The Michigan Wolverines lost to the Kentucky Wildcats four days ago, and the wound is still fresh for the players and fans. Yet the world continues to turn, and the future looms ahead.
Just what that future looks like is the question. The Wolverines are waiting to hear if three of their players will forego their remaining NCAA eligibility to enter the NBA draft.
The three players in question are Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, and Mitch McGary. It’s no easy decision and the best way to evaluate the choice is from the perspective of the fan, the player, and NBA scouts.
It is easy to look through the eyes of the fan and want every player to return. If Michigan fans had their way, this year’s team would have featured a junior Trey Burke and a senior Tim Hardaway, Jr. Imagine last year’s line-up with another year of playing together, it would be Final Four or bust. This doesn’t even take into account the valuable experience Derrick Walton, Jr. and Zak Irvin would have gotten from learning under Burke and Hardaway.
Yet it was easy to understand why Burke and Hardaway went pro. Burke left with every award imaginable and a Big Ten Championship, the only thing he didn’t win was a National Championship. Hardaway had recovered from a sophomore slump to become a reliable shooter, and he has flourished on the New York Knicks.
Stauskas is this year’s no brainer. The Canadian assassin was a consensus All-American, picking up a Big Ten Player of the Year award while scoring 17.5 points a game. He took a central role in the offense and showed he is just as deadly off the pick and roll as he is off the catch and shoot. Stauskas even improved his defense, probably the biggest question going into his sophomore season.
Stauskas doesn’t much left to prove in college, and he seems to be at the peak of his powers. He does love riling up the college crowd with his on court swagger, always accompanied by the three goggles. The only goal he could strive for is a national championship and a national player of the year award.
Stauskas projects anywhere from inside the lottery to the low 20s. Most have him in the 15-17 range, including Chad Ford and Draftexpress.com.
Glenn Robinson III is always a question mark for NBA scouts. He has talent and athleticism by the bucketload, but everyone worries about his inconsistency. Robinson did his best to shake off these questions by displaying aggression and confidence in the NCAA tournament. He calmly hit some big 3s to keep Michigan in the Kentucky and Tennessee games.
Robinson rarely had a bad game all season, but would disappear for stretches of the game. The questions of his aggression are fairly overstated, as Robinson plays his best when he complements the players around him. He can drive and hit mid range twos with anyone, but he is great at finding open space by the basket if other players get him the ball. Watch any Michigan game and see how well Robinson moves without the ball, not to mention the sheer number of alley-oops he can get.
Robinson projects to the second round for most experts. Hardaway last year is a good comparison, a projected second rounder who used summer workouts to up his stock. These workouts place emphasis on individual play rather than game experience, and this is a place where Robinson could pick up a couple of spots.
I don’t see what Robinson has to gain by coming back. I believe that he will always be deferential, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some players play best as a second or third banana. He could come back with an improved jumper and creating ability, but he could also develop that in the NBA. However, his stock is really low, coming around the 36th pick. Being a first rounder is important in terms of contract, so Robinson may wait a year to inflate his stock.
The toughest call is Mitch McGary. Last year, he was the spark plug of the bench until he was conditioned enough to turn into a monster in the Wolverines’ Final Four run. In the NCAA tourney, McGary averaged 14 points and 10 boards a game, showing off an improved mid-range game while playing against top tier talent.
A back injury derailed McGary’s 2013-2014 campaign. He didn’t play during the preseason or for the first two games, before playing in the next eight. After a loss against Arizona, McGary announced he would be having season ending back surgery. McGary played well when he got back, but it was clear his conditioning wasn’t what it needed to be.
Will NBA teams be seduced by his tournament performance question last year? That is the million-dollar question for McGary, who otherwise has a small body of work to show for his college career. However, one problem for McGary is his age. The big man stayed an extra year in high school, so he is already 21. NBA teams usually like players young for their grade, not older.
McGary could benefit by returning for a year and showing scouts why he was formerly the top recruit in the nation. However, if he does this, McGary will be 23 by the time he steps on an NBA court. This is a huge difference for the picky NBA teams. McGary currently sits at the 32nd pick for Draft Express, a few spots ahead of Robinson.
One player has already ended draft speculation. Luckily for Michigan, Andrew Dakich tweeted that he would not be declaring for the draft. He’ll be back to lead Michigan’s bench mob next year.