Caris lavert emerging as a legit weapon
Most Important Mid-season Improvement/Development?
But that was more of an offseason development in my mind. LeVert proved he was a legit weapon early in the season. While he probably still was more important than most expected throughout B1G play, I wouldn't say that was a big midseason change that Beilein and this team added to their repetoire.
Caris was no doubt a good surprise in the OOC schedule, scoring against a lot of lesser comptition. But I seem to remember a lot of people holding their breath whenever he got the ball. He was a bit awkward and not very smooth.
Now though, he has really honed is game through BIG play, he is a lights out shooter, and a pretty good defender. An enormous sophomore leap in my opinion.
GRIII actually being able to do more than be on the receiving end of an alley oop: I'll admit, I constantly complained about GRIII's lazy, uninspiring play. IMO, he truly was a waste of minutes for the bulk of this year who was dependent on others to get his points and I believed he would never really turn the corner while in a Michigan jersey. However, he has made me eat my words as he has really turned up his game in the past few weeks and turned into a legitimate threat who can create for himself. Yes, he still has his moments (and a lot of them at that), but now, teams can't ignore him which makes us all the more dangerous come the tourney.
In that, both are really athletic and because of that athleticism, can get some really good looks at the basket. My complaint about GRIII is the same that I had about TH's last year, he gets good looks around the hoop but still struggles to finish sometimes.
Lately, though, he's been a bit better, and his outside shot is starting to pick up, though still not always consistent. Still wish he didn't waste his dribble so much, as I think he's a much bigger threat off the catch, but with the pretty good looks off of aggressively attacking the hoop and starting to hit some shots, the potential is starting to turn more into production. That puts a ton of stress on opposing teams.
THJ helped the team in a BUNCH of other ways last year.
Even when his shot wasn't falling, he played very solid defense for most of the year and he was the J-Mo barking out orders and getting people in position.
GRIII seems like he doesn't want to get sweat on him or he'd rather wink at the cheerleaders.
THJ was our backup point guard until Spike emerged...even still, he brought the ball up and handled the offense and really grew in that area. If you remember @Arkansas and @OSU the year before...he was AWFUL and at handling the ball. THJ brining the ball up the court is what beat VCU in the tournament because they couldn't press us and he was so tall that he'd see over the guards and get the ball into the right hards so we could score early in the game.
THJ's shot was awful and his shot selection was even worse his sophmore year. However, his junior year he really improved in other areas.
To me Irvin is playing a lot more like THJ his sophomore year than GRIII to THJ's junior year.
What THJ most certainly did (even in his freshman year) that neither Irvin or GRIII do is drive to the basket with authority and throw it down. He didn't do that as much as he could've and should've (especially when he was in a slump and only thought about long ball), but he realized he had the skills and strength to do that. I can only imagine how dangerous GRIII would be if he suddenly realized he could do that as well. Irvin...I don't know if he's ever going to be that type of player. To that effect, he does kind of remind me of the jumpshot only version of THJ when the floor anywhere under 18 ft away from the rim is lava.
So yes, I guess you could say Irvin is playing a little more like sophomore year THJ, but GRIII's skillset and potential does more align with junior year Timmy.
GRIII is below average on defense, he doesn't communicate, and he doesn't help the team in other ways.
I guess we just agree to disagree, but I always loved how THJ helped Michigan win in little ways last year (unlike his sophomore year).
GRIII really is just a body if he's not contributing offensively. Which is exactly what THJ was his sophomore year.
Last year THJ was so much better than he'll ever get credit for. He routinely guarded the other teams best perimeter player. He post defense was WAY above average for someone his size. He brought the ball up the court when teams like MSU, OSU, VCU and Louisville would press us or double team Burke. He was a leader on offense and defense.
In fact, I don't even think he showed his athleticism like GRIII does until his JUNIOR year. GRIII is a freak of nature athletically. THJ was solid until I saw some of his nasty dunks in year 3. But if we're just talking dunk contest, I'm taking GRIII every time.
Back to THJ's year last year. If anyone is playing more like him it's LeVert, not GRIII. LeVert plays defense (most of the time), he guards the other teams best player, he plays some point guard, he's hot and cold offensively, he actually communicates (albeit, not like THJ). He hustles, he dives for loose balls, he provides some energy. And he can finish at the rim.
All of that is way more THJ (junior year) than GRIII. The dunking and the streak shooting, IMO, is about the only thing they have in common. And that's selling THJ short because he did a TON more for us last year. We didn't even need his offense - we don't get to the Sweet 16, let alone the Championship game if THJ doesn't do the other little things for us (that I have yet to see from GRIII on a consistent basis).
You know what, I'll take that. Caris' role and how he plays is the most similar to junior year THJ out of all of them.
BTW - I was not meaning to say I thought GRIII was as important and impactful as THJ by any means. I was just saying the the potential of what he could do offensively (if he really tried to be more than just pure athleticism more often), would look more like Timmy than how Irvin plays. But yeah, I'll take THJ over him anyday as their actual production is not comprable at all.
But I think what's so frustrating to all of us is that if he played with more energy, effort and toughness...even for a SF (not a PF). He could be out of this world good. Better than THJ. We'd be comparing him to guys on a national scale.
He's that talented, I'm sure he works at his game...I'm not saying he doesn't. But in games, if he just had a LITTLE THJ, McGary, Morgan in him then his entire game would be a LOT better. It wouldn't just comparing him offensively.
That's what I loved about THJ, outside of shot selection (which was a BIG impact because he took AWFUL shots his sophomore year)...he didn't improve THAT much offensively. His numbers were better because he took better shots, I don't think he was that much better of a shooter or a scorer.
However, he got SOOOO much better as a leader, on the defensive end, and with his ball handling that it didn't matter. He took care of the things he could truly control. It can hard to control the ball going through the net, but you can always control getting on the floor for the loose ball or barking out "SCREEN" or playing amazing help side or hustling back or getting better/more comfortable bringing the ball up against pressure.
That's all you can ask of a player. i.e. Jordan Morgan. He's going to have hands of stone and miss more bunnies than we can stomach...but the kid plays his ass off, he does all of the little things, he leads, he fights, he hustles, he talks, he helps us in so many other ways that when that beautiful Stauskas pass bounces off his hands out of bounds we just shrug and expect him to get it back on defense.
According to this chart GRIII is not as bad on defense as everyone claims he is. The numbers show that he is the best defender on this team (not including the big men) and it's not even close. This chart might not be perfect but considering people on this site supossedly cite fact over perception everyone should tread a little more carefully when talking about GRIII. I think his lack of offense production for the majoirty of the season (until this latest strech in which he has been brilliant) has made him a scapegoat for any of the team's problems.
In very few other ways do THJ and GRIII remind me of each other. Their games are totally different. I was just trying to compare their athletic ability and how that gets them good looks around the basket, and finishing those looks was an area both need(ed) to improve on.
how often have you seen GR3 miss around the rim? honestly, i think he's one of the best finishers i've ever seen at UM; not just dunking but his layups on the break against a defender are very good.
he just hasn't gone to the basket enough. it's not his ability to finish, imo.
It's really odd that you'd pick fnishing as the area GR3 needs to improve on. What makes you say that? Finishing is like the one thing he's always been great at.. whether he was creating his own shot (at first, never, but happening more often these days) or getting a dish (usually transition or backdoor cut). That was my impression from watching, and the stats back it up.
Chart from UMHoops:
Never the less, it seems like when he's actually taking a defender to the bucket, he misses on quite a bit of looks that look pretty clean, a lot of times from not going up strong with the basketball or anticipating contact it seems.
It's possible it's simply projecting based on something I thought I saw, but I can almost swear in a lot of games he gets half a step on a defender, gets a pretty good look because of his ability in the air, and simply has weak hands or misses close bunnies that are fairly open for most.
has more to do with his demeanor than his effort level IMO. He tends to defer too much and is not the type of person who commands attention with his peersonality. He's a quiet kid who happen to be a great athlete. People can interpret as lazy and uninspiring play when it's the opposite.
GRIII is playing out of position at the 4 and has to guard players 3-4 inches taller and has at least 30 lbs on him. That has to take its toll on his body and it would make it a lot worse defensively.
He definitely does seem to have a more quiet, humble personality. But walking back to the other side of the court (he's very often the last person back on defense), and up until recently, just standing around (no movement, not even at least staying on his toes) when he doesn't have the ball is just plain lazy. A quiet demeanor and playing out of position is no excuse for that...but he is starting to correct it,.
LeVert is a great example. He's also "quiet and humble" (not sure how any of us can call these guys humble when we've never met them...I know I lot of quiet shit talkers, especially in basketball, they mumble stuff under their breath all game long).
But LeVert isn't loud or demonstrative like Stauskas (or McGary). At times you can even say he's timid or shy. But he still does all of those little things you mentioned.
There's a difference between because quiet and lazy or "too cool for school."
I'll put it this way. Take away the arm waving and the yelling of McGary...but just focus on the energy and effort. Now imagine if GRIII played with that or even half of that.
He may be national player of the year. You're easily talking about Wiggins/CJ Fair good.
If you want to talk B1G SF's, he got more talent than Draymon Green and DaShaun Thomas...but I can't honestly say he's better than either (not saying he's worse). It shouldn't even be a debate. He plays with effort and energy and toughness...3 things HE can control. If he does that for 30-35 minutes each game, you're talking about a national POY candidate rather than a very good B1G small forward.
He won't even get 1st team All-B1G this year. (Payne, Petteway, Marble, Stauskas, Harris - IMO). May not even get 2nd team when you put guys from Wisconsin, Iowa, Johnson and Purdue's big man in the mix along with the nostalgia from Appling, Hollins, Craft and OSU's seniors. Then you have Ferrell, Vonleh and Sheehey that'll get some looks.
seems to disprove that GRIII can't play defense. Standing around on offense is more of a by-product of JB's offense. Moving for a sake of moving is not JB's offense MO. GRIII is the best at off the ball scoring and does an outstanding job of finding holes on defense to get an easy dunk/layup.
I acknowledge that a lot of Beilein's offense seems to make for a lot of sitting in one place, but he does really stand around flat footed more than other players on the team. Again, that may be by design, but leaves a bad taste in my mouth. As for defense, I didn't necessarily say he was bad at defending, but if there was an award for most times a Michigan player has walked/lightly jogged back on defense behind everyone else, Glen would win it hands down.
Bottom line is he's drastically correcting these behaviors, and it shows.
This team has been outstanding shooting free throws. I had a middle school basketball coach always preaching how free throws will win games. I watched the MSU/OSU game yesterday and even though OSU won, they made the game much closer than it had to be shooting 61% from the line.
Not drifting at all. This has been a huge step, a sharp contrast from last season when it was a weakness that could have burned us much worse than it did. I believe sound FT shooting was a key factor in securing pivotal road wins at Wisconsin and especially MSU that last year's team may not have been able to salt away. And if you drop a game or two like that, Michigan's three game cushion is a lot dicier.
look at our FTs against Indiana. for the volume of FTs taken, it was one of the best efforts i've ever seen from UM.
#2 Jordan Morgan
Walton has shown the most improvement since the early season. Both have become much more consistent. Their positions were the biggest question marks, too.
Agreed Derrick Walton's growth is #1 and Niks ability to handle smaller defenders is #2
The way Beilein is using both has been great. Playing two PGs extended minutes could lead to chemistry problems, but I haven't seen any indications of that. They have both embraced their roles.
I was really excited to see Derek Walton, watching his off-season work-outs, etc. So it has been really exciting to see him become a real weapon out there. Remember him missing the key free throws early in the season? He has really grown in confidence and production since those days. What an exciting year for that young man, going from high school ball to big-time college ball at UM. I think he is going to be a serious force next year, and he has really helped this year.
Most improved players (since mid-season)
---I don't think we have one. I do see that the "light" somewhat came on for GRIII, but he wasn't doing anything he couldn't do. He didn't improve as a player. He just starting playing to his ability for longer stretches of games.
Biggest development (since mid-season)
---I think this is where GRIII actually goes, because again, he didn't improve. So I'll put him here along with the 1-3-1. Other than that, this team was just a young team that improved as a unit because they finally settled into their roles. Stauskas was the leader, LeVert played off that and GRIII the X-factor. That's who we are. Spike gon Spike, Morford gon Morford. Irvin gon chuck away and Walton is going to make you say "wow" then have occasional freshman moments.
All we needed was time and some close games to figure out who we were. I was hoping to "steal" a game @ Duke or home vs. Arizona, but in the end, they helped prepare us for now.
The reamergance of Staukus was big. Also obviously these guys playing with a new starting point guard takes time. Walton had a couple big games in that first 4 game stretch that were huge. One final thing. I think Zac Irvin has had some real nice games off the bench. It gave us some bench scoring.
Note: I think Irvin will be really good in the years to come. Im most excited about that young man.
I think Zak Irvin needs a serious shot doctor. Yeah, I know a lot of 'em go in, but man, he has got to get the off hand back under the ball. He's got that thing WAY up over the top, and I think it hurts his consistency and his ability to hit open shots. I dunno if you can fix something this basic as a college player, but it just astounds me that he can shoot at all (let alone be as effective as he is) with the "I've got my own hand blocking my shot" approach. :)
To answer the thread - I think it was a combination of Robinson defining some parameters for his game (no contested 3's please), and then getting aggressive for substantial stretches, plus Beilein just getting incredible at figuring out when to switch out Spike/Walton. Truly amazing game management, IMO.
He's shooting 42% from behind the arc on 120+ attempts in his freshman season? I'm not going to criticize his technique.
I'm ok with you criticising a freshmen shooting 42% from 3 as nuts as that seems but I can 't get past you saying he needs to get his off hand "back under the ball". Is that a typo. The only peole I have seen with their back hand under the ball are my kids who are under 10 who try to heave the ball to get it to the net.
I didn't so much intend to criticize as critique.
By "under the ball", I meant get it out of the way. It seems to me in watching slow motion HD of his shot, he's got his left hand kinda around in front, and to some degree "on top of" the ball. By "on top of" I mean around the front curve of the ball further than I would expect from a shooter of his calibre.
Here is a picture that shows what I mean. Note hand on top/front side of the ball:
As the other poster pointed out, this is a pretty stupid critique, given that he does hit a very high % of his three's. Hard for me to argue that.
My only defense is that I'd point out that as you become a more focal point of the offense, the demands on your game change. Less open shots, less assisted shots, more creating your own. At that point, stylistic issues you were "getting away with" before may (note "may" not "will" ) haunt you.
I would also point out that I'm not the only person suggesting his shot looks different:
Obviously Jamaal Wilkes disagrees (weird shooter that became a serious big timer), as do others with fairly strange shots.
Walton's emergence as someone who understands what is happeneing out there on both ends of the floor - and his excellent rebounding for a guard.
You are right about his rebounding. What hops he has -- it makes him play so much taller.
LeVert's development came in offseason..... and the OP said mid-season... so I go with Derrick Walton.
Everyone is important, and I do agree about the 1-3-1. But I'll go with the Freshmen. You're only as good as your weakest link, which is especially true when your team only plays 8 "links." Walton has won a few games, some with scoring and some with incredible rebounding for his position. Irvin has won a game and impacted others with his microwave shootings, and he's been able to get up to speed on defense which puts him on the court in last minute O-D sub scenarios. The pups are playing their roles perfectly and it's been a constant improvement game by game.
I really think sprinkling in the 1-3-1 has spurred us to a handful of wins. This zone has been active and disruptive in recent weeks. I think it was the 2nd half key in IU win.
Derrick Walton. If you remember back in December, Derrick looked completely disjointed. There was no cohesiveness, he was overwhelmed, and we were 6-4. Since then, the kid has stepped into his role as the point guard and QB of the offense. I am more than impressed with his transformation.
And he has just been cash-money at the free throw line. Huge FT after huge FT he seems to drain and most of them are 'swishes'. It feels like he's been 90+% from the line in conference play.
I think figuring out what they were going to do with Mitch was big. Obviously, it'd be nice to have him on the floor but I think part of the problem early in the year was guys didn't know exactly what their roles were. Those games in November and December were roller coasters as to how much Mitch was going to play and contribute. For a young team trying to find itself with the departures of Burke and Hardaway, it had to be tough on the players and coaches not knowing how much they could get out of Mitch each game. Once they knew he was going to be out for a while, they could focus on the players who could play and what they had to do to make the team better.
Agreed - Morgan and Horford started being much more effective once McGary went out.
collapses defenses for kick out open shots and / or fouls and foul shots.
Most important mid-season development? I think many have been pretty well covered above.
I'd like to throw out a different one which seems ridiculous, but may have led to success: the mid-season surgery on McGary. There are several reasons I think this was important:
- It forced Morford to step up their game. They wouldn't have done the same thing with McGary on the floor.
- It forced the team to become much more cohesive. They had to play together, if they were going to survive.
- It gave a real sense of desperation and motivation to the team. Everyone always talks about focus. Losing McGary brought a ton of focus.
- It allowed McGary to heal properly.
On this last one, I find it fascinating that Beilein and everyone else have steadfastly maintained that McGary is "out indefinitely." They never have said "out for the season." He has gone from rehab off the court, to set shots, to running. With the current time frame, it isn't outside of the realm of possibility that McGary comes back for the sweet 16 weekend. If he was able to play a mere 10 minutes a game, that could make a huge difference. Going to the OP original question, (most important heading into the tournaments,) if McGary is able to play effectively at all in the tourney, and because of the mid-season surgery, that "could" be the most important mid-season development. Now, this whole exercise and speculation on my part is a huge "so there's a chance" pie-in-the-sky pipe dream. I don't predict it happening. But I would still maintain that there were some good side affects for the team caused by McGary being sidelined.
That's an excellent point on the 1-3-1, and in that spirit, I'd say Nick's passing. It seemed like earlier in the year he was trying to be Magic and no-look guys all over, and ended up throwing it away a lot. He still does that every now and then, but his ability to generate assists has been deadly. People are so concerned about closing on him or cutting off a lane, when he can put a pass right on the numbers for a dunk or lay-up, it's got to be a soul-crusher for the D. It brings scoring options into play for guys who don't necessarily create their own shot (GRIII, Morford, whoever is standing underneath or near the basket at the time).
I think Coach Beilein has given the team a boost by letting his emotion show more. He doesn't go Bobby Knight but he gets his point across to the refs and the team. Coach took a tech and we outscored IU the rest of the way.
No, he's not a world beater. He's very streaky and sometimes he gets a little too shot happy... But having the ability to sub him in for Stauskas, GRIII or LeVert when any one of them are struggling themselves or just need a breather and force defenses to be accountable for him has quietly been huge for us. Sure, he's not the player we're all hoping he will become yet, and he's far from a good defender, but outside of Morgan and Walton, nobody on this team is what you would consider a "good" defender. Still, at one time during Glenn's extended struggles, there were a large contingent of fans on this very blog calling for Zac to start in his stead. I think you can credit Zac's effectiveness at least somewhat for that notion.
Big development is that these guys are five fingers of a fist when they are on the floor. They know their roles, are not selfish, and never get caught looking down at their shoes. They are a real, live TEAM. That is the difference, in my view
Walton and LeVert both hit another gear.
I think we first need to establish that the change happened earlier than "mid season" since we went from 6-4 to have a 15-3 run in a tough conference. I honestly think that the McGary thing played a big role. I suspect that the lip service Beilein payed in the fall to making McGary a 4 and GR3 a 3 was fairly accurate and that they were planning to go into the season running a lot of offense through McGary and have LeVert come off the bench. Once McGary's back flared up to the point where they realized he was an unknown, I think Beilein went back to his roots. He starting running the offense mostly through Stauskas, LeVert stepped up and became the secondary scorer, GR3's role gradually went back to being what it was last year, and the centers went back to what they did with the Morris offense. I think it took a while to work out the kinks with everyone's role and once McGary wasn't an option it focused their efforts.
Off topic... But winning the final regular season game the way that we did was one of the top 5 performances of the season in my opinion. First, the Hoosiers are big, athletic, talented and led by one of the better veteran PGs in the country (We know from experience that guards like that can carry teams to victory.). Second, not only did Indiana start the game unable to miss, along with only committing 2 first half turnovers, but we also played terrible ourselves, especially defensively. And finally, nobody on the team just shot lights out. Part of this seasons success depended largely on Stauskas or LeVert one having a great shooting night. Nick recognized the long ball (chics dig it) wasn't falling early and adjusted. He did something very Kobe and Jordanesque in the 2nd half that he hasn't always shown a willingness to do throughout the entire season. He went and parked his ass on the block, scoring regularly from the post, along with taking the ball to the basket early and often. More times than I'd have liked this season, if he was denied the ball or his shot wasn't falling, he'd fade into the background or go camp out in the corner. I think a switch flipped for Glenn as well. The opening tip highlighted a negative attribute that has haunted him in his college career, a certain passivity or lack of fire and will. In the second half he was selectively aggressive and you could see the look on his face, he started to want it as much or more than anyone. We really had nothing to gain in this game aside from finishing strong or the possibility of a 2 instead of 3 seed, and Indiana had everything to gain and possibly their tournament lives on the line... And despite Indiana's great shooting night from the field and FT line (Stanford Robinson 55% on the season, 9-9 Sat), a poor start and very questionable officiating, we gutted out the win anyway against a team that when they're on, are as dangerous as any team in the country. This gives me so much more confidence heading into the tourney. The consensus is that if a team that depends heavily on the 3 has an off night, it will likely be their last come tourney time. I no longer think we are strictly that type of team. My apologies ahead of time for the length of this and many likely grammatical errors. I sent this from my phone while at work.
Personally, I think its too tough to point at one thing, and for that.....I think Bo would be proud. I think its a combination of a lot of things. At the beginning of the season I felt like the team lacked an identitiy. This should not surprise anyone as the backbone of the team was essentially taken away. Replacing Trey Burke,I thought, would be impossibe. Walton started out slow but REALLY grew up fast. Initially I thought he lacked confidence (he probably did...we forget a lot fo these guys just turned 18). To me the turning point for him was the MSU game in Lansing. Knocking down a few big shots and icing the game with his free throws. Impressive.
Or, perhaps the obvious answer.....Nik Stauskas. He grabbed the bull by the horns and stepped up. We all knew Nik could shoot but his ability to be aggressive with the ball, drive to the basket, dunk,etc. really, really surprised me this year. Just past the midway point it seemed as though teams had him figured out. However, he fought through it and with the help of some great coahing he willed himself to be the leader and scorer that this young team needed.
Fianlly, you cant forget Caris LeVert. When our team has not been clicking he seems to be the catalyst that gets things going again. He's aggressive, he hussles, and has become a true offensive threat. I also think his defense has improved throughout the year. (He's the one guy too that gives me hope for next year if everyone bolts for the $ in the NBA).
Combine the above with great character guys like Jordan Morgan and role players like Spike and Horford and what does that remind me of? "The Team, The Team, The Team". A cheesy mgoblog cliche` you might say?? Maybe. But all of the above combined with GREAT coaching, a system that works, player development and team chemistry gave us a season to remember.
Michigan Basketball is back!! (((GO BLUE!)))
I like your assessment of the improvement of the 1-3-1 zone leading to some B1G wins. We are still relatively young and those young players still have to execute a Beilein system. So I am not taking away from your vote, however adding that without the steady improvement and functionality of Morford allowed Stauskas, LaVert, GRIII, Walton to make their improvements. Without Morford, IMO, too much pressure on those players does not allow for them to make the improvements they made?