Pick your poison. [Marc-Gregor Campredon]
John Beilein has spent ten seasons in Ann Arbor. As of the most recent, he's the winningest coach in program history with 215. He snapped Michigan's post-sanction tournament drought in 2009, the first of seven NCAA appearances with the Wolverines, three of which have extended at least into the second weekend.
In recognition of the above, as well as the need for offseason #content, I've put together a series of All-Beilein teams, inspired by this twitter post and the ensuing conversation. My guidelines:
- I'm attempting to put together the best possible lineups, which isn't necessarily the same as picking the best individual players at each spot.
- I'm choosing individual player vintages (i.e. 2013 Trey Burke). A player can only be chosen once for each category, but different player years (i.e. freshman bench gunner 2014 Zak Irvin and well-rounded senior 2017 Zak Irvin) can be eligible for separate categories.
- The same player/year can be chosen for multiple categories—for instance, 2013 Mitch McGary making the All-Bench team doesn't exclude him from making the final All-Beilein team.
Eligibility for certain categories may be slightly fudged because of the limited pool of players.
I'm not putting too many constraints on myself for this exercise since the point is to let our imaginations run wild.
Today's lineup is a fun one. Small ball has taken basketball by storm, and it's a style Beilein teams know quite well. What would the lineup look like if you tried to field a team that could shoot the lights out, switch everything on defense, and provide matchup problems across the board? Here's a squad that would absolutely wreck Purdue.
POINT GUARD: 2012-13 TREY BURKE
Burke vs. Switch. Advantage: Burke. [Bryan Fuller]
Well, yeah, the national player of the year is going to make this team. Burke was a killer off the high screen with his combination of vision, decision-making, passing, finishing, and pull-up shooting. While he didn't have the reputation of a defensive specialist, he graded out well on that end of the floor, and his timely steals would lead to some spectacular transition buckets.
I'd tell you that a team that can space the floor and give Burke room to operate would lead to amazing things, but you already know that, because you also watched the 2013 squad.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the post.]
SHOOTING GUARD: 2016-17 DERRICK WALTON
Walton vs. Switch. Advantage: Walton. [Campredon]
A point guard by trade, Walton spent plenty of time at Michigan playing off the ball, especially early in his career when Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert, or Spike Albrecht could serve as the primary ballhandler. Walton is an ideal small-ball player. He's excellent running the high screen and even better as a spot-up shooter; among players who used at least 100 spot-up possessions last year, nobody in the country posted a better figure than Walton's 1.50(!!!) points per possession, per Synergy.
As a burlier, stronger guard than Burke, Walton could handle defending bigger two-guards, and his remarkable defensive rebounding would be much-needed in this lineup.
SMALL FORWARD: 2013-14 CARIS LEVERT
LeVert could do it all. [Fuller]
This was a tough choice; it's really, really difficult to leave Nik Stauskas off a perimeter-oriented team. To make a cohesive lineup, however, LeVert is the better option. While he and Stauskas have similar offensive skill-sets, LeVert was the superior passer, rebounder, and defender—and he's no slouch as a scorer, either.
LeVert's length and athleticism would allow him to play in a switch-heavy defensive scheme. Meanwhile, the idea of a Burke-Walton-LeVert backcourt with all at their peaks has me salivating.
POWER FORWARD: 2013-14 GLENN ROBINSON III
Space, cut, obliterate. [Fuller]
When everyone else on the floor has a dangerous outside shot, you can afford to field a player who isn't a deadeye three-point shooter. GRIII was a semi-viable but far-from-ideal 31% from beyond the arc, but everything else about his game lends itself well to this lineup.
An overlooked defender, Robinson used his strength and athleticism to his advantage on that end, even grading out in the 88th percentile as a post defender, per Synergy. We certainly didn't overlook his dunks, which often came off cuts when defenders overplayed Michigan's shooters; in his two seasons at Michigan, Robinson scored 203 points on 139 possessions Synergy filed under cuts for a remarkable 1.46 PPP. While far from a force on the boards, he chipped in more offensive rebounding than your average 6'6" wing, too. Robinson was the ultimate complementary piece in his time at Michigan and he'd fill a similar role here.
CENTER: 2016-17 DJ WILSON
Lanky. [Eric Upchurch]
This was another tough choice, as DeShawn Sims and Moe Wagner work as small-ball centers and Mitch McGary was so good/versatile he could fit almost any lineup. What separated DJ Wilson was three-point shooting and rim protection. Beilein's late-season adjustment to playing Wilson more often as a center helped propel Michigan to the second weekend of the tournament, and much of that had to do with his defense; Wilson could capably switch between guarding wings and bigs and finished the season with more blocks than any Wolverine since Ekpe Udoh.
While rebounding is a concern, the Walton-LeVert-GRIII trio helps out there. On offense, Wilson legitimately stretches the floor (37% 3P), and while he didn't get nearly as many opportunities as Wagner he actually even more effective on a per-possession basis as the roll man off the high screen.
Hoo dang, would this team be fun to watch. You could conceivably run a high screen with any combination of players on the floor, including three ballhandlers who are deadly pull-up shooters, and always have a couple dangerous spot-up threats spacing the floor. When that draws in the defense's focus, GRIII destroys Tokyo. While this may not be a great defensive or rebounding team, they'd put up video game numbers on offense to the point I'm not sure any of the other stuff would matter.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: 2010-11 DARIUS MORRIS, 2012-13 TIM HARDAWAY JR., 2013-14 NIK STAUSKAS, 2016-17 ZAK IRVIN, 2008-09 DESHAWN SIMS
Watching Darius Morris run the 1-5 high screen with DeShawn Sims while Hardaway, Stauskas, and Irvin space the floor would be pretty dang fun. This lineup also has solid size for a "small ball" group, with Irvin the only player who's really undersized for his position. Morris may not be an outside shooting threat, but his size and vision would allow him to find shooters from all angles, and everyone else on the floor is a capable spot-up threat—and much more, in the cases of Hardaway and Stauskas.