The Michigan Wolverines’ basketball team has lost three players in the past week. Jon Horford will transfer for his final year of eligibility, and Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III have declared for the NBA draft.
Losing Horford means losing a senior, a captain, and a big body in the post. He didn’t have huge contributions this year, but he would have picked up major minutes following the graduation of Jordan Morgan.
Stauskas was the Big Ten Player of the Year, and the main catalyst for Michigan’s offense. After spending the summer in Ann Arbor, it was clear that Stauskas was ready to make the leap from a complimentary player to being the team’s star. He was an efficient scorer, and he decided to cash in on his rising stock, as he projects to be a lottery pick in the upcoming draft.
Robinson dealt with bouts of inconsistency throughout the year, but the high-flying sophomore raised his game throughout the season, finishing with a great string of games. He was clutch in the NCAA tournament, and Michigan will miss his ability to move without the ball.
Mitch McGary is the only player left with an NBA decision. The big man is coming off an injury-plagued season that saw him miss all but seven games. McGary’s draft stock is largely based on his superb play during the Wolverines’ Final Four run. For the sake of argument, let’s assume McGary decides to declare for the draft as well.
This leaves Michigan with only 40 percent of their starting lineup. Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, Jr. are the two left. LeVert, like Stauskas, had a breakout season as a result of staying in Ann Arbor throughout the summer. LeVert showed stretches of brilliance, from his long-armed crossovers to draining pull-up three-pointers. Out from under the shadow of Stauskas, LeVert seems ready to claim the role of “The Guy.” He will improve on his sophomore campaign, and John Beilein will probably run the offense through him.
Walton looked like a freshman often during the early moments of the season, but continually progressed throughout the year. By the time the Wolverines finished the season, Walton was a solid piece that could occasionally be counted on to step up. The freshman showed flashes of his quickness, from picking the pockets of opposing guards to dribbling the length of the court in less than four seconds. He also has a solid shot, and will probably be utilized like LeVert was this year: a secondary ball handler to use in pick and roll situations.
The role of the small forward is one up for debate. Top 50 recruit Kameron Chatman may have to contribute early, much like Walton did. While not quite as athletic as Robinson, Chatman also has the ability to slash. He will play off the ball, most likely the fourth banana this season.
Also absorbing minutes at the three will be sharp-shooter Zak Irvin. Irvin was the designated gunner off the bench this year for Michigan. Irvin shot an incredible percentage from deep, but he will need to develop the rest of his offensive game. He showed less handle than Stauskas did his freshman year, so he will have to develop the ability to get to the rim.
Irvin is the same height as Robinson, so Irvin might be asked to slide down to the power forward on occasion. This won’t be a problem against the wing-oriented offenses of the Big Ten, but Irvin may not have the muscle to hang with the traditional fours in the league.
Mark Donnal will play both the front court positions. The freshman was redshirted this year to improve his strength and mentally prepare him for the grind of the Big Ten Season. Donnal is a stretch four who has shooting range out to the three-point line, as well as an array of post moves.
The rest of the minutes for the post will probably go to Ricky Doyle. The 6-9 recruit is a shot blocker who also has a little bit of shooting range. He is a little skinny at 225 pounds, but he may not have the opportunity to bulk up for a season like Donnal did. Doyle seems like another diamond in the rough pick-up for Beilein, an underrated recruit picked up early.
This could all change in the next few days. Mitch McGary may return, making a Doyle redshirt a possibility. Michigan is under the scholarship limit no matter what, so Beilein may pick up a late recruit or a transfer from another school. No matter what happens to personnel changes, Michigan fans shouldn’t worry. Beilein has shown an ability to develop talent during the season, adapting to whatever challenges he faces.