As a freshman, Nik Stauskas was the third or fourth option for Michigan, a sharpshooter used strictly to spread the floor.
An average offensive possession for Stauskas? Standing in the corner and spotting up, which would either create space for Trey Burke or Tim Hardaway Jr. to get to the rim or allow him a wide-open, catch-and-shoot three.
That was the role that he was asked to play.
The same can be said for Zak Irvin last season, another 6-foot-6 shooter that played limited minutes as a freshman whose primary role was spreading the floor for, you guessed it, Stauskas.
And as Brendan Quinn of MLive.com laid out in this column from Tuesday, there are some expectations for Irvin this season, namely that he will follow in Stauskas’ footsteps and become the centerpiece for Michigan’s offensive attack.
That, frankly, is unfair for a number of reasons.
Let’s start with the obvious: Stauskas was the Big Ten Player of the Year, a second team all-american and a lottery pick. Asking any player to fill those shoes puts unneeded pressure on them. Irvin can get better as a player and have a productive season for the Wolverines without coming close to that kind of performance.
But that’s not all: Irvin and Stauskas are very different players. Stauskas is excellent in pick-and-roll situations. He could cross people over, he could beat people off the dribble and he was a very good passer. Irvin had just four assists combined in Big Ten play and the postseason. He’s not going to thrive the way that Stauskas did as the centerpiece of John Beilein’s offensive attack.
You know who will?
If there is anyone on Michigan who is going to act as a replacement for Stauskas, it is LeVert. The 6-foot-6 combo-guard is not the same caliber of athlete and he’s not as good of a passer or a shooter as Stauskas, but he can take over games and he can make plays with the ball in his hands in pick-and-roll actions. And don’t forget about Derrick Walton, who is primed for a breakout sophomore campaign.
Irvin has a chance to be a very good player at Michigan.
Just don’t expect him to be the next Nik Stauskas.