I think we can all concede Zak has been slightly disappointing this year. I think there was roughly a 50/50 split prior to the season as to whether or not Zak would expand his game and become a creator. I think its safe to say he is not, he’s a one dimensional player for the most part, but has shown some flashes recently.
In any event, this shot analytics chart puts his struggles into context. The most notable thing is his huge decline in terms of finishing, in addition to the corner 3s. Zak’s EFG% at the basket has declined 29% - that’s almost unfathomable. His corner 3 EFG% has declined 27%, in particular his left corner 3 has declined 46%. As Dylan said, Zak didn’t even need to be a creator this year, just more of the same Zak as last year, with more opportunity. Instead, he’s regressed as a shooter, some of it by his own doing, and some because the looks aren’t clean.
Zak Irvin's shot development isn't very encouraging.
(data via @ShotAnalytics) pic.twitter.com/qV9Xw8YLV7— Alex Cook (@alexcook616) February 27, 2015
I’m confident that if we return mostly everyone next season and players improve as they usually do with some experience and an offseason that he will be much better shooting next year. Through the Syracuse game this season, he was shooting 43.4% from 3. Now, if Caris does not return and we don’t add another effective ball handler, I don’t expect him to be capable of shooting >40% because the open shots will just not be there. But I think he is capable of shooting high 30s next season with Michigan having a healthy squad as he will not be depended on as a ball handler.
I admire him for working hard on handling the ball and the PnR. You can tell it’s made small dividends for him in that area. And it may have come at the cost of his stroke a bit. But it’s a tradeoff we had to make due to Caris and Derrick being injured.
I think Zak has improved as a ballhandler and as a passer, however I was expecting a more THJ like progression, where he was semi-competent as a sophmore. Instead, I think we’ve seen flashes in the past 2 weeks, but not enough to the extent that I would expect Zak to be able to handle a press the way THJ did vs VCU as a junior. Furthermore, Zak doesn’t have the ability to elevate off 1 leg the way THJ did on the finish, he has to go off 2 legs to get enough elevation, which gives the defender time to deter the shot - this is the same problem Caris has - may partially explain Zak’s issues with finishing around the basket.
I think the “Zak doesn’t need to be a creator” pretty quickly went by the wayside with injuries. I could see his development similar to Tim’s where he had to do a lot more as a sophomore, really struggles but builds from it and comes out a better player on the other side.
Not that he’s really a similar player to Tim, but I can see them on similar growth paths.
As for the at the basket numbers… That doesn’t provide enough context IMO…
Last year Zak TOOK 14 (of 190) shots at the rim. This year 70 of his 312 attempts are at the rim. Last year’s number was completely inflated because it was just a few breakaway layups.
I’ll have more on Zak soon, but wanted to save it for a whole post.