as saying that McGary's injury will not affect Donnal's redshirt status.
I did not make this headline up
U-M can get by with three options at center (all photos by Bryan Fuller/MGoBlog)
As we welcome in the new year, we've moved on from fretting about the 2013 football team to ... fretting about the 2013-14 basketball team. There's good reason for this, of course, with Mitch McGary's season almost certainly over due to his upcoming back surgery. Your hoops mailbag questions reflect this, as all but one are related to the impact of McGary's absence in one way or another. Without further ado, here's a very McGary-centric mailbag.
@AceAnbender Where to Mitch's minutes go percentage-wise between Irvin, Morgan, and Horford?
— Bry Mac (@Bry_Mac) December 31, 2013
John Beilein announced this week that—at least for now—he's sticking with Jordan Morgan as the starting center and Jon Horford coming off the bench. I don't think McGary's absence will affect the minutes of Zak Irvin very much, if at all; he might see an increase in minutes, but that will be due to his in-season progression as opposed to any need for him to play the four, as Max Bielfeldt and Glenn Robinson III can pick up much of the slack there.
As for how the minutes will be distributed, we already have an idea thanks to the four games McGary has missed so far this season. In the first two games of the year, Horford started and played 22-24 minutes while Morgan added 12-15, with Bielfeldt getting 4-6 minutes of mostly garbage time. The split between Horford and Morgan has reversed in the last two games; Morgan played 22 and 24 minutes against Stanford and Holy Cross, respectively. While Horford only played six minutes against the Cardinal, that's because he picked up five fouls in that span, opening up a few more minutes for Bielfeldt to see the floor.
For the time being, I expect Beilein to go with a 25/15 split between Morgan and Horford, with Bielfeldt picking up a few minutes here and there at both the four and the five. The wild card here is foul trouble: Horford currently averages 4.7 fouls per 40 minutes, while Morgan is at a whopping 6.6 (the change in charge calls has really hurt him defensively). Bielfeldt got 12 minutes against Stanford. Notably, freshman big Mark Donnal didn't see any time despite all three bigs being in foul trouble in that game, which brings me to the next question...
@AceAnbender also, any chance of burning Donnal's redshirt due to need for bigs?
— Morris Fabbri (@MoMoneyMoFabbri) December 31, 2013
I don't think this is going to happen unless another big man misses extended time. Donnal is a lean stretch four at 6'9", 230 pounds, and unlike Caris LeVert last year there isn't a mountain of practice hype to suggest he'll force his way onto the court despite the need to add bulk. Between Morgan, Horford, Bielfeldt, GRIII, and Irvin, the Wolverines have plenty of options when it comes to filling minutes at the four and the five; I don't see the benefit of burning Donnal's redshirt just so he can fill in for a few minutes from time to time.
— Kyle Rosenbaum (@Gkm13) December 31, 2013
This entirely ignores the best aspect of McGary's game: his ability to induce chaos. Despite playing through injury this year, he's currently ranked 29th nationally in steal rate, which not only foils opponent possessions but usually gets Michigan into the fast break, where they're much more effective than in their halfcourt offense. Neither Horford nor Morgan provides that threat, and while Horford has proven to be as good—if not better—at blocking shots than McGary, Morgan is a relative non-factor in that regard.
He's also a superlative offensive rebounder, ranking 83rd in that regard, though Horford and Morgan actually have slightly higher rebound rates on that end—we'll see if that holds with increased minutes. On the other end, while Horford is just about equal with McGary when it comes to defensive rebounding, there's a big dropoff to Morgan, who's posted just a 15.9 DReb% in comparison to 25.4% for McGary and 24.6% for Horford.
Also, McGary has easily the best chemistry with Michigan's perimeter players on the pick and roll, especially Nik Stauskas and Spike Albrecht. Horford is inconsistent when it comes to setting a good screen, while Morgan—as we've seen for four years—has trouble catching entry passes cleanly and finishing strong at the rim. McGary's passing acumen—especially when Michigan faces zone defenses—will also be missed; his assist rate is around double those of the other two bigs. Beilein's offense may not run through the post; that doesn't mean it won't suffer without McGary.
@AceAnbender odds Mitch comes back next year? Doing so could boost his draft stock, but he might feel urgency to get paid.
— Dan Roehrig (@DanRareEgg) December 31, 2013
This is going to be a very tough call for McGary; he turns 22 in June, old for a rising junior, and if he was guaranteed a first-round spot I don't think there's any question he'd turn pro. That's in seroius doubt at this point, however. Even before the injury, ESPN's Chad Ford had dropped McGary down to the #24 spot on his big board ($). In the immediate aftermath of the injury, ESPN's Jeff Goodman got this quote from an NBA general manager:
"He should have left," one NBA general manager told ESPN.com. "Now he's a borderline first-rounder. He would have been a lock last season."
The latest NBADraftNet mock has McGary going as the seventh pick of the second round. Barring a pretty miraculous recovery, McGary isn't going to have a chance to raise his stock before it's time to declare for the draft, and I believe he'll come back if he's projected as a second-round pick—unlike first-rounders, those players don't get guaranteed contracts, and a strong junior season from McGary could easily vault him back into the first round.
Alright, let's do one non-McGary question since this is getting rather depressing.
— Gustavo Adventure (@colintj) December 31, 2013
It's certainly a viable lineup, especially on the defensive end, as LeVert is currently the best player on the team at defending opposing point guards, in my opinion (with a freshman and a 5'10" guy as his competition, I don't think I'm going out on a limb here). Beilein has talked about going to this lineup more often as a situational defensive lineup at the end of games and I'm in full support of this.
15 minutes a game of this, however, might be a bit much. While LeVert is great at taking care of the ball, his assist rate (14.8%) is well below Derrick Walton's (19.5%), way below Spike Albrecht's (27.7%), and even trailing Nik Stauskas (18.0%). When LeVert is running the offense, it often devolves into him dribbling the air out of the ball in isolation situations; while he's getting pretty good at getting buckets out of those plays, that's not a very sustainable way to run an offense.
That said, Beilein's offense doesn't really require a traditional point guard, and between Stauskas and LeVert there are two solid creators off the dribble when Michigan goes big. If they can get the offense to run more smoothly when LeVert initiates the play, this lineup could very well turn into Michigan's best—that's a big if, though, and deemphasizing the point guards could hamper Walton's development.
as saying that McGary's injury will not affect Donnal's redshirt status.
Donnal is not redshirting because he's not big enough, he redshirting because he's not ready from a talent stand point. Also I think redshirting in basketball is pointless because if he's good he won't be here in his fifth year if he's not he won't be here in his fifth year especially if we need the scholly and he's not getting playing time.
...because if he's good he won't be here in his fifth year."
Jordan Morgan disagrees with this statement.
Not sure how you're defining "good," but Jordan Morgan is currently a 5th-year senior, and Jon Horford most likely will be here as a 5th-year guy next year. Those two may not be stars, but they're certainly valuable guys to have around.
I don't understand why people believe Irvin could absorb minutes at the four. He could work the same sort of offensive role as GR3, but he doesn't have the bulk to guard a traditional four.
that levert is the best at guarding the pg? didn't you link to a true hoops article that argued he and stauskas were the two worst defenders on the team?
The UMHoops post in question focused on on-ball defense, which wasn't particularly fair to LeVert since, at the time, he was victimized by a lot of off-ball switches (esp. with GRIII) that put him into bad matchups against post players — those counted against him and he still had a better points per possession against (0.846) than Walton (0.877) or Albrecht (1.05)(!).
LeVert may have his shortcomings against bigger players defensively, but there's a reason he's Beilein's go-to defensive stopper at the point late in games. He's quick enough to hang with point guards, his length allows Michigan to switch on the perimeter without worrying about serious mismatches—you're gonna have a 6'6" guy switching with another 6'6" guy—and smaller guards have a tough time shooting over him or cleanly passing the ball around him.
Walton still has issues playing the correct defensive assignment and he takes a few too many chances at steals, while Spike really needs to be hidden on that end of the floor. I don't think it's an unreasonable statement by any means to say that LeVert is the best player on the team at defending point guards.
...which is precisely what I said in the post.
I believe Walton is already a better on-ball defender on the point than Levert--at least at this time. Walton's problems are understanding the team defense part--just like his his primary limitation on offense is running/understanding the offense.
Caris is playing better offensively than defensively at this time--though not as a distributor as you point out. Caris is better defensively in any type of zone where his length more often comes into play. He still has problems in his man D---in part, because he doesn't anticipate or work through screens very well (instead chasing behind his man). He also often looks confused on switches. Caris clearly had trouble with fast guards at the end of both the Arizona and Stanford games.
My intent is not to denigrate Caris--as he is obviously much improved and an essential part of the team. But putting him on the other teams point guard won't help anything.
all season. aside from a still-significant lack of bulk, he has all the makings to be a lockdown defender--he's got length and quickness for days. and maybe i've relied too heavily on anectdotal evidence to support my opinion, but it just seems like he gets taken one-on-one really easily. the game-winning lay-up for Charlotte came after he got shook out of his shoes. Duke guards had their way with him many times.
I just think that, for all of his on-paper attributes, he is a poor defender.
Irvin should get more minutes when Michigan isn't playing teams with size. I saw a line-up the other day that had Horford, GRIII, Irvin, Caris, and Spike. I am ok with that line-up whenever Michigan doesn't face a team with size. .
I'm a little confused about Bielfeldt. First, I think he could be decently productive in limited stints. (But) second, Beilein treats him like a glorified walk-on. Despite being up 25-30 points against Holy Cross, Bielfeldt didn't hit the court until the 3 minute mark--one clock stoppage before the actual walk-ons. Not only does this seem a little insulting to a scholarship player, but that was a game where he could get reps for when he will inevitably be needed---cuz Morgan and Horford are certain to both be in foul trouble. It is further reason to presume that Irvin will be playing more 4--despite his obvious limitations there.
This was strange to me as well. You would figure he would want to get him some reps.
UM was up ~20 for most of the second half, yet it wasn't until 2-3 minutes left that he cleared the benches. With McGary arleady out, god forbid if Nick or GRIII or whomever got hurt at the 4min mark up 20 against a non-conf opponent.
That's beyond your good point - we need Biefeldt to get experience. Putting him in with 5-6 minutes left against Holy Cross would have been a good idea.
but next year looks a lot brighter with him coming back, provided he can take care of himself and get healthy. We finally wouldn't be "young," as I thought somewhere I read that Michigan made the giant "leap" in age this year from 0.7 years experience in 2012-2013 to 0.9(!) years in 2013-2014. A sophomore Walton and Irvin, along with juniors of all the other starters now means a deep and talented team to challenge for the B1G and national title, especially with MSU losing so much of their team to graduation or the NBA (Harris). I am eager to see if Robinson can take on a more leadership type role now that Mitch is down.
I don't mind having Caris guard the opposing team's point guard, obviously, but Caris getting extended play at the point would be a disaster. His court vision is awful. Seriously, watch his head when he drives the line - 95% of the time and you'll see him charging forward with his head down. I like Caris' defensive play but I am wary of his utility as an offensive player. He can take the ball to the hole but he's not incredible at that aspect to the point that it outweighs his other offensive inefficiencies in my opinion. It's a shame that he appears to be the mirror opposite of Spike, whose lack of defensive prowess often overcomes his incredible ballhandling and passing skills which make him the ideal point for this team offensively.