“I’m way more comfortable,” Gardner said. “Last year was my first year starting, and it was rough, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of adversity. A lot of adversity I fought through, and I feel like I did a really good job of never giving up, never giving up on myself and my teammates. I feel my teammates recognized that, and my coaches recognized that, and I feel like that will help me.”
As ever, once the year is over thoughts turn to the future. With four of five Michigan starters on NBA radars it is impossible to predict how they'll be next year, but I sat down to write stuff and this is the thing I wanted to think about—no doubt a lot of you guys are wondering the same thing.
Along with a number of walk-ons Michigan loses scholarship players Blake McLimans and Matt Vogrich, neither of whom was a significant contributor.
As you've heard incessantly for the past three weeks when you were trying to concentrate on something like, oh I don't know, the live fantastic basketball being played in front of your face, Michigan has some gentlemen on their roster the NBA would like to talk to.
Trey Burke almost left after one year, turned himself into a top-10 pick, and has been regarded as gone-gone-gone since about two weeks into the season when it became clear he had gone from a damn good freshman to the best point guard in the country. Anything other than a departure would be a shock. Whether that's NBA draft entry or a transfer to Penn State is yet to be determined.
Tim Hardaway, Jr., is the Michigan player NBA types seem least enthused about. He doesn't feature in the first round of anyone's mock draft and seems destined for one of those 13th-man-then-billion-years-in-Europe careers. Some guy with spiky hair and a terrible track record said he was out the door, which his parents denied.
Even though Hardaway is not a first round pick at the moment, a lot of juniors end up going because they've reached the peak of their NBA attractiveness. If Hardaway makes another incremental improvement in his game, upside-thirsty pro teams will look at a senior who probably tops out as a bench shooter in the league and still pick him in the second round.
On the other hand, he's not really giving much away if he returns. I'd guess he goes, but won't be surprised either way.
Glenn Robinson III is 6'6" and can jump real high. He's also 18 months younger than Mitch McGary, which means he has not hit that Hardaway zone where people expect him to be essentially what he is forever and ever amen. He's consistently rated a pick in the teens. There's been some second-hand message board posts about various interactions that make people believe he'll stay; those are unconfirmed but credible-seeming to me.
Mitch McGary's blazing tournament put him in Hated Chad Ford's lottery. Despite that and his prep school year, he seems likeliest to stay. For one, he directly said he'd becoming back—that he didn't even "have a decision to make"—before the Final Four. Though he's backed off that a little, if he's coming from that mindset chances are he comes back. After the championship game the noises were still positive:
"This will be a great team next year, with great guys coming in and a great group of guys leaving, you can't replace those five seniors," he said. "We'll see."
"There's some unfinished business. ... We'll see next year."
Like GRIII, interactions with McGary's parents from the Final Four weekend have filtered out to the internet; they indicate he'll stay. Let's clutch that unreliable hint to our bosoms.
My personal spidey sense says Burke's out the door (surprise!) while Robinson and McGary stay. Hardaway could go either way.
Side note: there is essentially no withdrawal anymore. Technically you can take your name out of the draft until the 16th, which is before any event that might make you want to pull out. The NBA deadline is the 28th.
Last year rumors had floated around about guys leaving for weeks. Those came to fruition with three post-season transfers. This year it's quiet on that front.
Eyeballing it, the only players who may be in playing-time jams are Max Bielfeldt and Jordan Morgan. Morgan's a bit of a folk hero these days and did find a role as the tourney progressed. I'd bet he gets over the disappointment of losing his starting job and sticks around; he will get minutes. I heard from a good source midseason that Bielfeldt was a little worried about his long-term PT prospects.
Both guys may be affected by NBA decisions. GRIII or McGary leaving would open up a lot of playing time for both. Meanwhile, the high post role McGary flourished in against Syracuse may allow Michigan to go bigger at the four from time to time without making the offense suffer too badly.
You could also throw Jon Horford in amongst the playing time battlers. He seems focused on those study things to the point where he wouldn't want to disrupt his schooling by finding somewhere else to play.
Incoming And Returning
Assuming Burke's departure, point guard Derrick Walton has some big shoes to fill. The good news is he's got serious game. A quick look at any of the various highlight reels out there shows a quick-step PG reminiscent of Burke. He put up over 30 points a game this high school season and is generally rated inside the top 50 at the major sites.
I like single-game highlights because they give you a better picture of a player. (This is in fact irony, people who use the word irony.) There's less to cull from so you get a better picture of what they do. In the above you get deep shooting, floaters, and at about a minute in a crossover-to-three sequence that is very Burke-like.
In his matchup with Kentucky-bound James Young it's a lot of deep shooting; it starts off with the steal I now think of as The Burke:
Walton will not be Burke, at least not sophomore Burke. If he hits freshman Burke levels of performance (74/49/35 shooting, high but not outlandish usage, 29% assist rate, TO rate just under 20) Michigan can survive Burke's loss as long as they don't get the max exodus and do get expected improvements from other players.
Indiana Mr. Basketball Zak Irvin is a 6'6" wing with a huge wingspan and advanced pull-up game. He's ranked in the same neighborhood GRIII was last year (24th ESPN, 34th Rivals, 49th Scout). Judging by highlight tapes and scouting reports…
…he is a bigger version of Tim Hardaway Jr. The buckets on many, manyindividual game highlight packages up on Youtube have an 80/20 split between jumpers and the rim. He'll occasionally go to the bucket; mostly he's going to shoot threes and pull up. As with most jump shooters, streakiness comes as part of the package.
He's listed between 6'6" and 6'8" and is reputed to have the sort of improbably long arms that allow you to be a defensive pest on the perimeter. With Irvin's blowout high school finish and recent camp performances…
@dandakich Michigan fans..Indiana Mr Bball and Michigan signee Zak Irvin absolutely killing at Indiana Top 60 workout!!
…he might have some upward mobility in the rankings yet. Dakich just hyped him as the Big Ten freshman of the year favorite, which says something what with Noah Vonleh at Indiana.
Irvin is not going to be a super-efficient scorer unless he adds more drive to his game, but he can bounce between the 3 and the 4 and be a plus defender at one of those spots.
Dollars to donuts Mark Donnal redshirts. At 6'8" or 6'9" he's a four or five, and those spots are jammed at the moment. When he does get on the court, think Christian Watford.
Donnal has a high skill level and three-point range; the knock on him is athleticism. If GRIII goes he would likely be forced into the lineup as a more offensive option at the 4 than either Morgan or Bielfeldt, especially in the context of the Michigan offense.
Definitely Returning: Perimeter
Nik Stauskas is the lone starter certain to return. His shooting percentage was mellow Kid Icarus: explosive rise, steady decline. He entered Big Ten play well over 50% and finished the year at 44%; in the final 26 games of the season (IE, Big Ten, conference tourney, NCAA run) he was at a merely respectable 36%. Details:
He was More Than Just A Shooter™, taking only about 60% of his shots from behind the arc and getting to the rim for a quarter of his attempts. Once he got inside the line the shots there were mostly his own creation—80% of his buckets inside the line were unassisted. Game, blouses. Etc.
He was great from three, good at the rim, and bad in-between. At 85% he was the best FT shooter on the team.
His creepy ability to not foul may have been more of a detriment than a positive. Stauskas was second nationally in fewest fouls acquired; he did little rebounding, blocking, or stealing.
Touchy-feely eyeball test says Stauskas's defense wasn't as bad as the most serious grumblers would have it. Save for Gary Harris in the grim blowout at Breslin, none of the guys he checked really went off. Part of that was Michigan hiding Stauskas against role players for the most part, yeah. I think he'll improve.
Michigan would like Stauskas to take some of Burke's usage and turn it into his assists. He should spend the summer running a million pick and rolls with McGary—his handle is good enough to make that effective, Darius Morris-style. Doubling his assist rate to around 15—approximately Hardaway level—is feasible and would help out Walton/Spike a lot.
Meanwhile, Stauskas's three point shooting could use some diversity. He was poor off of the dribble and Michigan could not execute catch and shoot screens for him like they did Hardaway. Getting Stauskas's efficiency (top 50 in true shooting) up to 23-25 percent usage will go a long way towards mitigating Burke's likely departure.
Is Upton-chasing, three-draining Spike Albrecht a real thing? I dunno man. In about eight minutes a game he had the lowest usage on the team. Stats are thin on the ground. We do have 18 of 33 shooting from three, 10/12 from the line, and 10/26 from two. That's about what you would expect from a little bugger with a dead-eye shot.
Unfortunately, his stature means that once teams start taking him seriously there's no way he can get the shots he was draining in the tourney with any frequency. (Other than the 30-footers. He can probably still get those.) Can he show more of the at-the-rim finishing he did against Louisville? Can he get that TO rate down to Burke levels—ie, cut it by almost half—and can he act as a bonafide point guard?
I think the answers to all these things are "not yet." Albrecht's got a tight handle and can obviously shoot; too often this year possessions featured him dribbling the air out of the ball without getting past his man or disrupting the defense, i.e. PG job one. But he'll get a shot now. At the very least he's earned a month or two of platooning with Walton until one of them shows he's the better player. I bet Albrecht provides 12-15 minutes off the bench, shoots a bunch of threes effectively, and never quite recaptures the delirious first half of the championship game.
Fellow freshman bench player Caris LeVert looked like a promising player for big swathes of the year. Emphasis on "looked." Statistically he's a bit of a wreck, with a 50/33/30 shooting line and not much else that jumps out except a low TO rate. He was supposed to be a defensive specialist, but all I can remember is that 3/4 Hancock threes came with LeVert trying to guard him. Also the whole Brust thing—not only the half-court heave but the critical OT three he hit when LeVert didn't put a hand in his face on the perimeter.
So he's got a ways to go. The good news is that he should improve a lot. Michigan will slap another 20 pounds on him, he's a freshman, kids get better, etc. He'll probably start if Hardaway goes. He doesn't have to create shots with Walton, Stauskas, and potentially High Post Mitch McGary around him; it would be nice if he took his reputation as a defensive player and lived up to it.
Definitely Returning: Post
Leaving aside the possibility of transfers, everyone is back. Jordan Morgan lost his job late and doesn't look to be getting it back, but recovered from one minute in the opening weekend of the tourney to provide some key plays for Michigan against Kansas and Syracuse. As a senior he can expect minutes here and there spotting McGary; that will certainly include some long stretches when McGary's eagerness gets him in foul trouble.
At this point he is what he is: an agile, undersized post who finishes decently, rebounds well, and provides good positional defense without acquiring anything in the box score that represents it.
Jon Horford has a statistical profile essentially identical to Morgan except in two regards: he's a decent shotblocker and he fouls a lot more frequently. He's not an offensive factor except on putbacks and here-is-a-free-dunk-from-your-point-guard; he does have upside left since he is a big and what's more a big who keeps getting sidelined with injury. His development will be key not necessarily for this team, but for the 2014-2015 crew, when Horford is a senior, Morgan graduates, and McGary is probably in the NBA.
Max Bielfeldt got scattered minutes during Jordan Morgan's period of injury. We don't really know what he's going to be like yet; the best case scenario is one of those undersized Notre Dame forwards that inexplicably collects all of the rebounds.
What It Looks Like
In the Hardaway departure scenario, give or take five minutes here and there:
If Hardaway returns hack out 30 minutes for him from Stauskas, Irvin, and LeVert. If GRIII leaves, that's interesting. I wouldn't put it past Beilein to play Irvin at the 4 for a good chunk of time. That would end up increasing the minutes of both PGs as they would have to play simultaneously with few other perimeter backup options.
What is that? It's hard to say. It's a tourney team, certainly. It's still super young. The minutes above give Michigan an average experience level of 0.95 years, better than this season's 0.73 but still very, very low. Michigan was 342nd at 0.73. 0.95 would have been good for… 329th. (That doesn't account for the fact that McGary and Spike both took postgrad years, FWIW. The experience number conflates age with system/level-of-competition familiarity.)
That collection of players could be anything from a 2 seed to an 8 depending on the Burke dropoff, how sustainable Mitch McGary's tourney run is, and how much the returning freshmen improve. Things get bubbly in the event four Michigan players are in this NBA draft.
I want him to stay, of course, but I also genuinely believe that he could improve his stock with another year. A lot of his quasi-weaknesses can be improved, I think, with work. Ballhandling, finishing while going left, shooting off of the bounce: these are things you can get better at...But then again I ain't no type of basketball feller, and I wish him the best whatever he does.
"All of the doughnuts have names that sound like prostitutes."
I have to disagree re: ballhandling. At this point in his career, THJ isn't going to suddenly increase his handle. And even if you think he can, that's a skill you improve on your own. Or, in other words, he doesn't need to come back to improve his handle. He can do that all spring on his own and in the NBA summer league.
I don't know what to think about THJ. He's a coinflip for the draft and that will probably depend on what others come out. If he's plateaued, then it may come down to projecting what 2/3s are in the draft this year, what 2/3s are projected next year, and what scenario offers him the bnest chance at the first round.
Can't he develop that ability to drive to the rim? He flashed that more this year than last, and in my mind he improved. He just couldn't finish when he got there. It seems a confidence thing, and another year in college could develop that skill. Look at the drive and dunk in the NC game - he can do that much more.
Now you've got a shooter, decent ballhandling, driving guard with good size. Sneak into the first round.
Jesus, were you watching? He was doing that like crazy
all year. And his dribbling improved markedly over the summer. Two years ago at umhoops we were all saying he couldn't dribble. His bounce is quite high, and he's still vulnerable in traffic, but he grew markedly better.
Agreed. What if money started growing on trees.......or Kate Upton was a robot.......or the Cubs won the World Series every year? File Burke transferring to PSU in the same "cold day in hell" catagory. Gotta admire the poor guy's imagination though.
McGary, Horford, and Morgan, are all best served in the high post in John Beilein's offense, where things get interesting for me, is the 4 position next season, and going forward. GRIII is almost certain to start at the 4 again next season, but I think he will get considerable run at the 3, or more responsibility at the 4. Ideally, I think Beilein would like to have Bielfeldt and Donnal backing up the 4; each bringing the ability to rebound as well as the capability to step out to 3 point range and knock down shots. If this is the case, the log jam at Center is not so pronounced. Basically there will be 3 Centers on the roster next season and 3 Stretch 4's.
I think you are undervaluing Caris LeVert. LeVert will probably end up being the best shot creator on the team. LeVert biggest issue this year, IMO, was lack of strength, once he gets stronger, he's going to be a bitch to deal with. Beilein has said on more than one occasion, something to the effect, "Caris can get wherever he wants on the court". Caris is going to be a focal point of the offense going forward. LeVert is tall, quick, smart, can get his shot off, passes well, has a mid range game, and benefited from extended playing time as a freshman. His future is really bright
I think you're going to see next season unfold a lot like OSU's season did this year. At the beginning expectations might be a bit too high as they are still young and people overvalue how smoothly they can transition to a team without Burke, but then Beilein coaches them up and they get steadily better until they peak at "very good but are they great?"
In the scary but unlikely situation that Burke, Hardaway, Robinson, and McGary all leave, are we a tourney team? The starters would probably be Walton, Stauskas, LeVert, Irvin, and Morgan. I would guess we would be on the bubble and make it just in as a 9 or 10. Hopefully this doesn't happen.
If that is the team, we have to do really well in the non-conference part of the schedule. I think the Big Ten will be almost as brutal next year as it was this year, and this roster feels very Northwestern to me.
Northwestern? This looks far better than Northwestern to me. We return 1 starter, 1 guy who started most of the season, 2 top 50 freshman, and a guy who proved he could contribute when we needed him (albeit not someone you would prefer as a starter at this point)
I think too many people are overlooking the significance of losing the bench players that this team loses to graduation. We are losing a lot of experience and leadership in the locker room. There is a reason Bartelstein was named Captain and that Corey Person was invited back for a 5th year. Now they, along with Eso, Vogrich and McLimans are gone. If Burke and Hardaway leave for the NBA, someone will need to step up and lead this team. There were 15 players on the team this year. If Burke and Hardaway leave, that would mean 7 of the 15 - nearly half are gone. It would also mean that we will only have 11 scholarship players and no walk-ons. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone, the coaching staff brings in as either grayshirts or walk-ons to fill out the roster.
Inviting a walk on back for a fifth year really isn't a huge deal since we didn't have anyone else to take his place. And although I basically agree with you, guys like Morgan, Horford and Bielfeldt have been around for a bit and can be leaders as well.
The team will lose a lot of leadership no matter what...They would also be down to nine scholarship players if Burke, THJ, McGary, and GRIII all leave. That would be a year in which Michigan basketball was punished for the fact that Beilein doesn't oversign and push people out the door (or ask them to pay their own way), though I'd of course rather do it the Beilein way than the Calapari or Crean way.
"All of the doughnuts have names that sound like prostitutes."
That said, the team always seems to respond to these situations by bringing in a sleeper or two to shore up depth. Sometimes it works out(Levert and Spike, possibly Biefeldt) sometimes it doesn't(Cullen Christian and Sai Tummala), but I wouldn't necessarily freak out that we'll only have that many players. After this tournament run, it's likely any 2013 guys left over will be willing to listen in Michigan calls.
Chaos is found in greatest abundance wherever order is being sought. It always defeats order because it is better organized.
I'm against redshirting him, why would we want to?
This is BBall, not football, if the guy can play, play him, who care if he uses up his eligibility earlier. I say play guys early so that they get experience sooner than not.
And judging by that film, the guy looks plenty athletic to me, can run, shoot, jump and when he gets the ball in traffic, he does a great job of keeping his pivot foot and creating nicely. Dollars to donuts, this guy will play as a freshman....screw that redshirting crap.
My line-up if THJ leaves:
PG - Walton & Spike
SG - Nik & Levert
SF - GRII & Irvin
PF - Morgan & Beilfelt & Donnal
C - Mitch & Horford
But we could eaily see a the starters being Walton, Nik, GRII, Irvin & Mitch
This team will be really good and a highly seeded tourney team, mark my word....these guys are not scrubs.
But man his compeition looked like they were a bunch of 12 yr olds. I liked the alley oops and dunks though. Shows that he likes to try and play above the rim at least. Once he adds to his frame he will be a a nice big (assuming he can rebound at Big Ten Level).
I think based on his height and O skill set he passes Max early likely resulting in a Max transfer.
Irvin and Walton look like studs. Hopefully Walton can hit the 3 in Big Ten play. We saw what a PG shooting 3s does for the spacing on this team with Burke. Helps a lot.
McGary and GR3 come back and UM could win the Big Ten / get a 1-3s seed.
McGary and GR3 leave and it will be 8 seed. Too much talent not to make the tourney. While ours bigs outside of McGary are role players they are solid. I'm expecting big things from Stauskas and Levert next year. Mini leaps for Stauskas and big LEAP from Levert.
I think Burke and THjr are long gone. I agree with Brian, staying for a senior year is a stigma at this point. Usually reserved for Euro league type players on most occassions. I don't think THjr wants that.
No way LeVert averages 10 more minutes per game than Albrecht.
Walton needs to be added to SG for 5 minutes (from LeVert's 5), take off 5 of his PG minutes and give them to Albrecht.
Also, this won't happen, but GRIII's minutes need to go down. I'd love to bring him down to 30 and bump Morgan up 5 more on that PF line. Or play McGary and Horford together and get Horford 5 PF minutes each game.
“True loyalty is that quality of service that grows under adversity and expands in defeat. Any street urchin can shout applause in victory, but it takes character to stand fast in defeat. One is noise — the other, loyalty.”
But in our offense, the 4 doesn't play a terribly different role than the 2 and 3. How many times was GRIII the recipient of the kick out corner 3? You wouldn't want to see irvin getting those?
No one is suggesting Irvin plays the 4 primarily, or even every game. But against teams with a smaller 4 or when the opponents go small, we could have Stauskas, LeVert and Irvin on the floor at the same time (or a second PG in place of one of the first two) for spurts and it would make for a very tough match up.
Think of it like football - when you take out a TE for a third (or fourth) WR, no one says that guy going in is playing TE, he's just taking his spot on the field. When Irvin plays the 4, think of it more that we're playing with 2 3's (or more simply, 3 wings).
But playing Irvin at 4 in JB offense is a waste of his skillset and talent. At the 2 and 3, he does more ball handling than at the 4. GRIII has the body and skills to play the undersized 4. Both have two different type of skillsets.
I agree they have different skill sets, which is why GRIII will play the 4 almost exclusively, and Irvin would play it sporadically. Against most teams he wouldn't play it at all and against other he might play it for 5 minutes a game.
As much as it will hurt losing the player of the year, we at least have guys who can do what he did at a lesser level. Same with Hardaway and GR3. We don't have any replacements in the pipeline for McGary. Even if he comes back that's our #1 recruiting priority- another blue chip big man.
We don't have a replacement for Mitch McGary. He's more a complimentary player, not a guy who's going to step in as a freshman and do anything. His upside is regular season McGary. To be a great team, as we all saw, we need Tournament McGary.
He'll be a fine player, but Mitch was a top 20 player in the country. We don't need two of those guys in the middle to be really good in Beilein's system, but we saw how much better as a team we are when there's at least one. (And how much trouble we're in when that one guy goes out). All the talk about "not needed a big man in this system" blah blah blah...we were a real good team without a big man. We were a great team with one. I think the program wants to be great now.
Doesn't matter who leaves as long as Spike stays. I have a fourth cousin thrice removed who's a locker room attendant for the Laker Girls. He has it on reliable authority that the Lakers are interested in Spike as a replacement for Steve Nash.
If Spike leaves, Michigan loses every game on the schedule except for two blowouts of State. If Spike stays, they'll be the first team to go undefeated and win the NCAA since Indiana in 76.
$1 says if Biefeldt decides to transfer that he goes to Bradley
and that depth chart is absurdly young still. Almost Kentucky like. Let me adjust your chart:
PG: Freshman (25) / Soph (15)
SG: Soph (30) / Soph (10)
SF: Freshman (25) / Soph (15)
PF: Soph (35) / RS Sr (5)
C: Soph (30) / RS Sr (5) / RS Jr (5)
That's all of 2 upperclassmen in the rotation and they are both going to be firmly behind the starter. Basketball is terrifying, if Taylor Lewan leaves for the NFL, we'll survive. When a basketball player leaves early, it's equivalent to having like 5 football players declare for the NFL on the same day