There’s no debating that over the last few years, Zak Irvin might have had one of the more unusual career trajectories of anyone in the Big Ten. After blasting his way onto the scene as a freshman for the Michigan Wolverines, he struggled to find his role as a sophomore and junior before emerging once again as a senior.
Irvin now hopes to take his recent resurgence to the 2017 NBA Draft and earn himself a roster spot for next season. However, he will have some work to do as few sites consider him to have a real chance of hearing his name heard on Draft night.
As such, let’s take a look at what Irvin could offer an NBA franchise.
Early in Irvin’s career, he earned the reputation of being a three-point specialist. He hit 42.5 percent of his shots from outside the arc as a freshman and took 96 more attempts from downtown than he did from two-point range during that season. It was an impressive performance for a freshman off the bench.
And while Irvin’s three-point efficiency decreased during his career, the strength of his game still starts there. He can hit shots from nearly anywhere on the floor. On top of that, he’s also improved his mid range game and turned into a respectable rebounder. During his last two seasons, he averaged 4.5 rebounds per game and came through on the boards during the 2017 postseason, averaging 5.1 rebounds per game.
Irvin also developed significantly as a defender during his career. He added 15 pounds of muscle during his time with the Wolverines and was frequently given the team’s toughest defensive assignments during his career. Irvin was never a lockdown option, but he could guard multiple positions and hold his own.
Additionally, Irvin also accomplished all of this while playing massive minutes for the Wolverines. He played 87.6 percent of the team’s minutes as a senior and 87.7 percent in conference play, which ranked second in the Big Ten.
As mentioned above, Irvin spent the early portion of his college career being known for his perimeter shooting. However, given that Irvin never replicated his freshman three-point efficiency (dropped from 42.5 as a freshman to 34.4 percent as a senior), he will be trying to enter the NBA without an elite skill to his name.
Don’t get me wrong, Irvin has plenty of positive attributes. In fact, I highlighted many of them above. Nonetheless, lacking a specific elite skill is a major concern when a player is trying to get to the NBA. This is especially true for Irvin, considering that he is not immensely athletic or a young player with room to grow. Irvin is a graduating senior who was really solid in a lot of areas, but not elite in any.
On top of the concerns above, Irvin will also have to show that can he make some sort of impact inside the paint, if he’s going to land on an NBA roster. He only shot 48.5 percent from two-point range during his career and had trouble getting to the line. In fact, he ranked No. 44 in the Big Ten in free throw rate. If Irvin is going to get drafted and/or signed, this needs to improve.
-Potential Best Fit:
Barring a sudden reemergence of Irvin’s perimeter shooting, he’s likely going to have to work to earn himself a shot at the next level. He needs some particular skill that’s going to earn him time on the floor. Not only because of his athleticism concerns, but because he is going to have significantly more challenges trying to guard NBA two-guards than he did guarding the three and four spots at Michigan.
Should Irvin accomplish this, however, he could earn some type of role in the NBA. In particular, he could offer experience, reliability, and flexibility to a roster.
Barring something unusual, Irvin likely won’t hear his name called during the 2017 NBA Draft. However, he will get a chance to compete in the NBA Summer League and earn his way onto a roster for next season.