The State Of The Roster: Basketball Comment Count

Ace April 6th, 2016 at 4:06 PM

Kam Chatman and DJ Wilson could play major roles in 2016-17. [Fuller]

With the news that Aubrey Dawkins will transfer to UCF, Michigan suddenly has an open scholarship spot and a few different options for what to do with it. Before I get into the different scenarios, here's my attempt at a depth chart for next season if the roster remains unchanged:

Derrick Walton M-A Abdur-Rahkman Duncan Robinson Zak Irvin Moe Wagner
Xavier Simpson (Walton) (Chatman) Kam Chatman Mark Donnal
(MAAR) Ibi Watson   (Wilson) DJ Wilson
        Austin Davis
        Jon Teske

There's not much depth on the wings at the moment, especially if three-star SG Ibi Watson isn't ready to jump into the rotation right away. While much of the offseason consternation has focused on point guard and center, Michigan's most pressing need is another contributor at SG/SF, and there are a few ways they can make that happen.

John Beilein mentioned in his press availability today that the team will look to use DJ Wilson more on the wing—for Wilson, that would mean backing up Zak Irvin at the four—which would allow Kam Chatman to be Duncan Robinson's primary backup at the three. While that would go a long way towards alleviating M's depth concerns, both Wilson and Chatman would have to show considerable improvement for that to be an ideal solution. Unless one of Austin Davis or Jon Teske is ready to play spot minutes at center, which seems unlikely, Wilson will be needed at the five, too.

Of course, Michigan has that open scholarship, and it'd be a huge surprise (and failure) if they don't use it. I see four scenarios potentially playing out for Michigan, which I'll list in order of likelihood as I see it.

1. Add A Grad Transfer Swingman

Derrick Walton M-A Abdur-Rahkman Duncan Robinson Zak Irvin Moe Wagner
Xavier Simpson (Transfer Swingman) (Chatman) Kam Chatman Mark Donnal
(MAAR) (Walton) (Transfer Swingman) (Wilson) DJ Wilson
  Ibi Watson     Austin Davis
        Jon Teske

This seems to be John Beilein's first choice. Michigan has already reached out to Columbia grad transfer Grant Mullins, a 6'3" combo guard who functioned as a point guard this season but would likely be an off-the-bench shooter; he took just over half his shots from beyond the arc and made them at a 44% clip. Mullins would bolster Michigan's depth at three spots: he'd primarily play shooting guard, alleviate the need for Derrick Walton to slide over when MAAR needs a break—and he could play the point himself if something happens with Walton/Simpson—and give Beilein the flexibility to play some smaller lineups featuring MAAR at the three.

If Mullins doesn't end up here, Michigan would still benefit from going after a guy who could play the two and the three; I'd love to see Beilein go after a strong defender to fill that role.

[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the scenarios.]

2. Add A Grad Transfer Stretch Four

Derrick Walton M-A Abdur-Rahkman Zak Irvin (Transfer Stretch Four) Moe Wagner
Xavier Simpson (Walton) Duncan Robinson Kam Chatman Mark Donnal
(MAAR) (Irvin) (Chatman) (Wilson) DJ Wilson
  Ibi Watson   (Irvin) Austin Davis
        Jon Teske

I brought up Valparaiso's Alec Peters on Twitter when his name emerged—without any specific schools attached—as a potential grad transfer. Of all the players who've been mentioned so far this offseason, Peters is the best fit for this team. At 6'9", 230, he's a natural four, and he has the ability to play center as well. His rebounding numbers were quite good last year. He'd likely be an upgrade on defense—Valpo finished ninth in adjusted defensive efficiency. Most intriguingly, he's a high-usage, efficient, inside-outside scorer; Peters made 55% of his twos, 44% of his threes, and 85% of his free throws with no shortage of volume in any of those categories.

Unfortunately, there are a couple significant barriers to Peters ending up in Ann Arbor. Valpo coach Bryce Drew just took the open job at Vanderbilt, giving Peters an obvious landing spot with a coach he knows well. The other is that Peters' primary focus at the moment is on jumping to the NBA:

Junior star Alec Peters is set to graduate this summer and his name has been tossed around as a graduate transfer who could move to another program and have immediate eligibility next season. Vanderbilt was certainly be a possibility for Peters.

When reached late Monday night, Peters reiterated that he intended to enter the NBA Draft. Peters first spoke of declaring for the draft prior to the National Invitation Tournament semifinals in New York.

“All I’m working on right now is finalizing the paperwork to get my name in the draft,” Peters said Monday night. “I’m trying to get a few workouts and maybe get invited to the combine.”

Even if Peters tries to go the NBA route, however, there's a good chance he ends up back in college for his senior year because of the new rule allowing college players to declare for the draft, get the NBA's feedback, and return to school if they don't hire an agent. Peters isn't listed on Chad Ford's top 100 for 2016, which includes several players who haven't declared, and DraftExpress doesn't include him in mock drafts for either 2016 or 2017. Peters doesn't fit the profile of an early entry.

Whether or not Peters is an option, Michigan would do quite well if they can add a starter-quality stretch four, which would allow Zak Irvin to slide down to his natural spot at the three and provide a ton of lineup flexibility with Duncan Robinson coming off the bench. This is my ideal scenario, but it's harder to find a stretch four who fits the profile on the grad transfer market than a bench wing.

3. Bring Back Spike

Derrick Walton M-A Abdur-Rahkman Duncan Robinson Zak Irvin Moe Wagner
Spike Albrecht (Walton) (Chatman) Kam Chatman Mark Donnal
Xavier Simpson Ibi Watson   (Wilson) DJ Wilson
        Austin Davis
        Jon Teske

While this option is still on the table, it's not hard to read between the lines here:

As I've written before, Spike moving on is probably best for both parties. Xavier Simpson could be every bit as good as Spike from the get-go and Beilein won't want to stunt his development by giving him only a minor role as a freshman. Spike, meanwhile, isn't coming back from dual hip surgeries to ride the bench, and he should have plenty of options where a bigger role and a shot at the starting job are available.

If Michigan isn't able to land a grad transfer, however, it'd be better to bring Spike back than leave that scholarship open. At the very least, that would allow Derrick Walton to play a lot off the ball, a role he's done well with in the past; while Michigan would have little choice but to field small lineups quite often, Spike's return would do a nice job of shoring up depth in the backcourt.

4. Add A Late-Rising Recruit

While Beilein has well-documented success with late recruiting fliers, this is the least desirable option. Michigan needs to add a player who could contribute right away, and before you ask, no, Josh Jackson isn't happening.* Beilein's late additions, from Spike and Caris LeVert to MAAR, took a little while to adjust before finding their roles. That would put a ton of pressure on Chatman, Wilson, and Simpson to be significant contributors when the season opens; there wouldn't be much margin for error.

*I will so, so happily eat my words if it does, but it'd be one of the most shocking recruiting coups in a long time.



April 6th, 2016 at 5:45 PM ^

He said he wants to play with Bridges and Winston because they grew up together.

The people handling their recruitment want him to go to Kansas and think it is a better fit. The same people are not very happy with MSU because they didn't really include them in his recruitment.


April 6th, 2016 at 4:30 PM ^

Evan Smotrycz played quite a bit as a 6'8" stretch four before he transferred; he also played the five but he would've been a four long-term had he stuck around.

At West Virginia, Beilein played 6'8" Joe Alexander at the four, and I believe he had taller fours in general at WVU, but KenPom doesn't list heights/weights for his pre-2007 teams.

Just because Beilein has played shorter players at the four here doesn't mean he doesn't want bigger guys there. Note that, as mentioned in this post, he wants to play DJ Wilson on the wing. There are good reasons to believe Peters won't end up here, but it won't be because he isn't a fit.


April 6th, 2016 at 5:13 PM ^

forgot about joe alexander, that dude was a beast his final year at wvu (though not exactly the greatest nba game).  i remember watching alexander light up uconn for like 35 in the big east at msg


April 6th, 2016 at 8:07 PM ^

I'm sure he wants a taller four like we all would want a Steph curry for pg but taller, faster, stronger and better shooter. He just hasn't landed any since rich rod was the football coach. His trend has been to sacrifice height, bulk, and defensive ability for a slightly better 3-point percentage at every position. I'll take a 6' 11" rebounding / shot blocking monster over a guy like donnal who can hit a three pointer every other game but is allergic to playing above the rim.

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April 6th, 2016 at 4:26 PM ^

*I will so, so happily eat my words if it does, but it'd be one of the most shocking recruiting coups in a long time.

I believe the tradition around these parts is to eat a lemon, not your words, Ace. 


April 6th, 2016 at 4:26 PM ^

With this week’s news of the transfer of former starting point guard Kaleb Joseph and the graduation of starters Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney, Syracuse (a school that has had some Candians play for them in previous seasons) now could become a good landing spot for Columbia’s Grant Mullins. LINK


April 6th, 2016 at 4:27 PM ^

Your position breakdown is reasonable, but I don't think it's so important in figuring out who we need to add. 

Here is who can actually play each position if need be, players ordered in terms of small to big.  The thinnest group is the 1. Even the third string guy there, MAAR, is not very good, as evidenced by the fact that Beilein chose to play dakich there for big stretches. 

1 Walton Simpson MAAR

2 Walton Simpson MAAR Watson Irvin

3 MAAR Watson Irvin Robinson Chatman

4 Irvin Robinson Chatman Wilson

5 Wilson Wagner Donnal Davis Teske

If you look at our biggest need if you cross the starter off the depth chart at each spot, it's the 1:

1 Simpson MAAR

2 Walton SimpsonWatson Irvin

3 MAAR Watson Irvin Chatman

4 Robinson Chatman Wilson

5 Wilson Donnal Davis Teske

So, bringing back spike makes a lot of sense from a position-coverage standpoint, not to mention everything else he brings to the table. 




April 6th, 2016 at 5:05 PM ^

Spike woudl play at the 1 and the 2. If you add a "stretch 4" Irvin is still going to play the 4 at times. My point is you have lots of bodies you can throw in at the 2-5 positions. You only have 3 guys you can use at the 1, and one of them has not worked out well at all there (MAAR). So, to protect against injury, the 1 is what you need to shore up the most. 


April 6th, 2016 at 7:38 PM ^

Can't look at this on a positional basis without considering what you're taking from the other spots. The 2 line without starter is more scary than the 1 line, because there isn't a single guy that can replace MAAR that wouldn't be out of position, AND create a big problem at another postion, assuming Watson isn't going to be ready for big minutes which is all but certain.

If you have to take one of the PGs for the 2 spot, you're playing a super short, defensively challened guard lineup and neither guard spot would have a capable backup. It'd be a situation where you're losing the one natural 2 on the team AND losing one of your two PGs. Irvin doesn't belong on that 2 line.  He's never played the 2, isn't a great ball handler for that position, and would have trouble guarding quick guards. But yes, he'd probaby have to play spot minutes at the 2 which is worse than MAAR needing to play spot minutes at PG.

Dakich did not play PG for big stretches.  The main reason he had to play there for spot minutes at all, is that there was no one to play the 2 if MAAR moved over.  And we're back to the 2 spot being the thinnest.

So the recruitment of Mullins makes sense. Spike would be viable but not ideal because he's more of a pure PG that makes for a short and defensively challenged guard duo if 2 of the PGs are playing at the same time. I'm not sure Mullins is much better at defense.  I suspect not, but that's exactly why Ace is saying that a better defense option would be preferred if they go with a 2 transfer.


April 7th, 2016 at 10:58 AM ^

certain types of position types, is mental toughness. Spike is a leader who plays the game with control, inspiration and mental grit. Michigan sorely lacks this across the board more than anything else, especially in the post. They have'nt had it outside of Wagner who I like because of this alone, regardless of his skillset and foul-proneess, since Morgan graduated and Mitch departed.

In the backcourt, MAAR is the grittiest guy and most willing to take on any challenge going to the rim. Add more of that, and this team will be immensely improved.


April 6th, 2016 at 4:34 PM ^

A stretch 4 is ideal, but if that's not on the table, a wing who can defend on the ball is my next choice.  It was frustrating at times last year watching Robinson or Dawkins get blown by on the dribble.  We've seen how far this team can go with a serviceable defense.  The UD coaching search also looms large if Beilein is choosing a (hopefully defensive-minded) replacement for BA.  


April 6th, 2016 at 8:53 PM ^

You're exactly right.  It does still leaves the 2 spot a little thin.  Robinson there is a tough proposition defensively.  It was painful to watch any and all 3s blow by him this year; I shudder to think about 2s being at the rim before he even turns around.  But yes, in a backup role, he could play spot minutes there.

I suspect the targeting of a 2 guard by the coaching staff indicates that they're confident Chatman or Wilson will be the solution at 4. That would be ideal to use the extra spot on a capable 2 and have a guy on the existing roster not named Irvin be a valuable 4.

Mr. Yost

April 6th, 2016 at 4:35 PM ^

MAAR and Wagner should BOTH be coming off the bench. In the rotation, but 1st guard and 1st post off the bench. Maybe Duncan Robinson in a 6th man role as well.

The lack of talent on this team is brutal.

Beilein needs to find a STARTER to fill this open scholarship.

Mr. Yost

April 6th, 2016 at 4:45 PM ^


I'm not saying he's bad, no way...I'd just prefer to see him coming off the bench in a Jamal Crawford/Clippers role.

He can backup Walton at the point and we should have a Stauskas/THJ, NBA level player at SG who he can backup at the 2 spot.

Poor recruiting on Beilein's part. We're playing guys who'd be AWESOME bench players in starting roles and then wondering why we're a bubble team.

If you honestly think MAAR is our best player, get ready for the NIT next year.

I said it 2 years ago, I said it before last's not rocket science in basketball you need talent. For two years we've had teams that can beat anyone, no question, but they weren't good enough to consistently win at a high level.

If this is your team next year, then you're looking at more of the same.

I'll repeat. Wagner and MAAR should be coming off the bench. If you REALLY want an elite team, then Robinson should be coming off the bench. Those would be your 3 primary bench players with guys like Simpson, Chatman and Donnal rounding out your rotation.


April 6th, 2016 at 4:51 PM ^

Rahk was consistently our best option to drive to the hoop and score last season.  It's not too hard to make a case that he was our most valuable player at time last year.  If one of Chatman/Wilson can make the leap next year, then it would improve the 2 and 3, like you mentioned in your other post.

Mr. Yost

April 6th, 2016 at 9:33 PM ^

Which is why I said Jamal Crawford...yet JJ Reddick still starts over him, right?

Having a versatile combo guard coming off the bench can be lethal. He's much better suited for that role, IMO.

And just the fact that I don't think he's good enough to be a starter on an elite team. I'd much rather see a Stauskas/THJ starting over him.

You all who are fighting me on this realize that it's a GOOD thing to have good players coming off the bench right?

Again, I'm not saying MAAR isn't good...I'm saying if we want to be the team we were, we're going to need a better basketball player. However, if you move him to a backup combo guard position, he'll stack up very nicely against others in that same role around the country.


April 6th, 2016 at 11:44 PM ^

because Rahk is arguably more valuable (better all around player at his position) than Walton and Robinson (and certainly Donnal but you acknowledged the center needs an upgrade).  So yes, having better players is better, but a Stauskas/THJ starting over Robinson would arguably make the team better than one of them starting over Rahk.  Or a Trey Burke starting over Walton would arguably be a bigger upgrade than an equivalent all-american starting over Rahk.

That's the point.  He's not one of the two weakest projected starters next year.


April 6th, 2016 at 5:11 PM ^

...but I would consider him a legit, B1G starter next year. I assume he'll improve at least a little on defense, and at least a little on offense (e.g., passing) and combine that with him already being 47% FG, 37% from 3PT and demonstrated ability to get to the hoop? That's a starter I'm glad to have on the team.

Wagner -- I agree, it would be better from him to be super sub next year.  However, I'm excited to see what he can bring.


April 6th, 2016 at 5:38 PM ^

I don't agree with your comparison. JC is an old guy who comes in to score, a high-volume, low percentage guy. Doesn't play much D or do anything else. His value is as a super high-character guy who provides instant offense. 

MAAR is a Swiss army knife. He was possibly our best defender after Caris went down (low bar), and he contributed in different ways depending on the game - sometimes shooting, sometimes playmaking, taking it to the hole, defense, boards. 

If your point is just that they're both valuable bench guys, ok.

Mr. Yost

April 6th, 2016 at 9:35 PM ^

I was comparing the role of being a quality backup versus an average starter...that's it. I used Crawford because he's widely recognized as a valuable backup who plays solid minutes.

End of comparison.

Next time ask for a clarification.


April 6th, 2016 at 11:44 PM ^

"I'd just prefer to see him coming off the bench in a Jamal Crawford/Clippers role".

Seems pretty clear.  You named one specific player whose role is nothing like MAAR's IMO. I merely disagreed with your comparison, not your thesis.

Sorry if I ruffled your feathers. No internet fight intended.



April 6th, 2016 at 5:39 PM ^

That's pretty deep analysis. This team would be better with more talent? Huh. Weird Beilein hasn't thought of that.

The "problem" with recruiting high-level basketball talent, especially in the Midwest, is that Beilein and crew are won't pay off high school coaches.

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April 6th, 2016 at 7:07 PM ^

I like thinking about what should have been if Nik and GRIII hadn't of left early. Beileins history of playing development is such that he prefers to have guys play all four years, their last two being where they really thrive. He hasn't gotten that chance because of early entries and injuries.

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April 6th, 2016 at 8:01 PM ^

but to say we SHOULD have an NBA player at the 2 isn't even relevant right now.  Yes, it would have been nice to recruit that initially, but there is 0 chance we get an NBA player to fill that spot for 16-17 season.  By definition a grad transfer is not good enough for the NBA so he's looking for a spot to land.  Best you can do is get a solid contributor so that's what the debate is about.  Do we want a solid contributor at the 2/3 or the 4 as a best case scenario?


April 7th, 2016 at 12:16 AM ^

I think we can be pretty good next year.  

IMO the best candidate for 6th man is Robinson. He's instant offense off the bench (really, a better comparison to Jamal Crawford), and a liability defensively.

He could be the first guy off the bench. If he's hot, leave him in. 

He's not as valuable as a starter because he can't really guard anyone. He also seemed to get tired toward the end of the year. Fewer minutes would keep his legs (and jump shot) fresh.

The flaw with this, of course, is a lack of scorers without him. C'mon Kam and Mo, make a leap! If they could pitch in some buckets and take heat off Irvin and Walton, it could work.


April 6th, 2016 at 5:03 PM ^

I don't think #4 should even be considered. Beilein is not going to find someone at this point in the recruiting cycle that is capable of making an impact next year. Save the scholarship and get to work on the class of 2017. 

This team needs an infusion of talent that is ready to play on day 1. It doesn't need more projects that are going to take 2-3 years to develop.


April 7th, 2016 at 11:07 AM ^

Why? Caris was found at his point in the process, as was MAAR. And Duncan Robinson, too. Either get a grad transfer SG/SF or find a Mid-major offered kid who is being overlooked. I would prefer a grad transfer simply because they'd open up a spot for 2017 and give next year's youth a chance to develop. In essence, I'd rather get a stop gap and let this team go as structures. JB doesn't play more than 9, typically 8 guys. Those guys are on the team or are signed.

I can see all four freshman playing, so why add a fifth? Walton, MAAR, Irvin, Wagner, Donnal, Robinson leaves only 3 possible players having any significant time on the court. I imagine Simpson plays a lot because of his skill, and that we play a lot of small ball with Simpson, Walton, MAAR, Irvin at the 4 (like GR3) and a Wagner/Donnal rotation. Wilson and Chatman will either transfer or warm the bench. Davis and Teske will get a short leashes, unless we get a new vocal big man coach who convinces JB to let them play through mistakes.

Not trying to sound cynical, but that's been the m.o. for rotations since JB is here. It works for us to a point. Wagner has the skills, just needs weight and more PT. He was becoming a McGary like jewel at end of year. Donnal has soft hands, hence turnovers and poor rebounding. Davis seems to want to rebound--we will see. These are things most of us already see.


April 6th, 2016 at 5:09 PM ^

So our coach, who is excellent at developing the 1 through 3, finds himself with tons of empty holes at the 1-3, a mismatched 4 and a mass of junk at the 5.  How did this happen?