Season Review: The Departed

Submitted by Alex Cook on May 6th, 2016 at 11:24 AM


Upchurch / Upchurch / Sherman

Previously: Zak Irvin, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Duncan Robinson, Mark Donnal

With the news that Kam Chatman is transferring, what was a five-man rising junior class is now just two. Four players (including Spike – who will be playing for Purdue next season) who played last season are leaving with remaining eligibility. Ordinarily, this would be cause for considerable depth concerns, but since Michigan returns all five starters from last season’s tournament team – something that very few teams can say in this day and age – experience is actually an advantage for this team moving forward. Very rarely are teams able to sustain five-man lineups year over year and it’s reasonable to expect that Walton / Rahkman / Robinson / Irvin / Donnal will execute crisp offense together on the floor. If improvement from Wagner vaults him past Donnal (who’s much more of a known quantity) on the depth chart, all the better.

Right now, that depth chart might look like this:

um depth chart

We’ve seen the effect that limited depth can have on players, and it might be a concern again. Walton will have a very capable backup in Xavier Simpson, and fellow freshman Ibi Watson will get a shot behind MAAR, so the guard situation is much better than it was a year ago. There are enough big men: Donnal and Wagner will run into foul trouble, so there’s a need for a third option to emerge, but all in all, there are enough bodies at the five.

The main concern comes on the wing – and that’s why the departures of Dawkins and Chatman might be felt the most. Michigan has two open scholarships for next season and desperately could use a wing with immediate eligibility (either as ideally a grad transfer or a 2016 recruit) to offset those losses: Dawkins was Michigan’s sixth man and played just under 40% of available minutes, while Chatman chipped in 12%. By the postseason, both were essentially used only to rest the starters – Robinson and Irvin each played right around 90% of available minutes in the Wolverines’ five postseason games. As it stands, those two are the only wings left with any experience.

None of the departures – Aubrey Dawkins, Ricky Doyle, and Kam Chatman – are particularly unexpected; Dawkins fell behind Duncan Robinson and saw his dad take a mid-major coaching job; Doyle and Chatman were on the periphery of the rotation and a path to significant minutes for either was hard to find. Still, all three were good enough to play last year, and their minutes will need to be replaced. Doyle’s minutes will be split easily between Donnal, Wagner, and the freshmen bigs; Robinson and Irvin probably can’t handle many more minutes, let alone taking all the minutes vacated by Dawkins and Chatman.

[What will Michigan be losing? Find out after the JUMP]

total usage vs ortg

From a statistical standpoint, it doesn’t look like Michigan’s losing anything it can’t replace. Dawkins was pretty efficient due to his three-point shooting; Doyle’s offensive rating was low for a Michigan center; Chatman (who had an enormous usage rate in his sparse minutes) really struggled shooting the ball – except for that one time.

I posted a similar graphic in Irvin’s season recap, as his data point is certainly the most eyebrow-raising. If his three-point percentage (29.8) improves to even an average level, his overall efficiency would take a mini-leap; of course, he shot the ball better after he’d fully recovered from his injury. Zak’s also the late-clock creator more often than not, and when Michigan’s struggling to get shots, he’s one of the few naturally aggressive shot-hunters on the team. Still, if Michigan’s to make a significant improvement next year, Zak will have to become more efficient in the lead role. I digress.

Here’s what Michigan’s losing with each departure:

Aubrey Dawkins

After a promising close to his freshman season, Aubrey Dawkins received the most hype as the “most improved player” over the summer (it turned out to be LeVert). Unfortunately for Dawkins, his skill-set overlapped almost completely with Duncan Robinson’s – both are shooters, neither are defenders – and his playing time went down as Robinson got off to a hot start shooting the ball. Dawkins never seemed to find his rhythm for Michigan this season, though there were a few games where he provided instant offense off the bench in the form of a succession of made threes.

Dawkins was a very effective shooter (56% on twos, 43% on threes, 74% on free throws) and actually shot 50% from three in Big Ten play, far better than Robinson’s 35%. Still, Duncan played far more, eventually becoming so entrenched in the rotation that Dawkins rarely had a shot to inject some life into Michigan’s offense with his shooting. The main culprit was, of course, defense. Perhaps no one better epitomized the struggles of Michigan basketball more than Dawkins did: he had some nice skills offensively (though his dunking never translated into the actual games), but any chance of meaningful contribution was torpedoed by his inattentive matador defense. We hoped that Aubrey would develop into a 3-and-D wing,  but somehow it seemed as if his defense actually regressed.

Of course, with the lack of wing depth on the roster, it would have been great to have Dawkins back, even if his skill-set is redundant with Duncan on the roster. A knockdown shooter off the bench is usually a luxury, but Dawkins always needed to chip in a few threes to compensate for his defense. As Robinson became a better – though still not very good – defender, Dawkins’s playing time evaporated, even if he was shooting better than Robinson was. That’s why it’s really no surprise that’s joining his father at UCF – hopefully Aubrey can improve his defense, because if he does, he could be a great player for them.

Ricky Doyle

Doyle was the nominal winner of the battle at the five last year between he, Donnal, and Max Bielfeldt, but a year later, he was clearly the worst of the three.* Apparently he dealt with problems associated with sleep apnea, which would explain his seeming lack of energy and burst on the floor. Even when he was pretty successful as a freshman, it wasn’t because of his athleticism, so the problems that came along with sleeplessness and depression-like symptoms doubtlessly left Ricky struggling on the floor. Fortunately, he was diagnosed with the problem, so hopefully he’ll be able to eliminate his sleep apnea issues.

Once Mark Donnal emerged as a legit player against Illinois, Doyle’s playing time dropped off steeply – and after his grogginess during his start to the season, it wasn’t much of a surprise. Now that Moritz Wagner has shown flashes as a high-ceiling player, the writing was pretty much on the wall for Doyle, who also saw two incoming freshmen he’d have to battle for playing time (and as it’s usually wiser to develop young players, Doyle would have to play at a high level). It’s going to be interesting to see what school he transfers to and how he plays there after a redshirt season – Ricky was always a developmental guy and with his sleep issues in the past, he could be a real steal for a solid program, despite his athletic limitations.

*and Bielfeldt was clearly the best – a dynamic small-ball five who could moonlight as a four and who won Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year. He finally developed into what Beilein saw as his ceiling when he gave him a very late offer, but he fulfilled that promise for Indiana. At least Michigan went 1-1 against him.

Kam Chatman

Doyle – an early addition without any other major interest – and Dawkins – a late add whose best offer was Dayton – were under-the-radar recruits, but Chatman came in as the jewel of the class, a top 50 recruit. Kam never was able to adjust well to the faster pace of college hoops; as a freshman, he played 35.9% of available minutes but put up a really bad eFG% of 36.8. While his shooting improved a decent amount as a sophomore, his playing time went down and his overall efficiency still wasn’t very good, despite being a good passer for his size (assist rate of 14.2, higher than his turnover rate). Defensively, Kam was probably the best option on the wing, but it’s pretty clear that Beilein values players with good offense and poor defense far more than the inverse.

Any way you slice it, Chatman was a disappointment relative to his lofty recruiting rankings. Whether it was his youth (relative to his Class of 2016 peers) or a more unorthodox set of skills, it was hard for him to gel with his teammates and Beilein’s system. It was long assumed that he was Michigan’s most likely transfer, though during the time between Dawkins’s departure and Kam’s, it looked like he could be in for Dawkins’s minutes. In any case, the redshirt year should also benefit Chatman, who was put onto the floor far too early. He was a very sought-after recruit the first time around, and I wonder if that will linger as his second recruitment begins.

* * *

The biggest impact of these transfers, in the short-term, is the vacancy at wing – something that may or may not change as the roster for next season is finalized. If no other wing is added, perhaps MAAR could give some minutes at the three, though putting him, an undersized four, and a tiny backcourt on the floor at the same time may not be tenable. In the long term, these moves clear up room – instead of five players seeing their eligibility expire after 2018, there are now just two (and DJ Wilson, who could get a redshirt senior season for 2018-19).



May 7th, 2016 at 3:20 PM ^

True, but not as bad as at the 3 and 2. We could shuffle guys from the 5 to back up Irvin and Wilson at the 4. Wagner and Donnal could both be the 3rd back up at the four.

We can shuffle guys at the 2 and 3, but it would be more a robbing Peter to pay Paul exercise.

Two time MVP Irvin becomes the most valuable player as this roster stands today, since he can play the 2, 3 and 4.


May 6th, 2016 at 11:46 AM ^

What leads one to believe that its reasonable to expect  the returning starters will "execute crisp offense together on the floor" when these same guys never once last season executed crisp offense together even for a couple minutes? The only hope for crisp offense is Simpson. Otherwise I expect to see the same painful to watch, inefficient, easy to defend crap we saw all last season.


May 6th, 2016 at 12:27 PM ^

So we didn't execute crisp offense at all last season?

Not in any of our wins against NC State, Texas, Maryland, Indiana, Nebraska, or for 30 minutes against Notre Dame?

I must have a really bad memory if I was under the illusion that we had an OK enough offensive performances to win those games. 

Stringer Bell

May 6th, 2016 at 1:38 PM ^

The problem is the offense is reliant on making 3's. If those are falling, the offense looks good. If not, well, look out. The 2012-2014 teams had a beautiful offense that hit you in so many ways it was impossible to stop. This offense is not that.


May 6th, 2016 at 2:40 PM ^

Okay, I articulated my point poorly and I should know better than to use absolutes with this crowd, but the offense last season could rarely be described as crisp. My actual point was the use of "reasonably expect". No, Im sorry, I cant reasonably expect crisp offense from the same 5 guys that struggle to make plays at the rim and shoot the ball so erratically.

I am optimistic though that Simpson can come in and make the same type impact Trey made as a freshman and Wagner continues to develop. 


May 7th, 2016 at 1:04 AM ^

started his entire freshman year. You're optimistic that Simpson is going to start ahead of Walton and be a potentially borderline first round pick by the end of the year?  Because that's the impact Trey made.

Wagner developing could be impactful.  Incremental improvement from everyone else should be expected (on average), but you're not wrong to be concerned that things probably aren't going to get drastically better than the average B1G offense that we were last year without Caris.

The most likely area for improvement would be on the defensive end, and it depends on Wagner and Wilson making big leaps such that Donnal and Robinson don't have to play as much.


May 6th, 2016 at 5:41 PM ^

Not once is definitely hyperbolic. What's fair to say is that our offense was completely shut down in a number of games and was pretty mediocre in B10 play: 5th in OffEff and 6th in 3pt %. Not horrible numbers, but when your team is supposedly built around offense, those are not the numbers you'd hope for.

All that said, I could see the offense making a leap next year if Wagner picks up where he left off, Robinson shoots more steadily, and Simpson can contribute in a meaningful way in addition to minor improvements to Walton, Irvin, and Rahk.

N. Campus Tech

May 6th, 2016 at 1:37 PM ^

While you hyperbole, there was an ineffeciency in the offence. Players didn't seem to be on the same page, and there wasn't the alpha-male (Morris/Burke/Stauskas) that could really run the offense. Walton and Irvin are all second-bananas, and are really having a difficult time being the center of the offense. Hopefully Simpson can change all of that, but that might require him starting at the 1 and moving Walton to the 2 (where he should be)

I still think that Walton was hurt all year. He was so explosive going to be basket as a freshman and he hasn't been able to replicate that the last two years. 


May 6th, 2016 at 1:42 PM ^

KenPom has us at 42nd in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. That's not one of Beilein's better seasons, but it's still better than almost 300 other schools. That puts us 6th in the Big Ten. The offense wasn't great, but it wasn't the main problem. We were 10th in the Big Ten in defensive efficiency. Both marks need to improve. Either putting a healthy Irvin at the 4, or moving him down to the 2 or 3 and inserting a shot-blocking rim protector at the 4 (DJ Wilson?) would help matters next season.


N. Campus Tech

May 6th, 2016 at 2:19 PM ^

Our opinion of the offense is skewed by how awesome it was during the Burke/Stauskas years. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't as good as it was, and it wasn't good enough to compensate on how terrible the defense was. Worse than Rutgers, dude. Rutgers.


May 6th, 2016 at 12:03 PM ^

Having "enough bodies at the five" is neither the issue nor a winner's mentality. Eastern has "enough bodies at the five." The issue is lack of talent and the five, the four, and pretty much up and down the roster. My dad's league has enough bodies. What we don't have is talent...and neither does Michigan.


May 6th, 2016 at 12:14 PM ^

How about when Freshman Walton beats MSU in East Lansing?

Or the game winners Zak had against NW and Tulsa?

I'm sick of seeing comments like this and the one above. Give it a break. We're not Kentucky or Duke, and we'll never be. But Walton, Irvin, and Co. are talented enough to hang with, and beat any team in the country. 


May 6th, 2016 at 2:50 PM ^

I wholeheartedly disagree with the sentiment in you last paragraph. I am unwilling to meekly accept mediocrity just because that is our historical place in the grand scheme, a narrative Im also unwilling to accept. I doubt anyone at Michigan is willing to accept mediocrity either. When you do you quit trying.


May 6th, 2016 at 5:25 PM ^

John Beilein went toe to toe with ND for 40 minutes, with a lineup patched together after losing: 

1: The star player of the team, that the entire offense was built around (pick n' rolls, attacking the rim, floor spacing, etc.)

2.: Losing another senior leader on the court, who had excellent court vision, and was also deadly behind the arc, creating yet another floor spacer. 

3: Actual, real time minutes, played by guys like Dakich and Doyle, the latter which was battling sleep apnea. 

It was essentially the same team that hung with Wisconsin in the B1G Tourny in 2015. The same Wisconsin team that won the B1G Regular Season, Big Ten Tourney, and lost in the National Championship game to Duke.

So to imply that this group of athletes at Michigan can't hang with or beat any team in the Nation is just wrong. 


May 6th, 2016 at 5:42 PM ^

This is historically, an excellent program. I'm not sure Michigan fans want to disassociate and ignore their own rich history.

Yes of course we are not in the blue-blood stratosphere of Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, but we are on the next tier down and anyway these things can change quickly. Oregon's had far more success than Michigan in football over the last 20 years.

Michigan was a good team (#58 per KenPom) last year despite a lot of injuries.  Next year they return almost everyone and are very likely to end up a top 25 team.

Beilein needs to get better talent but everyone acting like this program is falling apart needs to get in touch with reality.


May 7th, 2016 at 8:37 AM ^

Who among us won't remember where we were when witnessing those historic wins over NW and Tulsa? I'll cherish those memories's the stuff programs are made of. Meanwhile, back in reality, we get outsized, out-worked, and — yes — out-talented by top-20 programs with alarming predictability. We're not talking about the elite...merely the good teams. BuckNekked has been right up and down this thread. The moment you accept this dumpster fire as good enough is the moment you become the middling team we are. Beilein should expect more of a Michigan program...and so should we.


May 6th, 2016 at 12:13 PM ^

I would rather have a grad transfer come that will leave in a year than give a scholarship to a late riser, just so we have that extra scholarship next year, when hopefully we don't have 4 transfers.


May 6th, 2016 at 1:38 PM ^

Walton is barely 6' and Simpson is clearly under it (though he'll probably get listed at 6' like Spike).  That's not going to be viable against some opponents.

Watson is going to have to play a role by necessity on this team. If he can knock down his 3s, he's going to play a good bit.

I think everybody coming in with the preconceptions that Simpson is the only freshman who can play (based on rankings I guess) should keep an open mind.  We don't have to think back very far to freshman whose performance has vastly differed from preseason expectations. 

We though Spike was going to be something like what Dakich is now.  We thought Caris was a lock to red-shirt.  We thought Chatman was a good bet to start from Day 1.  Etc.

I would not be shocked if Watson, Davis, or Teske even ended up starting by mid season.

Go Blue in MN

May 6th, 2016 at 12:46 PM ^

Alex, if we don't land a strong wing player for next year (either a good grad transfer or a ready-to-play frosh), might JB use Donnal at the 4, both when Irvin rests and when Robinson rests, moving Irvin to the 3?  Of course, to make that work, either Teske or Davis would need to log real minutes at the 5 when Wagner is out of the game.  Otherwise, we rely on Wilson a lot, and he hasn't exactly looked like a world-beater.

King Douche Ornery

May 6th, 2016 at 1:37 PM ^

Nice coach, a gym ratm, yada yada.

The peak, and the anomaly, was the championship/Elite 8 run.

Now we're back to being mediocre (which people seem to be very thrilled with), and "Bielein's Guys" aren't even sticking it out.

Time to think about who's the next coach.


May 6th, 2016 at 1:41 PM ^

It saddens me that somehow the basketball fans on this stie have now become 100% polarized.  You either hate everything with the program to the point where you want Beilein gone and don't think this core group can win without feel the need to go above and beyond your defense of what is clearly a solid but limited core group of players.  I don't like that everyone ends up on one end of the spectrum, especially when the truth lies somewhere in between.

The fact is that Michigan won a lot of games last year, made the tournament, and hung tough against a higher seed despite losing their two seniors, who happened to be the best player and fifth best player on the team.  Yes, Michigan was clearly inferior to the best teams in the country and struggled for long stretches at both ends of the court.  But they weren't the tire fire that some imply.  

Now we have a lot of fans running for the hills because of all the depatures.  The fact is, the guys listed in this post were probably the biggest examples of where the program has stalled the last two years (along with Wilson).  

  • Chatman was supposed to step in and play 30 minutes at the 4 and was not good enough to trust for more than a handful of minutes.  I'd argue against the comment in this post about him being the best wing defender.  He was perhaps best at guarding true PF, but he couldn't hold up against any SF.  
  • Dawkins was a flyer recruit, but was expected to be the starting SF this year and couldn't hold that job or capitalize on his athleticism in any way.  
  • Doyle was supposed to be the starter at center after his good showing against the POY Kaminski last year.....and was essentially the emergency center by the end.  

If you want to complain about the state of the program, how about the fact that these three transfers were expected to all be starters or solid rotation players and all were glued to the bench by the end of the year.  Their departure robs us of depth and whatever future potential they had (versus whoever takes those spots), but it doesn't rob us of actual contributors.  

Stringer Bell

May 6th, 2016 at 1:54 PM ^

This is why we are where we are. The 2014 class was the one where we really should have seen the bump from the NCG run. Instead, we missed on pretty much all of our top targets and were left with a class that appeared underwhelming and has looked worse and worse as time goes on. None of Doyle, Dawkins, or Chatman will end up at another major D1 program. That should tell you all you need to know about that disaster of a class. This is why its hard to trust the incoming class beyond Simpson, as their profiles fit more the departures from the 2014 class than anyone from the 2012 class. We'll see, but hopefully our new assistants kill it on the recruiting trail. Cant rely primarily on unearthing diamonds in the rough, as they're just as likely if not more to fail than pan out.


May 6th, 2016 at 5:15 PM ^

Dawkins is going to a mid-major but also would have been taken by plenty of high-majors given his upside. There's a chance he's an NBA player.

Doyle's been linked to USC.

I don't know where Chatman is going but he certainly will have plenty of opportunities.

All 3 of them are kids that well benefit greatly from a red-shirt/transfer year.

If they are the reason you don't trust Watson, Teske, and Davis you are grasping at straws. I mean, if you want to see Doyle as a litmus case for 3-star bigs Beilein identifies early, I suppose you can, but you have to also ignore Morgan and Horford.


May 6th, 2016 at 8:16 PM ^

There's a chance Dawkins is an NBA player!?!

Your kidding me right?

I mean, I guess there is a non-zero chance he makes it to the NBA. But if you consider that JB is heralded as one of the best developers of talent in NCAA, and that he really couldn't do squat with him, then it's a BIG stretch to think that Dawkins has any chance at the NBA.

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