Over the coming weeks, we’ll be breaking down video from Michigan’s trip to Spain to focus on every individual player in the rotation. We’ve clipped out the film to focus on strengths and weaknesses displayed during Michigan’s three-game tour.
Today we look at freshman wing Ignas Brazdeikis who led Michigan in scoring on the trip.
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Attacks the basket
Brazdeikis defaults to putting his head down and getting to the basket. He consistently plays downhill and is capable of finishing with either hand around the hoop — he’s a natural right-handed player who shoots left-handed — and will finish through, over or around a defender.
Brazdeikis loves to use his go-to move of a quick spin in the lane and was frequently featured in Michigan’s high ball screen game. I also liked how Michigan utilized some sets to him attacking on a quick hitter rather than a drawn out ball screen. I think there’s a whole package of Moritz Wagner-style sets that can help Brazdeikis create leverage.
In Michigan’s opener, Brazdeikis had a couple of very nice passes driving to the basket, but his first and second option is clearly to try to score. He recorded only one assist in three games.
Gets to the free throw line
With his penchant for attacking the basket, it should come as no surprise that Brazdeikis does a good job of getting to the free throw line. He led Michigan in free throw attempts on the trip and his 53.5% free throw rate (FTA/FGA) would be one of the best for a Beilein wing if he was able to maintain it over the course of a season.
Brazdeikis also made 11 of his 15 attempts for 73% shooting at the stripe. Historical stats show that he should be a good but maybe not automatic free throw shooter. He shot 79% at the free throw line as a senior (186 attempts) and 73% in Nike EYBL (132 attempts).
Brazdeikis is a good rebounder which allows him to rip-and-run and start transition opportunities himself. This will be an intriguing weapon for Michigan this year because Charles Matthews and Brazdeikis should be two of Michigan’s better defensive rebounders and both can push the ball themselves.
He loves to pull up just above the free throw line in transition. That isn’t the most efficient shot in basketball, but it is the only type of jump shot that Brazdeikis made on the tour.
Extra baskets seem to find Brazdeikis. Like any wired scorer, Brazdeikis has the basketball IQ to pick up two or three baskets per game on a great cut or a timely offensive rebound. He always seems to find himself in the right place at the right time and this was the case in Spain on everything from his own missed free throw to random loose balls.
Room for Improvement
Right now, Brazdeikis can bully his way to the rim time and again. In Big Ten play, he’s going to need to diversify his game. Brazdeikis still has the tendency to force the issue and drive into a crowd and he needs to expand his ability as a passer to become a more complete playmaker.
Brazdeikis is still a freshman who hasn’t started the fall semester and he plays like it. He wasn’t the only Michigan player to suffer his fair share of defensive lapses in Spain, but there were a few possessions every game where he fell asleep or got caught ball watching and gave up an easy two.
Catch and shoot
The freshman wing didn’t attempt a 3-point shot on the tour and missed his catch-and-shoot field goal attempts. The numbers say that he can shoot, but it is clear that he’s more comfortable with the ball in his hands attacking than as a catch-and-shoot threat from the wing.
Last year at Orangeville Prep, Brazdeikis shot 36% from 3-point range and attempted 34% of his field goal attempts from behind the arc. In his final season of Nike EYBL, he shot 32% from 3-point range with 33% of shot attempts from deep.
Don’t write off the 6-foot-7 freshman as a shooter entirely based off of Michigan’s tour, but don’t count on him to answer Michigan’s floor spacing questions.
Michigan needs a scoring punch in 2018-19 and Brazdeikis is the most likely to supply it. I suspect that he’ll start the season as a super-sub with the ability to replace Matthews, Jordan Poole or Isaiah Livers.
He’ll play the two position on offense if Livers or Brandon Johns is on the floor and the four position if Michigan is going without one of those two players. Coming off the bench allows Michigan to retain a lot of lineup flexibility and tailor a game plan to create mismatches for Brazdeikis.
His ceiling as a freshman will be limited by three things: his defense, his ability to develop offensive counters and his perimeter jump shot.
On the other hand, he also has a pretty high floor. I have a hard time envisioning a scenario where Brazdeikis doesn’t play major minutes and doesn’t rack up buckets. Michigan needs scorers and you don’t have to ask Brazdeikis twice to go make something happen.