Italy Rewind: Derrick Walton

Dylan Burkhardt
on

Derrick Walton was Michigan’s fourth option offensively last season, but expectations are high for the 6-foot point guard from Detroit. Walton was a complementary star last season and while he made huge plays on the road at Michigan State, Nebraska and Ohio State he was always just out of the limelight.

With Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan gone, all eyes will be on Walton to make a sophomore leap. He was efficient when he picked his spots last year and this blog has even hypothesized that he could make a Yogi Ferrell-like jump during his sophomore year.

Walton was solid in Italy – averaging nine points, five rebounds and three assists per game – but once again it was his teammates that were grabbing the boisterous stat lines, attention and headlines.  It’s tough to read too much from a trip to Italy, but for whatever reason Walton never had to take control of the game.

By the numbers

Player PPG RPG APG 2P% 3FG% eFG% 3PA/FGA FT% FTA/FGA
Derrick Walton Jr. 8.8 4.5 3.3 55.6% 27.3% 50.0% 37.9% 50.0% 41.4%

So what can we read into Walton’s numbers from overseas? Right now they are inconclusive.

Walton ranked 4th in shot attempts, second in assists, but just eighth in points per game. Spike Albrecht was the only Michigan rotation player to average fewer minutes per game than Walton, last year’s No. 4 scorer.

The easy explanation is that Walton was content to let everyone else get their shot attempts while he kept the offense moving. Playing with new teammates and a 24 second clock, it’s feasible that Walton just didn’t get the ball back before shot attempts went up. A good point guard doesn’t need to take a lot of shots in a blowout win and Walton has never been one to force his offense over others. The other tendency noticeable on film was that Michigan scored an inordinate amount of transition baskets where Walton or another wing simply pushed the ball up the floor to someone else for an easy layup

On the other hand, Walton didn’t shoot the ball well — 56% on twos, 27% on threes for a 50 eFG% and just 50% at the free throw line – and he only reached double-figures twice (in the first and last game of the week) despite Michigan averaging just over 100 points per game.

“The key for me was just being aggressive and knowing that the team needed me tonight,” Walton said after finishing the tour with a 14 point performance. “I came out and hit shots I’d be expected to hit during the season, so the early start was important.”

Walton shot the ball very well last season, so it’s premature to worry about his shooting numbers after a preseason tour in Italy. However, it’s worth noting that Irvin, LeVert and Chatman all attempted significantly more shots than Walton overseas.

Distribution of shot attempts is one statistic that does seem to carry some weight against any opposition as it starts to illustrate tendencies and roles. It was Caris LeVert that was Michigan’s primary creator and Zak Irvin that was Michigan’s primary shooter, with Walton still searching for his role within the offense.

Walton’s takeaway from the 10 days in Europe had to do with learning about his teammates, many of whom he’s met for the first time in the last several months.

“Mostly it built confidence,” he said. “For the freshmen, being able to come out and play with us to get a couple of games under their belt gives us team chemistry.

“It’s brought the team a lot closer together. We have a lot of young guys that we’ve only seen for a couple months, so being able to room with them, talk with them and learn about their personal lives, it brings us closer together on the court. It makes for better continuity out on the floor.”

Walton still had plenty of highlights overseas including a couple devastating Euro-step moves in transition, impressive finishes at the basket and one of his patented and-one jump shots. It’s still far too early to worry about Walton’s performance in Italy, but it’s time to start thinking about how and where he fits into Michigan’s offense this season. The fear going into the season was that Walton might need to be Michigan’s No. 2 scoring threat, but the good news is that he’ll have plenty of help running an offense featuring Caris LeVert, Zak Irvin and Kameron Chatman.

  • geoffclarke

    I love that in recent quotes, Walton seems to talk more about his teammates than himself, but yet on the court he is not afraid and has swagger.

    • Carl

      I can’t agree more. I think a huge take away from the Italy trip for Walton is that he is ready to lead this team. It’s not about shots always (e.g. JMo), but what’s great is that we know that skill wise Walton is capable of even more. He will never try to do too much, which is why I love him as a point guard. I think we will see him take over a few games when needed, but he will pick his spots. Love his IQ on and off the court from what I’ve seen.

  • geoffclarke

    I love that in recent quotes, Walton seems to talk more about his teammates than himself, but yet on the court he is not afraid and has swagger.

    • Carl

      I can’t agree more. I think a huge take away from the Italy trip for Walton is that he is ready to lead this team. It’s not about shots always (e.g. JMo), but what’s great is that we know that skill wise Walton is capable of even more. He will never try to do too much, which is why I love him as a point guard. I think we will see him take over a few games when needed, but he will pick his spots. Love his IQ on and off the court from what I’ve seen.

  • Champswest

    Walton doesn’t need to be Trey Burke. He needs to take care of the ball, get it to the shooters or open man and hit big shots when needed. He will be fine.

  • Champswest

    Walton doesn’t need to be Trey Burke. He needs to take care of the ball, get it to the shooters or open man and hit big shots when needed. He will be fine.

  • mikey_mac

    Some pure conjecture: it seems the Italian teams were almost all much weaker in their frontcourts than back. Size differential would have also been a negligible advantage for UM in the backcourt as well. This made it hard for Spike and Derrick to shine, relative to the wings and centers.

  • mikey_mac

    Some pure conjecture: it seems the Italian teams were almost all much weaker in their frontcourts than back. Size differential would have also been a negligible advantage for UM in the backcourt as well. This made it hard for Spike and Derrick to shine, relative to the wings and centers.

  • GTFOmycourt

    Walton is exactly the kind of point guard I want to lead the team: Completely unselfish yet in control of the team. Ditto for Spike!

  • GTFOmycourt

    Walton is exactly the kind of point guard I want to lead the team: Completely unselfish yet in control of the team. Ditto for Spike!

  • Mattski

    Think it’s possible that Walton remains something less than deadly from outside and still runs this team with real mastery for the next few years. Going to be–if not already–a player we look [back] on with terrific fondness.

  • Mattski

    Think it’s possible that Walton remains something less than deadly from outside and still runs this team with real mastery for the next few years. Going to be–if not already–a player we look [back] on with terrific fondness.

  • Northern Blue

    The coaches are probablyy going to try and get Derrick to look for his shot more I think. I thought for a freshmen he played very good defence and hopefully he can make the next step and be one of better defending points in the B1G, also seemingly has some great leadership intangibles. Need more jumpshots attempted from him, which I assume will have to happen as one of the guys that can create with the dribble when the team isn’t getting everything they want against weaker competition like in europe.