Ignas Brazdeikis, an early-entry candidate, says he's leaning toward staying in the draft. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Michigan has had multiple players selected in the NBA Draft twice under former coach John Beilein.
This year, the Wolverines will be looking to hit the trifecta.
But in order to improve the odds, Charles Matthews, Jordan Poole and Ignas Brazdeikis will have plenty to prove at this week’s NBA Draft Combine in Chicago.
Brazdeikis, the Big Ten freshman of the year, is a proven scorer who can finish effectively around the rim and is comfortable in the mid-range game. He also has appeal as a long-range shooter after shooting 39.2 percent on 3-pointers this past season.
Yet, Brazdeikis, 20, had a tendency to press on offense and needs to work on making reads quicker (31 assists in 37 games). And while he’s strong and physical, he faces questions about his ability to stay in front of athletic wings and defend larger forwards at the next level.
"I think that for Brazdeikis it's about showing he can make others better and showing he's a consistent shooter,” ESPN draft expert Mike Schmitz said on a conference call with reporters Thursday. “I think because he's further along on the offensive end than he is on the defensive end, I think teams will want to see he's a knock-down shooter and that he's a guy who can make others better around him.
“He was a perfect fit in John Beilein's system playing at that four spot, so I want to see what he looks like defensively against more gifted offensive players.”
Poole, 19, has a tempting offensive skill set with his improved ball-handling skills and ability to knock down shots off the dribble, in spot-up situations and from deep, as evidenced by his team-high 75 made 3-pointers.
While his defense and offensive decision-making have room to grow, Poole probably had the best chance of the three Wolverines to boost his draft stock at the combine. However, he elected not to participate in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, an event many of last year’s biggest draft risers performed well in like Donte DiVincenzo and Kevin Huerter.
“I was little surprised that he's not electing to play. I think he's a guy who could've helped himself by coming out, making shots and showing his talent,” Schmitz said. “So, it's hard to pick up too much of him. I think throughout the workout process he's going to have to prove that — it's more so about interviews really. It’s just that his mindset is in the right place and that he's able to play within a team's system and not just out to get his own.”
Matthews, 22, established himself as one of the top wing defenders in the nation who could guard the one-four positions this past season. He has the prototypical frame for a small forward in the NBA and has value as someone who can use his size and length to disrupt players in short stretches off the bench.
Yet, the biggest concern remains his jump shot and if he can be a consistent perimeter threat after shooting 31.8 percent and 29.9 percent from 3-point range the past two seasons.
“That's always been the key for him,” Schmitz said. “He can handle and pass, but shooting has always been kind of his downfall.”
Brazdeikis is listed as the No. 46 draft prospect in ESPN’s top 100 rankings and is projected to be a mid-second-round pick (No. 40 overall) in ESPN’s most recent two-round mock draft. Poole and Matthews check in at Nos. 70 and 71 in the rankings, respectively, and neither are listed in the mock draft.
“I see Charles as more of a late second round, undrafted, two-way guy,” Schmitz said. “I think Brazdeikis is maybe a mid-second type of prospect with the potential to maybe get into the 30s. I think Poole has a wide range. He's talented enough to be a late first-round pick type of guy, but it's about answering those questions (in interviews and workouts).”
Poole and Matthews have both committed to staying in the NBA Draft, while Brazdeikis has kept the door open for a possible return to Michigan. Brazdeikis has until May 29 to make a final decision, though Beilein's departure makes his exit all the more likely.
Michigan had two players drafted in 2013 (Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke) and three selected in 2014 (Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas).
The Wolverines have also had a player taken in the first round each of the past three years (Caris LeVert, D.J. Wilson and Moritz Wagner).
The NBA Draft will take place June 20 at the Barclays Center in New York.
►Ignas Brazdeikis: 6-foot-7.25 with shoes, 6-foot-9.25 wingspan, 8-foot-6 standing reach, 220.8 pounds, 6% body fat
►Charles Matthews: 6-foot-6.25 with shoes, 6-foot-9.5 wingspan, 8-foot-7 standing reach, 194.8 pounds, 3.8% body fat
►Jordan Poole: 6-foot-5.5 with shoes, 6-foot-6.75 wingspan, 8-foot-3.5 standing reach, 190.8 pounds, 7.5% body fat