Jon Teske (Jr): 12 MPG last year, top-30 OREB rate, rim protector, 118 ORTG(!) thanks to scanty TOs and huge FT rate. 60% from line.
Austin Davis (So*): Played well in scattered minutes here and there. Projects as traditional big.
Colin Castleton (Fr): Stretch five is Wagner except with crazy gumby arms?
I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS
Wither five-out, and how crippling the loss?
I mean… it'll be fine? Probably?
— Michigan Men's Basketball (@umichbball) March 5, 2018
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.)
Meanwhile Teske's meh 5.4 block rate doesn't do his rim protection justice. This site after the game at Maryland:
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.
[After the JUMP: Teske O click, Moe 2.0?]
On the downside, there's no escaping that Teske isn't going to produce shots at the rate Wagner did. As this series as repeatedly fretted, the worst case scenario for next year's team is that Wagner's absence means that a lot of folks get pressed into late clock shots they're not suited for. The drop from Wagner's 25% usage to Teske's 16% has to be picked up somewhere. Teske might be able to pull himself up a bit, especially if his rumored three-point proficiency translates to the court next year, but unless Michigan decides to start posting up a lot he's likely to top out at 20. Chance that Michigan starts posting up a lot: zero.
The good news is that Teske had a "click" moment midseason, around about the time Michigan drivers started using Teske as a re-screener after a slip. Ace:
Over the last month, however, the light came on. Teske played only 18 combined minutes across three games culminating in the February 11th trip to Wisconsin. To that point, facing top-75 competition (venue-adjusted), Teske made only 13-of-28 two-point attempts in 13 games—nobody that big and skilled should be sub-50% inside the arc. He's 8-for-13 on twos in the six top-75 games since, culminating in the 14-point outburst at Purdue, while averaging over 15 minutes in that span. He's finishing with an authority he hadn't shown previously, as Isaac Haas can tell you.
Teske's also settling into the offense in ways that don't show up in his personal stat line. Using data from Hoop Lens, here are Michigan's offensive stats with Teske on the floor before and after the trip to Madison (top-100 non-conf. games and Big Ten only):
There's noise in here, to be sure—the nearly ten-point gap in three-point shooting should be attributed more to luck than anything Teske is doing. A six-point difference in two-point percentage is less fluky and remarkably impactful, however, and there's reason to believe it's sustainable based on the film.
By the end of the season Michigan's offense was actually slightly better with Teske on the floor after February 1st. EFG, TO rate, and various other factors remained static; FT rate dropped a lot and OREB rate rose a lot. That's about 300 possessions—five games worth—against top 100 opponents. It's not nearly enough to declare anything but it certainly suggests that Michigan's offense can survive in the post-Moe era. It'll get tougher without Wagner since teams will be gameplanning for Teske and not focusing so much on pick and pop, but that's what team-wide offseason improvement is for.
If the rest of the team can pick up the usage slack, Michigan won't miss Wagner much. Moderately large "if."
I am from the internet and have repeatedly suggested Austin Davis could/should transfer?
Finally, I have found you. Cut that shit out. Ain't happening, and shouldn't.
Never give up on a big. Never! Never never. Ok, maybe sometimes when they have narcolepsy or you wish they had narcolepsy because it might improve their defense. But definitely don't give up on a redshirt freshman big who got stuck behind an NBA player and the already-discussed Jon Teske.
In the exceedingly brief windows that Davis played against real teams, he acquitted himself well. He forced Isaac Haas into a tough hook shot he missed against Purdue; he was not exploitable at Breslin when the usual atrocities forced him onto the floor; he's rebounded well. Since Davis's high school career was spent at Onsted that's about all the data we have on the guy. It is vaguely positive.
Davis is never going to be the Moe Wagner super bomber. Your author believes he can still be at least a useful piece this year, spotting Teske when that's a necessity. "Jordan Morgan plus a couple inches" is the ideal. He will be a key backup unless the next guy's improvement is exponential.
WHY ARE YOU BURYING THE MOE 2.0 LEDE?
Maaaan I don't even want to think this is a real thing:
Colin Castleton has our attention, and that of Rivals. They just moved him up 40-some spots in their final 2018 rankings.
Before this year, Castleton was always a bundle of potential in a disturbingly skeletal package. His early highlights gave me an unaccountable desire to write a check to Sarah McLachlan. This video from about this time last year featured a very very active and very very skinny Castleton, who is #22 in the foreground:
That is a post version of Caris Levert right there.
He since filled out considerably and has evidently spent most of his time working on euro-style skills. Per his high school coach he not only hit threes at a 38% clip but also took more than anyone else on his team, and in the highlights above you can see how that might be the case. Castleton's stroke is a hair quicker and smoother than Wagner's, and his drives to the buckets are straight out of the same book. He even goes behind the back at one point early in the tape. Add in his potential as a defender—he had the #2 block rate in the most recent EYBL and was acquired largely by Luke Yaklich—and you're probably looking at one of the most underrated prospects in the 2018 class even after Rivals flung him upwards. ESPN still has him rated in the 70s.
While it's unlikely that Castleton comes out of the gate strong enough to warrant much playing time (remember Wagner sitting behind Donnal a couple years ago), Michigan might as well take their shot with him. A redshirt would be pointless. The combination of Castleton's skills, frame, and athleticism with Beilein player development should see him to the NBA before a fifth year, easily.
But I wouldn't bet on him to blow up immediately.
Teske should be a rebound machine and all-around defensive upgrade on Wagner; whether that's enough to offset the offensive drop is up to his teammates. If Poole is a 25% usage guy with high efficiency and Matthews is his low turnover version from late in the season it's going to be fine. Teske's offense is likely to be restricted to acting as a roll guy on the PNR and the occasional decent midrange look. I want to believe that he'll start canning threes but his FT rate makes me skeptical. Even if he's not offering stretch out to the three-point line he should be one of the better Cs in the league.
Backup minutes will probably be Davis's and that'll probably be all right. I have no basis for that assertion except a few possessions here and there.
Castleton will play but will probably be too slight and too overwhelmed to do much, especially early. Wagner got 8 MPG his freshman year and he was playing behind Doyle and Donnal, not an established defensive force. 2019-20 will be fascinating; Castleton should be ready to break out but Teske probably isn't an early entry candidate given the way the NBA is going. Going to be crowded for a bit.