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After Michigan's win against MSU on Sunday, talk has begun surfacing about a potential starting change for the Wolverines. Nik Stauskas exited the game early with an injury above his eye and Caris LeVert filled his role quite well throughout the rest of the game. The status of Stauskas is still unknown going forward, but it's still an interesting discussion. Michigan has just two games remaining on the regular season schedule (@PUR, IU) so if a change occurs, it probably needs to happen soon. With that, let's check out the potential benefits and costs for each player:
This is where Stauskas makes his money (at least figuratively). LeVert can make outside shots from time to time and has shown the potential to drive the basket, but nothing like Stauskas. Stauskas is the best outside shooter on the team and has shown that he can drive the basket and dish to others both as he drives and from the outside. He does have the problem of turning over the ball at times, but when he can make several 3 point shots in a row, it's hard to argue that Stauskas doesn't deserve to be on the court. One thing worth noting is that LeVert has improved significantly on the offensive end. He doesn't have an outside shot like Stauskas, but he can drive the basket and plays very aggressively. Along with this, he is a much more diverse player than Stauskas. He can do more things on the court and easily has the potential to play anywhere from the 1 to the 3 position. Over time, this will be one of his biggest contributions to Michigan.
LeVert definitely has the upper hand here. He has his troubles at times and did get beat by Gary Harris off the dribble a few times on Sunday, but Stauskas has struggled all year with his defense. He has trouble getting around screens and gets beat badly off the dribble. Once in awhile he can get a stop or snag a tough rebound, but teams can aim to attack him and can often have success. This will definitely improve over time and with experience, but for now, he is definitely a red flag on the defensive end for the Wolverines. LeVert is not perfect either and gets lost at times, but he's normally pretty good at chasing his defender and gets some key rebounds as well.
Obviously, this is a hard situation to predict without knowledge of Stauskas' condition and his potential to play in the near future. However, assuming he is 100% and ready to go for Wednesday, the better pick is still probably Stauskas. Yes, he has his defense problems and yes, he can celebrate too much after a play once in awhile, but when he's "on" offensively, he can be a key difference maker for the team. He hasn't been quite as good lately at the offensive end, but Michigan fans saw some of his lost potential during Sunday's game when the Wolverines didn't make a single 3 point shot during the entire game. Along with this potential, he also has the experience of far more minutes and far more starts than LeVert. It is reasonable to think that LeVert showed he deserves at least a little more playing time, but does it make sense to replace Stauskas at this time? Probably not. The good news is that Michigan fans get both players, so this isn't exactly a bad situation to have as a fanbase.
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To be honest, I liked it better when Stauskas was coming off the bench and shot hunting. Granted, it was against lower competition so maybe it wouldn't work out the same. I think there's something to be said for having a guy like that coming off the bench in a Jason Terry type role. He can still play starters minutes while coming off the bench.
My thought is it's easier/better to bring offense off the bench. Michigan gets into a rut on the offensive side when they start subbing because McGary, Levert, Horford, and Spike aren't bringing major offensive game with them right now. I made the argument when Vogrich was starting initially that Stauskus might be better suited to come in as the second unit for awhile longer because he'd see 2nd team defenders, tired opponents, and teammates willing to look for him instead of looking to establish their own game.
I think NIk is the overall better player, by far, but Jamal Crawford is better right now than Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler, yet he comes off the bench too.
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