers. He wasn’t amazing attacking the hoop even in high school. My point is simply he has a lot to improve on if he wants to make the jump that you’re talking

      • Webbdog

        Who is to say he doesnt have that? Nik didnt show it his freshman year.

        • kam

          Actually if you go back last year and look at niks report card it showed he did. Nik ran pick in roll at times and drove. He didn’t finish as well but he for sure did.

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

            I will say that Nik showed a more diverse game than Zak as a freshman. 94% of Zak’s possessions were jump shots, compare that to 69% for Nik.

            Nik showed a lot of promise on the ball screen as a freshman. We haven’t seen that from Zak right now.

          • BlueRev

            Yet D, I think you projected Zak would come right in, maybe start and be one of our key scorers because of not only his shot but also his handle… hopefully that shows up this year, and I expect it will.

  • jblair52

    I’m most excited about the Irvin-Levert-Walton backcourt defense.
    Irvin was a defensive beast in high school. I think he’ll actually give us an upgrade in defense now that he’s got a year under his belt.

    If Chatman and Donnal can rebound, our defense could be solid.

  • MAZS

    always nice to read alot about Caris——–on Irvin’s report card.

  • arsenal926

    Not sure how these comments turned into a Caris-Irvin debate, but It’s definitely a pretty interesting discussion as both should be top 20 picks at some point. Not so coincidentally, it’s also why I’m still very high on Michigan next year.

    As far as who has more potential, I’m probably on the LeVert side for a couple of reasons. Levert is only 2 months older than Irvin and clearly far more developed at this stage of their lives. Obviously Zak is a year behind and will close the gap this summer, but it’s probably not fair to assume he’ll have the same development that Nik/Caris did on their games. (although he very well could). As far as who’s the better athlete. I don’t think there’s an answer, both use there athletic strengths to work for their games.

    Irvin is already strong for a guard and uses that to get his shot off anywhere he wants. Zak probably has the better shot, but I don’t think you can use %’s as way to declare that a fact. He certainly hit his fair share of “NO NO NO YES shots,yet I imagine a extremely high number of those were assisted, whereas Caris was creating for himself far more often

    Caris has off the chart quickness and uses that to get by people. He’s already shown an incredible ability to run the pick and role (although Zak could have a similar leap as well) and his length gives him a very high potential to become a + defender.

    Conclusion: Both are future NBA 2 guards, but there games aren’t all that similar. I say Caris has a higher ceiling, but I can see both sides of the argument.

    • justin

      I’m not sure how it got there. A poster went off on it and I had to chime in. Look forward to seeing them all improve. Let’s just get wins. I could care less who contributes in doing so.

      BTW Stephen zimmerman officially off our recruiting table. Picked his final eight today and we were not on it. No surprise there. Brings some clarity. Need to pick up an athletic big who is a legitimate threat to score in the 15 or 16 classes.

  • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

    Irvin showed a glimpse of next year with a pump fake and easy drive to the basket late in the first half in the Kentucky game. There is a lot more to his game we have yet to see. Very excited.

  • Mattski

    Haven’t seen nearly enough of Zak’s game to venture an opinion. But it’s pretty exciting that people think that Zak is that good.

  • Dana

    I see a lot of assumptions in this debate. I’ll just remind everyone. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. And also shooting percentage defense statistics are one of the most obviously flawed stats in use. If you play good defense the offensive player usually doesn’t shoot, the fact that isn’t accounted for in the stat makes it as close to pointless as a stat can be. To be useful it would have to account for the percentage of shots the opposing player usually takes, the percentage of shots he does take, that differential, the percentages that player normally shoots, what percentage they did shoot and that differential then compare those differentials in some manner with the base figures. And even then it’s flawed. An even better stat would be one that measures how often you forced a player from his primary more. For instance you’re a center and the opposing centers best move is the right hook 5 feet and in. You force him to the fade away and it’s a win whether it goes or not, or you force him to an 8 foot hook and it’s a win whether it goes in or not. He gets the 4 foot hook it’s a loss whether it goes in or not etcetera.

    I like all the extra figures this site brings, I just have a real problem with pointing to a flawed stat as concrete evidence for anything. Irvin’s defense was a bit of a letdown from the hype but it seemed much like his offense, he wasn’t affording himself freedom. Everything was over thought thus a half second slow. A bit of comfort could go a long ways on both ends of the floor.

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

      I think Zak has a lot more to his game given what I saw in high school as well, but we still only can go with what we’ve seen.

  • Mattski

    Can’t get in to page two of the KamChat interview.

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

      Try now.

      • BlueRev

        I can’t either–still can’t.
        Lookn fw to it tho.
        Watched him in Jordan game–played a lot of perimeter tho he looks to have a pf’s body.