Kill Zack Kill: A Case for More Playing Time

Dylan Burkhardt

(caption) Michigan's Zack Gibson blocks a shot by BC's Reggie Jackson, but gets called for a foul on the play in the second half.  ***  Boston College defeated the University of Michigan 62-58 in an ACC Challenge game that wasn't as close as the final score. Boston College led nearly the entire game, most of it by a wide margin before Michigan made it close at the end at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor.  The Photos taken on Wednesday, December 2, 2009. ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News ) image

Most readers would probably agree that I have not been a huge fan of Zack Gibson. My counterargument is that I try not to play favorites and take a rational approach to analyzing players. Frankly, Zack Gibson has always been a guy who had all the potential in the world but never produced.

But the 2009-2010 Zack Gibson appears to be a brand new player stuck with his old playing time. At this point, it’s hard to justify John Beilein not finding ways to get Zack onto the court for more than 12 minutes per game. The numbers just don’t lie:

  • 11.6 minutes, 7.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, and .8 blocks per game.
  • Shooting 61.8% from the field (64.7 eFG%) and 73% on two point field goals.
  • Offensive rating of 128.8 (team best) with a usage rate of 22.7%.
  • The highest total plus/minus scores since Thanksgiving in very few minutes.

It’s early and the sample size is limited but Zack Gibson has been playing phenomenally. Is regression toward the mean possible with extended playing time? Of course, but why not find out?

Gibson is not without his flaws. He still has the frustrating propensity to pick up silly fouls (5.9 fouls per 40 minutes). He still shoots the ball a lot (he takes 27.5% of the team’s shots when he’s on the court). He’s still shooting just 25% on three point shots (but who isn’t on this team?). He’s still a lackluster defensive rebounder (12.8 defensive rebounding%) and he’s certainly not a passer (just 1 assist this year).

gibson-blockBut he’s active on offense and defense and has been extremely productive. He runs the court well in transition and usually manages to find his way to a couple offensive rebounds while turning the ball over less than he has before (TO rate of 6.4%, down from 18% last year). He also has had a positive effect on Michigan’s two point field goal defense because he is the only shot blocker on the roster (7.6 block% compared to Peedi’s 2.9%). Not to mention the fact that Michigan seems to go on runs whenever he enters the game.

The biggest question is how to find him minutes. DeShawn Sims has struggled, but Michigan needs Sims to produce, so cutting Peedi’s minutes makes little sense.

The obvious answer is to play DeShawn Sims and Zack Gibson together at the expense of Anthony Wright. Wright is playing about 10 minutes per game backing up Zack Novak and Manny Harris. Wright has the worst effective FG% on the team, 31.8%, and simply isn’t producing.

By going big when Novak or Harris are not on the floor, Michigan would double Gibson’s minutes, replacing the least productive player on the roster with the most productive. Seems like a win-win. If there was ever a time to roll out this strategy, Wednesday’s game versus a Utah team that starts a 7’3” center and a 6’11” power forward seems to be it.

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  • Giddings

    One more thing to note about Gibson is that he seems to have a really good connection with Stu. I wouldn’t be surprised if more than half of Stu’s assists are to Zack. When they run the pick and roll, watch out…

  • Paul F.

    Zack Gibson is playing better love to see him In the starting lineup. At 6′ 10″ can block shots and Rebound and can step out and shoot a three. Does he play a little sloppy sometimes? Yes he does but, everybody on this team is. Put him in there see what he can bring.

  • eddie

    While I agree we need to mix things up, Zack deserves more minutes, and Utah’s size demands this change; I think we should remember all of the silly fouls, soft play, and times when guards rip rebounds out of Zack’s hands.

    What would scare me is both Sims and Gibby in foul trouble–a very real problem considering Zack’s propensity for silly fouls–leaving us with a gimpy Cronin, Puls, or a squad of 6″5′ guys on the floor.

    Zack’s a nice player, but I’m not ready to give him much more than about five more minutes a game than he already gets.

  • Erik

    My only criticism of this article is that you start out saying Gibson has the highest offensive rating on the team, but then you kind of knock him for taking 27.5% of the shots when he’s on the floor. That shouldn’t be a negative, that should be a good thing! We want our best offensive players to take the most shots!

    I say bring in Gibby. If he picks up two quick fouls you sit him and go with the normal rotation until the 2nd half. In my opinion, I’d rather have him foul out every game while getting the most minutes out of him and Peedi rather than let him ride the pine for fear of fouling out. In other words, leave it all on the floor. Fouls are like timeouts, they don’t carry over.

  • JimC

    Great pic of Gibson blocking the BC guy. (Didn’t he get called for a foul on that play? Either way clearly a clean block)

    Even though he’s not a ball handler, Gibson could be taking minutes from several less productive sources: Wright, Stu, Novak etc.

    Dylan’s points seem pretty clear.
    But I wonder how JB thinks…sometimes his substitution calls are really odd.

  • I really don’t see how Zack takes minutes from anyone else. He’s not going to be a 30 minute guy, that’s for sure. But replacing Ant makes sense at this point.

  • dave

    he needs to get 20 mins a game i think that is realistic and if he keeps producing at a high level at 20 mins then give him more…….at some point we have to get off the novak bandwagon and realize that we need height, and somebody who is producing as much or more than novak needs to be playing instead………..foul troubles are the only reason why gibson and sims arent playing together……look at how long beilein leaves his starting 5 on the court to start games they all play like the first 8 mins of every game……let gibson start then bring novak in and go from there

  • Kevin in GR

    Don’t forget that this is also his last year……So it’s now or ever for him. I think there’s something to be said about that…..just look at what Merritt and Lee last year. He has a sense of urgency that others may not.

  • It’s also DeShawn’s last year… Would love to see him start to play with a sense of urgency.

  • Jeff

    This is a no-brainer. Should have been done several games ago. Size is still a big weakness on this team. They can easily take minutes from Wright and Novak (who is playing too much and is not a power forward by any stretch). I’ve been kind of puzzled by people worrying about foul trouble. If you’re not going to play him more than 10 minutes a game, then he may as well be in foul trouble. The result is the same, he’s on the bench. I’m not saying give him 30 minutes or anything, but give him 20 until he proves he doesn’t deserve it.

  • dave

    now that i think about this novak gets 30 mins a game and certainly doesnt deserve that …30 mins means hes producing and is a reason why they will win games…….i just dont see this from him compared to gibson………..if gibson isnt going to get more than novak they at least should be getting the same amount of mins

  • I have a tough time saying anyone deserves those minutes over Novak. He might not be scoring but he is one of the most productive players in almost every aspect of the game.

  • Jeff

    I personally don’t think Novak is as good as some people do. He’s a decent shooter, but very streaky (like everyone else on the team) and he seems to play within the offense well. On the negative side, I think he’s a poor defender. He’s too small to guard big guys, and he’s too slow to guard everyone else. Yes, he hustles, but he doesn’t seem to be getting as many rebounds this year, probably because people are more aware of him now. I’ve seen a lot of times where he tries to sneak in an steal a rebound, but the opponents are ready for him. He’s one of their five best, but I wouldn’t mind seeing his minutes drop down to the 25 minute range.

  • Aaron

    I like this plan! I’m excited to be a part of it! Let’s do it!

  • michigan fan

    Yes, get Gibson in there for some additional minutes! It’s not like playing with two guys 6’9” or over would be so bad. He could help shore up the interior defense and is a decent shooter. I sometimes think the coach really just wants a small lineup despite having this option.

  • maxwell’s demon

    I am in complete agreement with Dylan. I like 20 minutes of PT for Gibson with roughly 10 of those replacing Novak and 10 of those replacing Sims (assuming each gets about 30 minutes a piece). If we had a little more depth in the post then maybe it’d be nice to cut Novak’s minutes a bit just for the sake of height, but we don’t have that depth and so I think this is next best scenario. Since Beilein seems enamored with Wright I wonder if we see him eat into Novak’s minutes a bit (bad idea IMO).

  • A2MIKE

    I can’t remember if I posted this here or on mgoblog. Anyways, I love the idea of Gibson coming in at the 13 minute mark or so to give a break to Sims. Bring Sims back with 10 or so minutes to go, let them play together for 4-5 minutes depending on the flow of the game. This gives Gibson 8 minutes in the first half and less possibility of foul trouble. In the second half you bring Gibson in earlier, say the 15 minute mark to replace Sims again. Bring Sims back at 13 or 12 and give them 5 minutes together. This takes you to 8 or 7 left in the game. Depending on the situation you play Gibson and Peedi together for the last 4 minutes if needed. Just a thought. By the way when Sims comes back in he replaces Novak.

  • ToBlav

    Having playing time related to production certainly makes sense. I know that Coach Beilein has said in the past that for anyone to understand is subistution they would have to be at practice every day. It is common for player development to show up in practice before it translates to games. So he is dealing with more information than we are. Still if the patterns continue you’d expect it to show up in playing time.

  • maxwell’s demon

    This Hayward guy for Butler is awesome.

  • AG2

    Is ‘kill Zack kill’ an actual Maize Rage chant? Because it should be!!

  • Yes it is.

  • ryan

    Brundidge 26 points and 16 rebounds tonight.

  • Brick

    I didn’t know he was a rebounder. 16 is pretty impressive for a guy his size. He puts up great stats for such a young player.

  • I think he’s also forced to carry a lot of the load, similar to Manny Harris in high school in that sense. By far the best player on his team.

    Tim Hardaway Jr. netted 31 points with two triples on Monday night I believe as well.

  • Drew

    Anybody else scared after watching Indiana tonight? I know Pitt is certainly not who they were last year, but yikes…

  • Bball

    IU is cruuuushing them. They look pretty good. I’m hoping Pitt is bad and IU is overachieving tonight…

  • dave

    tim jr has been putting up some serious numbers thus far thats pretty exciting

  • JB

    i too would like to see gibson playing more minutes. however, i think comparing their productivity per minutes is kind of a lost cause. if we swapped gibson and novak’s minutes, i’m sure gibson would be a lot more tired and have less productive minutes. likewise, i’m sure if zack came in the game for 10 minutes he’d give us a lot more of a boost than he does in his 30 min. don’t get me wrong…i look forward to gibson playing more minutes.
    i know novak is way undersized and liability. i look forward to having size at 4 in the future, but given our current options zack does bring a lot to the table.

  • JB

    big win for IU and they’ll be very tough for us, but they’re really not very good

  • Matthew

    I’m liking A2Mike’s suggestion about how to use Sims and Gibson above. From your mouth to Beilein’s hairy ears.

  • JimC

    This UT game is huge tonight!!
    It’s a chance to get back on track!

    Now I know it starts at 9pm EST, but this morning a radio station was advertising an 11 pm (9 MT) start time on WOMC. Goofy.

  • MarcO

    Does anyone know where to see it online? I don’t have CSTV on my cable network.

  • RB

    Enough games have been played now to show that this is not just a slump. This is a bottom 3 team in the Big Ten. And things are not looking good for 2011. Depressing.

  • HHW

    Agree, this is not a slump. This is our team and they are bad. Can’t shoot from anywhere, can’t/won’t rebound, and play porous defense. This is the closest we’ve had to an Ellerbe quality team since he left. For all those people saying, “patience.” – Shut up. This team is bad and will have zero shot at any tournament. I don’t know what has happened, but I think it is unrecoverable at this point. Oh yeah, it was nice seeing Harvard beat BC, that was just icing on the cake.

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