Kameron Chatman (L) and DJ Wilson (R/HAIR) will split minutes at the four
Thus far, this preview has covered the knowns for this season's iteration of Michigan basketball. The point guard position is rock-solid with Derrick Walton in line for a breakout sophomore season and Spike Albrecht's steadying presence on the bench. Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin provide plenty of scoring punch (and much more, in LeVert's case) at the two and three, and both have the potential to take big leaps forward in 2014-15.
Now we hit the unknowns. For the purposes of this preview, the power forward position is considered a wing, just like it functions in John Beilein's offense—the small forward and power forward essentially mirror each other—and Michigan must replace a productive starter there with the departure of Glenn Robinson III.
We know this much: a true freshman will crack the starting lineup, almost certainly top-30 prospect Kameron Chatman, and the backups at both the three and the four will also be comprised of fresh-faced new arrivals. As Beilein noted at Big Ten Media Day, the team doesn't have any other choice:
“Guess what? There’s going to be young players out there all over the place,” he said. “We’re just going to have to throw them in there. … We can’t look to our bench and say, ‘Let’s get a more veteran player in there.’ There aren’t any. They’re just going to have to get in there.”
The good news for Michigan is they reeled in two highly touted freshmen, led by Chatman, and picked up two sleepers late in the cycle who could contribute as soon as this season, with each of them bringing something different to the table. After the jump, a much closer look at the four freshmen on the wing.
[Hit THE JUMP for detailed breakdowns of each player.]
Measurables: 6'7", 210
247 Composite Ranking: 4*, #7 SF, #27 OVR
Highest Ranking: 5*, #6 SF, #23 OVR (Scout)
Lowest Ranking: 4*, #11 SF, #38 OVR (ESPN)
Highlight Tapes: MaxPreps 2013-14 Highlights, NBPA Top 100 Camp, MaxPreps single-game reel, UMHoops Italy Rewind (stats & video)
Chatman is a remarkably intriguing prospect for Beilein's offense because of his unusual development path as a high-schooler. As recently as his sophomore season, Chatman was a 6'3" point guard; then he sprouted into a 6'7", 210-pound skilled wing with excellent rebounding instincts, and his recruiting profile rose to that of a borderline four/five-star on all four services.
In fact, Chatman may not be done growing, or at least he can effectively play larger than his listed height: his wingspan is nearly 6'10", and he's got the lanky frame to easily add more weight as his career progresses. He should be an upgrade on the boards over Robinson, who possessed more athleticism but less length and feel for rebounding.
There's the potential for Chatman to be a significant contributor on offense beyond putbacks, as well. He's got a solid mid-range game and has worked on extending his range out past the three-point line; he shot 4-for-12 from beyond the arc during Michigan's tour of Italy, and that was using the FIBA three-point line, which is a little over a foot further from the basket than on an NCAA court. If Chatman can simply be a GRIII-level 30% three-point shooter—certainly not out of the question—that'll provide the spacing necessary to keep the lane open for the likes of LeVert and Walton.
Chatman can also handle the rock adeptly for a player of his size and can facilitate the offense. As a lefty who'll mostly play on the right side of the court as the four in Beilein's system, Chatman should be called upon to run some high screens—he worked on that in Italy—and he's got the skills required to make that work, per Scout ($):
Chatman, a 6-foot-8 combination forward, assisted the field goal that forced overtime, made a keen baseline pass for a three to start overtime, plus hit a pair of free throws and the game winning three with a second left to win.
For his size, Chatman has tremendous ball skills, an impressive feel for the game and is a very good facilitator. Of Chatman's 11 field goals, four were mid-range pull-ups. He's comfortable shooting off the dribble and also has confidence in his post turnaround jumper.
In fact, his dribbling and passing ability lead off UMHoops' excellent video breakdown of his game:
Chatman isn't going to be the elite transition player that Robinson was—he's got plenty of athleticism, just not of the jump-out-of-the-gym variety—but he can help make up for Robinson's lost production in other ways, namely rebounding, handling the occasional high screen, and learning to time those backdoor cuts to the hoop as well as GRIII did from the same position. As the probable fourth option on this team, focusing on those areas should be more than enough to keep the offense rolling.
Defensively, Chatman's biggest initial impact will come from his rebounding; there's hope here that he can be an instant upgrade over Robinson in that regard. His continuing physical development should help him hold up against bigger forwards, though defending down low—and defense in general—will be a work-in-progress like it is with just about any freshman.
Measurables: 6'9", 220
247 Composite Ranking: 4*, #32 SF, #123 OVR
Highest Ranking: 4*, #14 PF, #69 OVR (Scout)
Lowest Ranking: 3*, #55 SF, #247 OVR (247)
Highlight Tapes: Junior Mixtape, MaxPreps Holiday Classic Highlights, Senior Playoff Mixtape
Wilson is a major wild card on this team after making a big move up the recruiting rankings late in the 2014 cycle. (Sound familiar, anyone?) Scout, the most reliable basketball source of the four services, ended up placing Wilson well inside their top 100 after he showed off tantalizing skill to go along with his lanky 6'9" frame over the course of his senior season ($):
An unranked three-star coming out of the summer, Wilson is now No. 67 overall and considered a four-star prospect. Wilson has gotten bigger and stronger over the past six months, and that combines with an excellent size and skill combination to push him comfortably into the top 100.
Wilson really impressed national analyst Evan Daniels during January in an in-person viewing, and now the 6-foot-9 forward has a chance to come in and be a big time contributor for the Wolverines. He still needs to add strength, but everything else is there, and Wilson is someone who is definitely on the rise.
Wilson fits the profile of a Beilein stretch four better than anyone he's had at Michigan save perhaps Evan Smotrycz, and I'm not even sure about that. He's 6'9" with a 7'3" wingspan; at 220 pounds, he's already big enough to at least get by at the four, and he's got plenty of room to fill out and become a major presence around the basket.
Meanwhile, Wilson stands out on tape by being a very smooth operator for a player his size. He's a fluid athlete with plenty of spring in those legs—he can throw down highlight-reel dunks and was a very productive shot-blocker in high school. He gets up and down the floor really well and can spark a fast break off his own rebounds or blocks. He's got soft touch at the rim. He's already got college-ready shooting range. The highlight reel creates plenty of reason for excitement:
Wilson wasn't able to play in the Italy tour due to finger surgery that cost him six weeks over the summer, but he's been practicing in full for a couple weeks, and Beilein likes how he's developed both on the court and in the weight room:
"I've liked what I've seen," Beilein said of Wilson's return to the floor. "He's another guy who can multi-position at any of the three frontline spots. He has gained significant weight, good weight. ... I look forward to getting some more consistency with what he's doing, but he's picked things up quickly as well."
As Beilein noted here, Wilson could also play as an oversized three or undersized five, though it'd be a little surprising if he did the latter much this year unless he's added a great deal of strength.
Wilson should eventually develop into the ideal stretch four—or even stretch five—for Beilein's system. How quickly he starts rounding into form will help determine just how good Michigan can be this year; if he's able to play 15-20 productive minutes a game, he gives the Wolverines a size/skill/athleticism combination on the interior that they simply don't have anywhere else on the roster.
Also, he has great hair. Just had to point that out.
Measurables: 6'6", 190
247 Composite Ranking: 3*, #79 SG, #325 OVR
Highest Ranking: 3*, #70 SG (247)
Lowest Ranking: NR (Scout)
Highlight Tapes: Senior Mixtape, UMHoops Scouting Video, UMHoops Italy Rewind (stats & video)
Dawkins committed at the tail end of April after taking a prep year in 2013-14. The son of Stanford head coach and former Duke standout Johnny Dawkins, Aubrey flew almost entirely under the radar; before Michigan swooped in, he appeared destined to end up at Dayton, and his other offers came from Cal Poly, College of Charleston, and Northeastern.
This confuses me a great deal. At 6'6", 190 lbs., Dawkins isn't lacking the size to play on the wing at this level. He most definitely doesn't lack the requisite athleticism, either:
hello rim how's your day been mine's going quite well thanks
Then Michigan gets to Italy and Dawkins is showing off a smooth outside shot (5/8 3-pt over the four games) and beating the occasional guy off the dribble in addition to finishing in transition like you'd expect an athlete who can do the above would do. He did an excellent job of filling the GRIII void: run and finish on the break, pick up easy buckets when teammates create openings, and otherwise stay out of the way.
At the very least, Dawkins looks like a potential three-and-D role player off the bench whose size and athleticism allows him to defend multiple positions; with his pedigree and eye-popping vertical, it strikes me as bizarre that he didn't pick up more high-major interest. Scout's Brian Snow thinks Dawkins may be another late recruiting coup for Beilein ($):
Dawkins would fit the mold of the late bloomer that Beilein has done so well with. He had a very solid year at New Hampton Prep, and earned a lot of buzz late in the process. While he struggled against top competition at the NBA Camp in the summer, the word is Dawkins has made tremendous strides and could be a late steal on the wing for the Wolverines.
Either Dawkins or Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman must contribute immediately off the bench to give LeVert and Irvin some rest, and Dawkins has an obvious role—finish in transition, hit open threes, find easy looks as a cutter, and play passable defense—that he should be able to fill. In all likelihood, both Dawkins and MAAR are going to play this year, but if I had to go with one I think Dawkins is more likely to see extensive time; he's got the complementary skills to be productive filling in the gaps while surrounded by an experienced, skilled squad.
Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman
Measurables: 6'4", 175
247 Composite Ranking: 2*, #87 SG, #384 OVR
Highest Ranking: 3*, #65 SG (247)
Lowest Ranking: 2*, #102 SG (ESPN)
Highlight Tapes: DUNK IN YOUR FACE, UMHoops Senior Highlights, UMHoops Scouting Video, UMHoops Italy Rewind (stats & video)
MAAR produced at a record-setting level in high school, but there are caveats: he didn't play in a hotbed for hoops talent, he didn't play in heavily scouted AAU tournaments or camps, and he was almost literally the oldest a player could be while staying eligible for high school basketball—he's already 20 years old, just a week younger than junior Caris LeVert.
Perhaps as a result, MAAR was another late offeree Beilein landed without much in the way of competition; his other offers came from Bucknell, Drexel, George Mason, and Harvard. His advanced age should mean he's more physically ready to hit the court than your average freshman; on the flip side, it means one must take his high school numbers with a grain of salt, as he amassed them largely against younger competition.
Michigan lacks a backup guard who can handle occasional point guard duties in addition to playing on the wing, however, and that should be the role MAAR slides into this season. He's already got a signature skill, too, after carrying a reputation as a foul magnet in high school before recording an absurd 108.7% free throw rate in Italy—yes, he drew so many fouls that he ended up attempting more free throws (25) than field goals (23). He needs to work on his shooting beyond the arc (2/10 from three in Italy compared to 9/13 from two) and from the line (16/25), but he appears to have a great feel for when to go up around the hoop.
If MAAR can find a way to continue that success, he's got a role on this squad, especially since he also has the potential to emerge as a defensive stopper. At 6'4", his length could give opposing point guards problems, and he came away with nine steals over those four games in Italy. He left high school with the reputation as a versatile, energetic defender, and that alone might be enough to get him on the court.
The four recruiting sites literally stopped scouting the guy during his senior season, so his potential impact is very much a mystery. Like Dawkins, however, it appears he's got a role carved out for him if he's ready for it.