(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)
Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Nik Stauskas developed into first round picks in their last years playing for John Beilein, and Caris LeVert looks poised to do the same. Michigan is currently listing the 6’7 wing at 200 pounds, a 15-pound gain from where he was listed when the season ended. Its strength and conditioning program had already done something similar for Stauskas but the improvement on LeVert’s physical profile is particularly more impressive considering he enrolled in Ann Arbor two years ago at 165 pounds. A stronger physique should certainly help LeVert’s development since some of the things he did not do well could be justified by his weak frame.
LeVert was a decent isolation player, possessing a nifty crossover as go-to move. He proved himself very quick on straight line drives, fueled by an explosive first step to attack closeouts. But he struggled to absorb contact and maintain his balance, unable to create separation against stronger players with enough lateral mobility to keep pace with him – such as Michigan State’s and Illinois’ wings. When forced to change direction, LeVert showed a good deal of indecisiveness, often picking up his dribble before he had to. According to hoop-math.com, only a fifth of his shots were at the rim.
He finished those at a 72% clip but that still only resulted in three points at the rim per game. LeVert was unable to score through contact and around length against the best competition, and he struggled getting to the line only earning 3.8 free throws per 40 minutes.
What LeVert did rather well off the bounce was passing, averaging 3.5 assists per 40 minutes. His dribble is too high, which makes him susceptible to getting the ball stripped in traffic, but did not try to force assists that weren’t there, which held his turnovers in control. He gave it away twice per 40 minutes, which was manageable in the context of his 21.2% usage rate. LeVert is a streaky pull-up jump-shooter but mostly lousy at this point, hitting just 31.1% of his 148 mid-range attempts last season. His issue seems to be same as Andrew Wiggins’; he gets great elevation off the dribble but perhaps a little too great. Yet, he ranked in the top 10 in the Big Ten in pick-and-roll efficiency including assists, flashing some good instincts passing out of dribble penetration, as his height provided him good angles on the move.
But his most significant contributions were in transition and from three-point range. According to research by shotanalytics.com, LeVert was the seventh most efficient player (defined by scoring per possessions ‘plus’ assists) in his conference on fast breaks, thanks to his 30.4% assist rate in the open court. He proved himself a very good catch-and-shoot option on the weak side, thanks to a natural stroke off the catch and a quick trigger. LeVert hit 40.8 percent of his 147 three-point attempts, including 62% from the left corner and 47 percent from the top of the key. Michigan averaged 114.1 points per 100 possessions in his 1,258 minutes on the floor.
LeVert’s quickness translates into lateral mobility on defense and he proved himself capable of keeping pace with smaller players in isolation. He was unable to contain dribble penetration through contact due to his lack of strength and struggled navigating screens, as all picks knocked him off his path, but excelled manufacturing turnovers due to his active hands both pressuring the ball and playing the passing lanes, averaging 1.4 steals per 40 minutes, which ranked him ninth in the conference. LeVert showed to be an attentive defender off the ball, often crashing in from the weak side on help defense but wasn’t really impactful due to his inability to play above the rim on this end. He was, however, very helpful on the glass, controlling 14.5% of opponents’ misses. He was neither a plus nor a negative but Michigan allowed 104.1 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, a mark that would have ranked them outside the top 150 in defensive efficiency.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.