12/4/2018 – Michigan 62, Northwestern 60 – 8-0, 2-0 Big Ten
A: You should look at it as a compliment.
Q: I'm supposed to use the greatest invention in the history of humanity to go back seven hundred years in time to… I don't even know?
A: You guys have already repaired all of the really bad stuff. Nobody outside of this organization knows anything about World War II, Larry Culpepper, or Michigan Football from 2007-2037. This… this is what's left.
Q: And we have to spend our allocation or…?
A: Exactly. We get less next year.
Q: And this is what you want.
A: I mean… they made GIFs and everything. Look at it:
Q: I'm still unclear on the mission. Kill Hitler. Make Pitbull the permanent intergalactic president. Brain-swap Rich Rodriguez and Nick Saban. These are all defined goals. How am I supposed to prevent… that?
A: You could have a stern talk with him about the essential dignity of humanity and the importance of its preservation?
A: I see you've been on a college basketball head coach mission before.
Q: Yes, President Pitbull. The Izzident is the darkest day in our organization's history.
A: "First, do no harm."
Q: Violated. The first and only time.
A: Look, just change the refereeing structure of college basketball to be fundamentally less sycophantic to little Hitlers. Any coach venturing onto the court during play gets a tech.
Q: Now that's the kind of timeline revision I can get behind.
A: Make it so. Dale.
[After THE JUMP: the post gets marginally less silly]
The loss of the dynamic Moritz Wagner to the NBA leaves a huge hole in the middle of the paint for John Beilein’s team. Michigan now looks to Jon Teske to fill that spot, albeit in a much different form.
Behind Teske, Beilein will call upon seldom-used Austin Davis and newcomer Colin Castleton to provide bench relief.
Now the starting man in the middle, Jon Teske will serve a critical role in Michigan’s success and failures in 2018-19.
Despite some limitations offensively, Teske’s offensive rating last season was second to only Duncan Robinson’s thanks to his efficient finishing and lack of turnovers. His role without the ball was far more important, though.
Teske proved extremely valuable as a screener during Michigan’s 2018 run. His large frame opened up driving and passing lanes that a Michigan big has not provided for teammates in many years. Returning players Zavier Simpson and Charles Matthews took full advantage of that screening, developing some very real chemistry with Teske as the season progressed. Because Michigan has an apparent lack of shooting entering this year, Teske’s screens could serve as a focal point for the offense to create easier looks in the pick-and-roll when shots aren’t falling.
Adding to the intrigue is the development of an outside shot for the Ohio native. Onlookers saw Teske nail an in-rhythm three in Spain and the big man seems to suggest that he’s added a three-point ball to his game:
“Obviously, every day Coach B is watching you and he keeps track of everything — scrimmages, points, blocks, rebounds. So that's one thing that they do keep track of is makes and misses,” Teske said. “That's one thing that he's seeing me grow and I've been able to show him that I'm capable of shooting the 3.”
Teske’s true value comes, however, on the other end of the court. His huge size and ability to protect the rim adds an aspect to Michigan’s defense that John Beilein has not enjoyed since Mitch McGary. But it goes further that.
We discussed previously that Teske displayed a high basketball IQ. Although he’s not the most mobile big man in the country, his recognition of when to attack screens and when to lay off was exceptional. With an offseason to watch film and grow in his play recognition, Teske’s defense could improve to a dominant level despite his perceived physical limitations.
Michigan's annual basketball open practice was yesterday. Takes! You need takes!
Pick and roll focus. After a quick warmup the drills portion of the practice was largely pick and roll, with various managers simulating the various ways teams defend P&R and Michigan executing plays based on the opposition's reaction. There was also a fast break drill that started 3 v 2 or 3 v 1 with the defense getting extra players up to parity after an initial disadvantage.
Positional intrigue. Brooks played the two next to Simpson in the scrimmage; Beilein explicitly noted that a number of players were playing multiple positions. That's par for the course; the interesting bit was that Livers and Johns are both options at center. Michigan ran a little of Livers at C last year, where he looked lost on the offensive end. Johns looked pretty similar during the scrimmage. Despite that I'd expect to see him mostly at the 5. Beilein talked about his "four bigs" at one point and generally referenced Johns as a 5.
Maize was Simpson/Brooks/Nunez/Livers/Teske, with Castleton subbing in at the 5. CJ Baird also got a little run.
Blue was DeJulius/Poole/Matthews/Brazdeikis/Davis, with Johns subbing in at the 5.
Maize won by approximately 8 points (there was no scoreboard but Beilein had it in his head and kept exhorting blue to get some stops), largely on the strength of Simpson and Teske. Beilein was mic'd up and kept relaying items to the crowd—this was delightful—and one of them was a mention that Simpson and Teske had great chemistry in the pick and roll. This was borne out, as Simpson found Teske repeatedly with a series of slick pocket passes that set the Maize team up for easy buckets. Many of these drew "oooohs" from the assembled crowd.
Simpson didn't just find Teske; he was able to set up all manner of his teammates. His shot's still pretty broke; even so he looked like a guy who'd taken another largish leap forward. It felt like he'd be able to get to the lane with more consistency and pay that off more. Simpson's sophomore year already featured a 25% assist rate*, which was around 200th nationally. That was comparable to Derrick Walton's final two years. Trey Burke's Naismith year saw him rack up a 37% assist rate. Simpson could get to 30-32%, maybe? The kind of passes he was making felt like they'd work against a whole hell of a lot of folks.
*[IE, a quarter of Michigan's baskets when Simpson was on the floor were assisted by him.]
[After THE JUMP: a freshman who doesn't feel like one]
I think I've waited long enough that I can post this now.
It's taken me a while to get around to tournament GIFs for a number of reasons, some NCAA-related and some not, but I finally made it through the Houston and Texas A&M games. (As per blog policy, there was no Montana game. It's just a figment of your imagination.) It'll take me a bit longer to get around to Florida State and Loyola Chicago, but I'll get to those too.
One thing I apparently won't get to: a supercut of three-pointers against Texas A&M, as this is what happened when I attempted to put that together with my normally unfailing GIF software:
In the words of the Texas twitter account: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
[Hit THE JUMP for every conceivable angle of the Poole Party, CJ Baird Tha Gawd, and much more.]
Midway through the season it became clear that Jon Teske had shed his freshman awkwardness and emerged into the kind of rim protector and possession generator that this site has craved for years. Once Moe Wagner became a borderline-NBA-level stretch five we stopped talking about it so much. The burning fire never left, though, for the ultimate Beilein C that doesn't need the ball to do a bunch of stuff.
Teske promises to do a bunch of stuff sans ball like nobody since Mitch McGary. Game columns around here more often than not had some note about how everything was going to be fine even if Moe left, usually citing Teske's excellent OREB rate—which would have been tied for 30th if he qualified for Kenpom leaderboards and got significantly better against better teams—and absurd-for-a-big steal rate. Here's a graph from Bart Torvik of 6'10"+ high major players who played at least 10 MPG:
Ray Spalding of Louisville and Javin DeLaurier of Duke are the only dots in the vicinity. Teske's combination of possession generation and sheer size is otherwise unheard of. That goes a long way toward replacing Wagner's diverse offensive skillset. (If you're curious, Wagner is the yellow dot just under the 2.25% steal rate line. Ethan Happ is the red dot at the very top in the middle.)
Jon Teske didn't score but that might have been his best game of the season? I might be serious about that. His ten minutes saw him contest maybe a dozen shots, several of which looked like easy finishes until he got involved. Teske was able to fall off his defender despite the opposition starting their drive as Teske, back to the basketball, recovered on a pick and roll; he was only hit with one foul; he at one point intimidated Huerter into a bizarre miss.
In about 500 possessions against top 100 teams Teske's presence depressed opponents' 2P% by a whopping six points, at the cost of a slight uptick in threes attempted:
Michigan also forced more turnovers, got more rebounds, and gave up fewer free throws with Teske on the floor.
He even managed to survive against Villanova's pick and roll. Very few Wildcat points could be tied back to Teske's relative immobility. And that's the only question left about his defensive prowess: what happens if he plays Haas against an opponent's Wagner? So far, so good—and a brief survey of the league next year turns up only a couple plausible stretch 5s, give or take annual development. Issa Thiam of Rutgers(!) is the only returning player over 6'8" to put up 100 3s last year, and he's a super-sized Just A Shooter SF. Luka Garza, Isaiah Roby, and Juwan Morgan all tried around 50 with acceptable-ish hit rates and might blow up.
Teske is likely to be a defensive difference maker and shot volume asset.
Wait wait I have a Spongebob meme for this? Man, Colin Castleton released a senior highlight reel and after the third Nowitzki pogo-stick jumper I was all
Did I do that right, fellow kids?
Anyway, here's a guy doing things once you get past the usual open-court dunks:
Castleton displays several different skills that should translate to higher levels, most obviously the shooting and Wagner-like ability to drive to the basket. He might even be better at changing directions? Wagner had a straight line drive and a behind-the-back move that was clunky but effective because of the surprise factor. Castleton looks more fluid. Toss in that EYBL block rate a tick higher than Bol Bol and… uh, yeah.
Caveat from certified insane person Colin From Twitter, who watched a full game:
the game was interesting. he's was clearly figuring out how to play with a constant motor and how to position himself consistently on O and D to be productive. but he turned it on in the last 5 and won the game by himself.
There are reasons that Castleton isn't ranked where Bol Bol is.
Still, Castleton suddenly seems like this class's most crucial recruit. Seriously: since Michigan doesn't have access to five-star posts, maintaining the five out offense is their best way to compete with teams that do. Castleton promises to do that while adding a ton of rim protection (relative to Wagner, at least). He'll need a year or two of Camp Sanderson before hitting his potential. When he beefs up, look out.
Trevon Duval declared for the NBA draft last week, but the Duke freshman’s decision was made for him back in January. That’s when Coach K completed a recruiting hat trick by signing Zion Williamson to what was already the top recruiting class in the country, which featured the potential top two picks in next year’s draft (R.J. Barrettand Cameron Reddish) as well as the best pure point guard (Tre Jones, the younger brother of former Duke standout Tyus Jones) in the class. Neither Duval or Gary Trent Jr., his backcourt partner, were able to build up their draft stock at Duke, but both have decided not to give it a second try. They are essentially being pushed out the door by a program that no longer needs them. …
Playing at Duke was a worst-case scenario for Duval’s draft stock. He couldn’t do the things he did well, while his weaknesses were on full display. That’s how he went from a potential lottery pick before the start of the season to no. 50 overall on ESPN’s Top 100 prospects list. Freshmen in that range typically go back to school to work on their games. Most NCAA coaches would love to have a sophomore like Duval running their team and would have tried to sell him on returning by structuring their offense to emphasize his strengths. The situation is different at Duke.
Duval at least got to play and score some and will probably go in the second round. Charles Matthews evaporated off draft boards and had to take a redshirt year at Michigan, a place that actually cared to develop him. It's a big risk to go into a situation like Duke or UK where you get recruited over annually, and that's biting guys on the regular.
"I just kind of saw what they did with people in my position. I just wanted to come here and learn, get a fresh start," Matthews told ESPN. "I feel like my knowledge has grown a lot more. More open to learning and understanding the game. Really just getting a better grasp of that."
Matthews quickly emerged as one of Michigan's most integral pieces early on this year. He's playing a much different role, with 21 percent of his total offense coming as the pick-and-roll ball handler. He regularly initiates offense in both the half-court and transition. Thanks to his improved ball skills and ability to see over the top of the defense, Matthews' pick-and-roll passes generate 1.25 points per possession for Michigan, which ranks in the 90th percentile in all of college basketball.
"I was always more comfortable with the ball," Matthews said. "I'm happy I've been able to play in two different systems. Play pick-and-roll, play off the ball. I feel like with my increasing handle I'll be able to play with the ball even more."
It's Matthews' steady improvement as a shooter that really has unlocked the rest of his game. Although he is not a natural scorer and he still needs to up his efficiency, Matthews is far more comfortable both with his feet set and off the dribble than he was in the past. He's capable of rising up off the bounce in midrange spots or stepping into spot-up 3s when given time and space -- 56th percentile in unguarded catch-and-shoot jumpers -- which bodes well for his NBA outlook if he can continue to progress.
That would never happen at Kentucky. Calipari does a good job of getting his various insane athletes to shed AAU ball and play defense as a unit, but it seems like he hardly has time for anything else and ends up running fairly rudimentary offense for guys who don't tend to improve in the rare case that they come back for a second year. I'm thinking of the conscience-free iso offense the Harrison twins ran against Michigan in the Elite Eight.
I'm not a "when do we see the recruiting benefits?!?!" person—the 2018 class is already enough to make Michigan a top five team for a couple years—but it would be nice if Beilein's development caught the eye of one or two five star types a year and convinced them to pass over the bag for a better chance at a long NBA career. It still baffles that Tyus Battle signed up to run desperate isos at set defenses while spending much of his time practicing a defense the NBA outlaws.
The Mooney thing. News that Michigan is involved with a grad transfer is fairly surprising, but here it is:
Among the head coaches [South Dakota G Matt] Mooney, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound shooting guard, met with were Bobby Hurley, Greg McDermott, Archie Miller, Chris Beard and Dana Altman. He also met with assistants from Iowa State and TCU, plus FaceTime’d with Chris Collins.
“I took a bunch of notes from every meeting,” Mooney said. “I’m going to rank them. I have list of my priorities what I’m looking for and then rank out which school is best.”
But the meetings aren’t done. Fresh off playing in the National Championship game, John Beilein will “tentatively” meet with Mooney next Tuesday.
“I think I’m going to give Michigan a serious look,” Mooney said.
Michigan's scholarship count currently stands at –1; even if Moritz Wagner declares for the draft there isn't a spot unless someone transfers. Michigan will know about the first bit of that by April 22nd at the latest since Wagner's already used up his Get Out Of NBA Draft Declaration Free card. I would in fact assume that Michigan's involvement with Mooney means that non-Wagner attrition is likely. With Eli Brooks and Austin Davis both coming off freshman* years at spots where age is very helpful the obvious candidate is Ibi Watson.
FWIW, Mooney is coming off a 30% usage year in the Summit where he shot 50/36 and hit 83% from the line. A top 50 steal rate also perks the ears up. That's on another level from Jaaron Simmons, who had less usage and an ORTG ten points lower in the MAC a year ago. Mooney also wouldn't be trying to play point guard.
Even if Michigan has the room it seems unlikely that Michigan can offer Mooney anything other than backup SG minutes. Some other team out there is almost certain to have a more attractive depth chart. OSU is involved, and they can say they played Andrew Dakich for 20 minutes a game last year. OTOH, Evan Daniels said Mooney seemed "VERY intrigued," his caps, in a comment about that article on 247.
*[Redshirt freshman in Davis's case, but he's a developmental big who didn't look out of place during his brief time on the floor.]
when the walk-on hits [photo courtesy Sam Mousigian/Michigan Daily]
We've seen this game before. A freshman Nik Stauskas shooting Florida out of the gym from the same spot; Texas becoming so overwhelmed the Longhorn Network tweeted a shruggie. Enter this into the canon:
THE MODERATOR: Coach, an opening statement?
BILLY KENNEDY: Felt like we ran into a buzz saw.
Michigan played a near-perfect first half before settling into remarkably productive cruise control in the second. They scored 99 points, the most Texas A&M has allowed this season, on an astonishing 1.38 points per possession. They shot 64% on twos, 58% on threes, and 88% from the line. Eight different players made a three-pointer. One of them was CJ Baird, who started the season as a student manager.
"It was kind of hard to see," said A&M's Admon Gilder. "Because I was just wondering when they were going to miss."
After both underperformed last weekend, Moe Wagner and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led the way. Wagner was the star of the first half, pouring in 14 of his 21 while seemingly gaining confidence with every shot, the most spectacular a running left-handed bank after his patented behind-the-back dribble. Abdur-Rahkman scored 16 of his 24 in the second half, teaming with Charles Matthews (18 points, 13 in the second half) to drop the hammer on an A&M squad trying to cover a 20-point deficit with post-ups. Two more Wolverines, Zavier Simpson and Duncan Robinson, finished in double figures.
"We knew that we could pick and choose our spots on offense," said Abdur-Rahkman. "And we didn't shoot too well in Wichita, but we knew that we were confident coming into the game that we could hit get our shots off. We just picked and chose our shots, and we took them."
Abdur-Rahkman led the team with 24 points and 7 assists. [Mousigian]
Meanwhile, Simpson made life miserable for self-proclaimed "unstoppable" Aggies point guard TJ Starks, who made the freshman mistake of giving Michigan's best defender extra motivation. Starks, who'd averaged 19.6 points in his last three games, finished with five on 2-for-11 shooting, a lone assist, and five turnovers. Simpson equaled his mark's point total with a career-high five steals in the first half and added one more in the second for good measure. The Aggies mustered only 28 points on 32 first-half field-goal attempts; Michigan had little issue letting them work post mismatches in the second on the three-is-greater-than-two principle.
Last weekend's Wolverines were just good enough to get through last weekend. Tonight's Wolverines were great enough to beat any team on any day. It didn't take long for them to get into a groove and ooze confidence; Wagner talking trash after an in-your-eye three, Matthews flashing a rare smile after a tough bucket, Simpson eyeing his man with pure disdain after a particularly obvious flop, the whole team running back on defense as Abdur-Rahkman let loose a three-pointer. (Yes, it went in.)
It reached the absurd in the late going. Abdur-Rahkman went behind the back on a fast break pass to Wagner for an emphatic dunk. Austin Davis threw down an alley-oop. Baird sent the bench into hysterics with his three-pointer.
The swagger is carrying over.
"I think we're a very confident team, and I think that's all that matters," said Wagner. "We've been playing within ourselves all year and not looking at the opponent too much. Looking at the game plan, trying to execute that, and I think we've been believing all year we can beat anyone if we play our best basketball. So, Yep."
Michigan will face the winner of tonight's Florida State-Gonzaga matchup on Saturday. No matter which team advances, the Wolverines will enter the game knowing they can—and should—win. Given how they've played over the last month or so, they're not wrong.
THIS ARTICLE HAS A SPONSOR: If you haven’t yet talked to Nick Hopwood, our MGoFinancial Planner from Peak Wealth Management, hopefully his appearance on last week's live podcast convinced you that he's the right guy to help you plan your financial future. As we learned last week, he saw well before many that Joe Paterno had become a useless figurehead; that same perceptiveness can be utilized to bolster your bank account.
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Jaaron Simmons is expected to take over Derrick Walton's role. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
Nick's Question: Basketball media day is today, which gives us an excuse to talk about something besides football. Let's do that.
Which Basketball Player Are You Most Interested To See As The Season Starts?
Ace: You might expect me to say Charles Matthews, and the Kentucky transfer’s development since his freshman year is certainly of paramount importance to the success of this team. That said, I’m going with Ohio grad transfer Jaaron Simmons, who’ll be tasked with replacing the majority of Derrick Walton’s possessions as the team’s lead guard.
The key to last year’s offense was the high screen tandem of Walton and Moe Wagner, who found a way to beat opponents no matter how they tried to defend it. According to Synergy, Walton graded out in the 86th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball handler in 149 possessions; the only returning Wolverine to use 50 such possessions last season was Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who graded out in the 31st percentile. Zavier Simpson showed good passing ability on limited possessions but his lack of an outside shooting threat is going to seriously limit him — opponents are going to sag off and dare him to shoot until he proves he can make them pay.
Given an enormous workload on a team with limited talent, Simmons played with surprising efficiency last year, reaching the 65th percentile as a P&R ball handler in 228 possessions, the 18th-most in the country. (Others in the top 25: Jawun Evans, Melo Trimble, Tai Webster, Bryan McIntosh, Corey Webster, Nate Mason.) He ranked in the 70th percentile in offense derived from pick-and-roll situations even though he played with substandard (47th percentile) roll men; Wagner graded out in the 90th percentile.
Simmons is very capable as both a scorer and passer, and Michigan’s surrounding talent should allow him to play with greater efficiency than he did as a heavy-usage player on a mid-major squad. (Ohio’s #2 option last year was MSU castoff Kenny Kaminski.) While Matthews is the key to Michigan’s defensive success, Simmons is the newcomer who’s best equipped to keep Beilein’s offense scoring up to its lofty standard.
Pick one. Not so easy, right? [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
If you can only choose one, which player would you rather have back next year: Moe Wagner or DJ Wilson?
Ace: The genesis of this question was a lengthy twitter thread that had some good points on both sides. While it’s close, I lean just barely to the side of Wagner, who I think is a better college player than pro prospect; Wilson is the opposite. While you’re certainly sacrificing some defense to keep Wagner, the consistently efficient offensive outputs are tough to pass up, especially since he showed last year he can create for himself, something the team sorely needs sans Walton (especially) and Irvin.
Wilson is a bit too much of a wild card; he can put it all together and make this conversation look stupid, or he can essentially be the guy he was last year—he’d need to dramatically change his approach to be the lead guy we’d want him to be.
BiSB: I agree that Wagner is a better college player. But at the same time, I think Wilson leaving would leave a bigger hole in the lineup. Teske and Davis are largely untested, but at least they are extant. Unless Wagner is going to play minutes in a two-big sort of lineup, you're looking at Duncan Robinson playing a ton of minutes at the four. And while his defense has gotten somewhat better, and you can get away with it against certain types of teams, that's still a glaring hole in the defense.
Brian: This question depends heavily on how much those guys improve from last year, when they were way behind Mark Donnal. To be honest, I'd expect a Wilson-no-Wagner team to have DJ at the 5 for 20 minutes a game. Late last season that was almost already the case and small ball is all the rage at every level of basketball.
Ace: The defensive impact is what keep this close for me. Wilson is more versatile positionally, quicker, and a better rim protector. But I’m also not sold on Teske or Davis being a better option than more Robinson; I’m not sure either packs enough offensive oomph to make that a desirable swap. There are lineups than can run Robinson off the court, but there are also lineups that can probably run Teske, who’s rather ponderous, off the court as well.
BiSB: Perhaps my assumption that John Beilein could turn five confused baby ducklings into a top-25 KenPom offense is too strong.
But I do feel like DJ is what gives Michigan flexibility at both ends of the court.
[Hit THE JUMP as the debate continues, now with Synergy numbers.]
I'm not ready yet. A memorable season and the collegiate careers of Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin are over; the postmortem will come when I've had a little more time to collect my scattered thoughts. In the interim, a six-part mailbag question about next season has sat in my mailbox for the last few weeks, and while I'm not quite prepared to look back, I'm ready to look ahead.
I'll get this caveat out of the way now: Moe Wagner and DJ Wilson haven't made decisions about their potential NBA futures. This post makes the not-entirely-safe assumption both will be back. DraftExpress' latest 2017 mock doesn't feature either player; in fact, only Wilson makes their 2018 projection. In Chad Ford's latest update, Wagner is a "stock down" after Oregon while Wilson held steady as a late first/early second projection who "most [scouts] think needs another year of school." There's a decent chance both stay. If not, there will be plenty in this space on the ramifications for 2017-18.
Now that we've addressed the elephant, here are one reader's most pressing questions heading into next season and my attempts to answer them.
Can X make the leap? [Bryan Fuller]
Will we have the necessary performance from a Lead Guard to succeed?
We can gush all we want about the big guys and the allure of Charles Mathews, but Michigan's offense has only reached its potential when there was a lead guard at the controls -- Burke, Stauskas, Morris (to a lesser extent), and the 2017 version of Walton. Can Michigan reach that potential with Simpson/MAAR having the ball in their hands most of the time?
Xavier Simpson came along at the perfect time. He got a year to learn from Derrick Walton, get his feet wet, and process the intricacies of John Beilein's offense. As a drive-first, shoot-second player, he'll step into the ideal lineup to fit his skill set. Simpson's iffy outside shot would normally put a ceiling on the offense; the Darius Morris squads topped out at 38th in offensive efficiency on KenPom. Those teams couldn't play five-out, however. With Wagner and Wilson, this team can and will.
That should leave ample room for Simpson to operate off the dribble. While we only saw flashes of his scoring ability as a freshman, it's worth remembering he was capable of scoring 65 points in a high school playoff game. As he got more comfortable within Beilein's offense, he began to display his playmaking ability, especially off the high screen. He showed no fear of the nation's leading shot-blocker in the BTT semifinal:
In the conference title game, he displayed a Morris-like ability to both see and make a pass from a difficult angle:
Simpson isn't going to be a dead-eye shooter like Walton; hopefully he can use the leadup to next season to refine his outside shot enough where he's at least not treated like Tum Tum Nairn. Regardless, I expect he'll be a relatively efficient offensive player because of his quickness, court vision, and the surrounding talent; he won't need to be the number one or possibly even nos. 2-4 scoring option. As long as he keeps his fouling under control he should be an upgrade over Walton as an on-ball defender.
I'm not entirely sold on Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman as a primary ballhander; he still seems to decide before he drives whether he's going to shoot or pass. He'll take on more late-clock possessions because of his ability to create decent looks for himself outside of the offense. Unless he has a major breakthrough as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, which isn't entirely out of the question, he'll still be better-suited as an off-guard. As I'll discuss later in this mailbag, however, I believe Eli Brooks is going to have a role on this team.
[Hit THE JUMP for Ultimate X Factor and much more.]