Season Review: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman

Season Review: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman Comment Count

Alex Cook April 18th, 2016 at 3:02 PM


Sherman / Dressler / Upchurch

Previously: Zak Irvin

After last season, I wrote this in MAAR’s recap:

(I know Abdur-Rahkman is from Allentown, which is a little more than an hour from Philadelphia.)

While not the basketball Mecca that New York used to be or Chicago and LA are now, Philadelphia has still contributed immensely to hoops culture, producing greats like Wilt Chamberlain and Kobe Bryant, and – more relevant to college hoops – the series of rivalries between the “Big Five” of Villanova, Temple, St. Joe’s, La Salle, and Penn. Among other smaller Philly hoops stories, there’s the idea of the “Philly Guard” archetype.

As far as I can tell, the construct of a “Philly Guard” exists somewhere in the intersection of Allen Iverson and Rocky, an attacking combo guard bestowed with toughness and competitiveness platitudes. Though Abdur-Rahkman is 6’4, his high school film (and flashes of his play at Michigan) suggest that he could very well be a traditional Philly guard… despite not actually being from there. Only 20% of his two-point field goals at Michigan were assisted, he can play the one or the two (though Beilein’s system makes little distinction between the two), and he often injected life into a lost season with occasional bursts of physical ability – my favorite was when he pretty much made Jake Layman run and hide instead of contesting a dunk attempt.

Rahk is one of my favorite players on the team, mostly due to his uniqueness – there’s something about his game that can’t be replicated by anyone else. Since we’ve only seen half a season of him, it might be a while before I can pin down that essential quality about him, but I’m firmly on the bandwagon. Maybe this label will fit him in time, maybe not.

It’s clear what that quality is: more than anyone else on the roster, MAAR can create his own shot and get buckets. Before the season, he was the fourth guard on the depth chart, but by the end, he’d become the best member of the five-man 2014 class and ranked third in team MVP voting. Moving forward, it’s clear that Rahk has locked down the two-guard spot, and – as someone who’s mature for his class – he projects to be at least a solid starter as an upperclassman in the next two seasons.

Often, Michigan’s offense had to work hard for quality looks – instead of seeming effortlessly devastating, the Beilein offense more frequently was run through the ringer, using every constraint and trick to get the smallest windows of opportunity. While they were the most capable creators on the team, going through Derrick Walton or Zak Irvin usually came difficultly, especially against quality defenses. Very rarely were either able to take defenders one-on-one for a bucket, and even though both are above average passers, neither were quite explosive or agile enough to get open at the rate to routinely set up others (in contrast to Caris LeVert, for example). While both are good out of the pick-and-roll, neither are able to attack aggressively in those sets on a consistent basis.

Enter Abdur-Rahkman, a guy who wasn’t able to sustain a high-level usage rate, but someone who was able to do some of the things that Walton and Irvin couldn’t.

[After the JUMP, more on MAAR]


Season in Review: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman

Season in Review: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman Comment Count

Alex Cook July 29th, 2015 at 4:00 PM


Fuller – MGoBlog

For the second time in three years, John Beilein scrambled to fill some scholarships late in the recruiting cycle due to unexpected early draft entrees. The first time, he landed Caris LeVert – who’s since blossomed into perhaps the best NBA prospect Michigan’s had in years – and Spike Albrecht, already a cult hero among Michigan fans. The next duo to commit late in the process was Aubrey Dawkins and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: the two weren’t ready early in the year, but were thrust into big roles after key season-ending injuries to two starters. Abdur-Rahkman hardly played before Derrick Walton injured his foot; he was nearly indispensible afterwards:

maar minutes

Partially because Michigan was down to just two scholarship guards, Abdur-Rahkman’s minutes on the bench (usually due to first-half foul trouble) usually meant that Michigan would struggle to stay afloat in that time – Dakich and Lonergan weren’t ever meant to play many (if any) high-leverage Big Ten minutes, but they did. For example, consider Abdur-Rahkman’s best game, an efficient 18-point performance in a loss against MSU. When Rahk picked up his second foul with about ten minutes left in the first half, Michigan led by seven; when he returned to the court after halftime, Michigan was down five. They lost in OT.

To appreciate Rahk’s value – which doesn’t show up in his traditional or advanced metrics (low ORtg, TO rate > Assist rate, 29% from three, etc.) – consider the rotation guards Beilein’s had at Michigan. Of those, there are precious few plus defenders: Rahkman is likely on his way to becoming one, but Michigan hasn’t had a nominal stopper since Stu Douglass graduated. After so many offense-first guards and swingmen, having a guy who you can really trust on defense is another arrow in Beilein’s strategic quiver. Judging defensive value is always somewhat of a crapshoot, but it’s rather clear that – outside of a healthy Walton, perhaps – Abdur-Rahkman could very well be the best defender on the team.* If he improves his three-point shooting, he’ll be a strong candidate to retain his role, even with Michigan’s increased depth across the board.

*Caris LeVert’s defensive value is speculative at best, though he does have the most potential on that end of the floor for the next level. Besides, very few offensive focal points have enough energy to be similarly impactful on defense, especially in college.

[Hit the JUMP for more Rahkman talk]


This Week's Obsession: A Brighter Tomorrow

This Week's Obsession: A Brighter Tomorrow Comment Count

Seth January 22nd, 2015 at 1:56 PM



The Question:

Ace: Michigan's basketball season is almost certainly lost, but there's always the prospect of seeing one or two players transform under Beilein's continued tutelage, especially now that most of the freshmen have bee n thrust into major roles. Which freshman do you expect to show the most improvement over the rest of the season, and which do you want to see show the most improvement?

Nnanna nnanna, nnanna nnanna, hey hey hey, that's pretty high. [photo: Upchurch]

The Answers:

Dave Nasternack: Expect: Ricky Doyle. I think this is probably the most obvious choice. First, he's been starting for awhile, now, and has already shown improvement in various areas. I'm guessing he's leading in 'freshman minutes played?' If not, he's got to be close. So, just due to experience on the floor, he's got the be as comfortable in his role as any of the other contenders. Plus, the areas of improvement for Doyle are closely related to experience and mental understanding: positional awareness and some body control (almost always for bigs) vs. increased shooting %s, building muscle, better technique, etc. In addition to a couple of post moves, Doyle has shown patience inside and flashes of passion/GAF, which is exactly what you want to see to fuel his improvement. It would also be ideal if he could grab a few more rebounds.

Hope: While there is definitely something to be said for Aubrey Dawkins, I'm going to go with Kam Chatman. Chatman came into school with a ton of hype and excitement—not to mention a little more hair—but has only showed flashes of his potential in short bursts. While Chatman has looked lost both offensively and defensively for long stretches of this year, I do believe that he has the highest ceiling of any freshman on the roster. Plus, unless Donnal were to move down a position, Chatman is the ideal 4 on this roster. His length, size, and athleticism would make him the most ideal fit for the position that Beilein has had in his M tenure. Chatman will definitely have to improve his court awareness, positioning, and definitely his shooting consistency in order to do so, however. Based on losing his starting spot, a further decrease in minutes, and the eyeball test when he was playing more consistently, I'm guessing that his "growth jump" will come over the summer or in 15/16 rather than in the next couple of months.


Hoops Preview 2014-15: The Mailbag, Part Two

Hoops Preview 2014-15: The Mailbag, Part Two Comment Count

Ace November 12th, 2014 at 2:54 PM

Previously: Gardening Lessons (The Story)Preview PodcastPreseason All-Big Ten TeamsPoint GuardsWings Part 1 (LeVert, Irvin), Wings Part 2 (Chatman, Wilson, Dawkins, MAAR), Bigs (Donnal, Doyle, Bielfeldt), Media Day Player InterviewsBig Ten NewcomersBig Ten Outlook Part 1Big Ten Outlook Part 2, Mailbag Part 1

Who will get the bulk of the minutes at center? The panelists disagree. [Fuller]

Three days.

The preview is almost done, but first, Alex and I attempt to answer perhaps the longest mailbag question in this blog's history. Without further ado, a five-part query covering everything:

Can you predict the minutes by position for the roster this year given the unique nature of this team compared to the past rosters?

I'm very intrigued to see how Beilein deals with the youngest but probably deepest and most versatile roster he's ever had.  For most years we were scrambling to find 8 usable scholarship athletes and this year we have 11 guys who could see meaningful minutes in any given game.  How will he handle that?  How will he handle the frustrations that come with so many freshmen learning a complex system?  How will he handle the unique skills that guys like MAAR or Wilson offer if they aren't quite the fit into his system?

Ace: I'm going to start from the end—first of all, Wilson is an ideal fit in the system (more on him later), and second of all, if a player is good enough to get on the court, Beilein is going to adjust his team's approach to fit his personnel, as we've seen time and again.

Also, talk about good problems. There really are 11 players who could see at least a consistent bit role this season, though I highly doubt Beilein is going to go with an 11-man rotation; I think he'll whittle it down closer to eight or nine as the season goes on.

My best guess at how the minutes breakdown will look when this team settles into a rotation—in the early going, I expect some experimenting as Beilein figures out what his freshmen can and can't provide:

1) Walton - 30, Albrecht - 10
2) LeVert - 35, Albrecht - 5
3) Irvin - 30, Dawkins - 10
4) Chatman - 25, Wilson - 15
5) Doyle - 20, Donnal - 10, Wilson - 10

Positions matter less than minutes distribution here—Irvin and Dawkins can both play the two, and LeVert can play the three, for example, and those positions very similar in Beilein's system, anyway.

Of the freshmen, I think Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman is the most likely to fall out of the rotation. Michigan has plenty of guards that can handle the ball, Walton's ability as a spot-up shooter will allow for the Walton/Spike backcourt to get a good amount of run, and Rahk's iffy shooting is going to hold him back, especially once M hits the meat of the schedule—Beilein's system doesn't work nearly as well if defenses don't have to respect the outside shot of one of the guards.

Aubrey Dawkins, meanwhile, has the skill set to be an immediate bench contributor. He can defend multiple positions and he can shoot the three; add in his outstanding athleticism, which should make him a good finisher on the break, and it's easy to see a role for him as a three-and-D guy with some upside.

I'm of the mind that all three freshman centers, including DJ Wilson, will get extensive time, and their minutes will wax and wane depending on the matchup; Wilson should see more time at the five against smaller, athletic teams, while Doyle may be leaned upon heavily against a bigger squad like Iowa. I believe Doyle will end up playing the most minutes at the five; I'm a fan of his combination of size and ability to finish near the basket, and for some reason it doesn't feel like Donnal is currently living up to expectations.

[Hit THE JUMP for Alex's guess at the rotation plus our outlook on DJ Wilson, picks for this year's breakout players, and comparable players to this year's freshmen.]