First Take: Michigan Without Darius Morris

Dylan Burkhardt
on
tmn.SPORTS.bkc_.12-10-20100032[3]

Now that Morris is officially leaving his name in the NBA draft, it’s time to start thinking about next year’s team without Morris.

First, a word on Morris’s decision. This was a secret that wasn’t necessarily well kept. Morris and his family have been involved in extensive conversations with agents for quite some time and there never appeared to be much thought given to the idea of returning to school. We’d be surprised if Morris didn’t sign with Andy Miller or Leon Rose when he makes his final decision.

Dan Wolken summarized the situation in 140 characters:

Darius Morris’ decision to enter the draft was pretty much done a while ago. I really believe his college coach was the last to know.

The one part of this quote that I tend to disagree with is that nobody on the Michigan staff understood Morris’s plans. There appears to be elements of saving face involved in the situation, perhaps from both parties, and that seems like the only sensible reason for Morris to draw out the “testing the waters” process for so long.  At the end of the day, the decisions that were made over the last several weeks appear to have been more about what agent to hire rather than whether to stay in the draft.

Morris’s decision is far from flawless but it’s also not nearly as ridiculous as some wish to portray. The argument that I keep hearing is something like this: “Morris would be a lottery pick next year but won’t get drafted this year”. It’s completely possible that Morris could have improved by leaps and bounds next season and move his way up draft boards into the thick of the first round. It would have also been possible that he had a good junior season while his teammates shouldered a greater share of the offense, causing him to stay where he is in the draft, or even fall.

As things stand today, Morris is firmly on the bubble between the first and second round and the next 50 days will determine his fate. Morris actually pulled out of this weekend’s New Jersey combine, opting to spend his time working in Vegas before playing in front of NBA scouts. Strong workouts could move him firmly into the first round but if he struggles he could fall quickly down draft boards.

Looking ahead to next season is where things get interesting. There’s no doubt that losing Darius Morris is a significant blow to next year’s team. He was truly phenomenal at using ball screens to deliver the ball to the screener or scoring himself. That ability will be truly missed, especially by Jordan Morgan. He was also Michigan’s best two-point scoring threat and almost always the guy with the ball in his hands at crunch time. It’s unreasonable to expect Burke to be able to use a ball screen as effectively during his freshman season, but Michigan’s offense will also be a bit more balanced. Burke is a proficient three point shooter, Brundidge provides another driving option, Hardaway will take more shots, etc. The offense will be significantly different and Morris’s production will have to be replaced by committee.

First things first, expect Michigan to run significantly more possessions through Tim Hardaway Jr. next season. This is a shift that we would have seen even with Morris on the roster, but will certainly see without him. It’s tough to call this anything but a good thing as Hardaway developed so much as a playmaker during the season.

There are a lot of options in the backcourt but most lack an easily definable position. The options at the one and two spots include: Trey Burke, Stu Douglass, Carlton Brundidge, Zack Novak and Matt Vogrich.

Burke will be provided with every opportunity to earn the starting point guard position. Beilein wasn’t scared to give Morris the ball as a true freshman which leads me to believe that Trey will be put in a similar spot. He’s the only true point guard on the roster and he has talent, drive and knows how to play the game. The downside is that true freshmen point guards tend to struggle.

The player on the Michigan roster who might be hurt the most by this individually is Stu Douglass. In a perfect world Douglass would be a two guard that focuses almost exclusively on shooting the ball. Now, he’s going to have to juggle two positions, run the team for stretches and serve as Michigan’s primary perimeter defender.

Douglass playing some point guard is good news for Carlton Brundidge, Zack Novak, Matt Vogrich and, transitively, Evan Smotrycz. Brundidge will provide an instant scoring and attacking option off the bench. Novak will likely play more minutes at the two, rather than the four, which leaves even more opportunity for Smotrycz to develop and excel at the four position. Vogrich has the ability to play both the two and three and provides a shooting threat at either position.

There’s also the possibility of adding one more recruit…

Patrick Heckmann Takes Visits

Patrick Heckmann is developing into a possible, even likely, contingency plan after Morris’s decision to enter NBA Draft. Heckmann, a 6-foot-5 German guard, probably lacks a true position but would provide much needed size in the Michigan backcourt. He averaged 12 points (53.5% 2FG – 32.0% 3FG), 3.4 rebounds and 3.3 steals per game in the third German professional league (ProB) last season with TV Langen.

Heckmann plans to make three college visits and took two of those trips last week, traveling to the University of San Diego and Boston College (which went well). He returned home yesterday but is expected to make one more trip to the states. This has been rumored as a Michigan vs. Boston College battle for quite some time and it appears that’s how it will finish as well.

I’ve only seen the assortment of YouTube video on Heckmann but he appears to be a great option at this point. His versatility would allow him to play alongside almost any of Michigan’s guards.

Trey Burke: Journey to Ann Arbor Part 3

We already touched a bit on Burke’s role next season but he also started a trend among Michigan commitments by publishing Rocky-style training videos. Trey’s trainer has been filming features of Burke’s 5 a.m. workouts between the end of his high school season and when he heads to Ann Arbor in June. The latest volume also features some of the same workouts, running hills next to a dam and several interview segments as well:

V.J. Beachem at Eric Gordon All-Star Classic

We posted video of two of Beachem’s teammates, Zak Irvin and Zavier Turner, yesterday, but Joe Eberhardt passed along one more video from the weekend. This one focuses on V.J. Beachem, a 6-foot-7 versatile wing prospect being recruited by Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Butler – in no particular order.

  • Joe

    I want him to come back, so maybe that is fogging up my vision, but I don’t see how he is ready for the NBA. All I heard all season long from announcers and analysts is he can’t go left, he dribbles too much, and he has a lot of room for improvement. I just don’t want to see him end up like Marcus Taylor.

    I have a feeling this has to do with more than just basketball, because in a year when a lot of players are staying because of a possible lockout it doesn’t make sense for a early second round pick to leave.

    • DoubES

      It actually makes tons of sense to leave from a draft perspective. Darius is a fairly known quantity. He is not some athletic freak who doesn’t know how to play the game. He’s a solid prospect, with a couple shortcomings, who would only improve his theoretical draft grade marginally by another year in college. When you couple that with the fact that next year’s draft will have a much higher average draft grade, it makes total sense.

      Good luck to him. We’ll miss him.

      • Champswest

        Is the goal to get drafted or to succede in the NBA. Your argument seems to suggest it is to get drafted. It doesn’t do much good to make the roster this year if you are just going to get bumped next year when the “higher draft grade” class is drafted. The question becomes where would he improve the most over the next year, at UM or in the NBA. I don’t know the answer to that, unless there is no NBA season next year.

  • EchoWhiskey

    I’ll miss seeing how lethal Morris could have been for us next year with an improved jump shot and some left hand work, but if he feels this is best for him, then go for it. I will not denigrate the kid’s decision since I’m not privy to the information he has available to him.

    No doubt it hurts our term next year but I’m excited about the future. When we’re recruiting players that have the luxury of testing the NBA waters as sophomores it speaks to the growth of our program.

    Trey Burke looks willing and able to put in the work to contribute next year.

  • JD

    Yes, it does seem like Morris was there many times when we needed a bucket this past season and it’s going to be interesting to see who steps up in those moments. I think we need at least two guys to rely on in those moments.

    With all the experience Michigan gained this past season and my faith in Burke, I think we’ll still be slightly better than we were last year (maybe 10-8 in the Big 10) but we’ll be missing out on making that big leap without D-Mo.

    Again, I’d prefer we bank the scholarship and target a top PF/C for 2012 but getting Heckman wouldn’t be a bad thing for this year. It’s also very possible that TH Jr. might be NBA-bound at this time next year so we could still get a 2012 big man anyway.

    I’ll miss seeing Morris out there but I hope he does make his dreams come true….hopefully in a Pistons jersey!

  • Adam

    Joe.. very few players are truly ready for the NBA when they come out. All that matters is whether you have the tools to land you on a roster and whether a team thinks they can develop you. I think Darius clearly has the tools to get on an NBA roster. Point guards with his size do not come around often and while he may not be a star in the league, he has the skillset to be a great distributor, and potentially very good defender. I have no doubts that he will be playing in the league, and although I am extremely disappointed he won’t be coming back, I am not going to be sour grapes about it. I wish Darius nothing but the best and I hope he gets drafted into a very nice situation.

    • Champswest

      There are many who would argue that the NBA does NOT do a good job of developing young players, unless they come in being able to play significant minutes.

  • Adam

    Also… I want Heckmann bad! Hopefully we can land him as a contingency plan.. I want another tall guard!

  • Mattski

    Nicely done, Dylan.

  • Anton

    How similar is Heckmann to Stauskas? I’m thinking Heckmann is a little more athletic and Stauskas is a little better shooter and handler. What do you all think?

    • JD

      They seem a bit like a duplication to me, which could be an issue come next year. We could use Heckmann this year but it could create a logjam down the road.

  • MikeB

    Does anybody know how the information gathering process works for underclassmen going into the NBA? For the NFL, the league provides feedback for the underclassmen. That way they get an unbiased opinion of where they might get drafted. It seems to me basketball players get information from agents or teams’ scouts. Teams’ scouts might encourage a player to stay in the draft if it helps them. For example, let’s say the Lakers kind of like Darius, but they have him rated as their third option to draft. If they were worried their first 2 choices might get chosen before their pick, wouldn’t they encourage Darius to be in the draft? They might not draft him, but it makes the draft deeper for them.

  • Jordan

    Dylan, what (if any) impact did the relationship between Coach Beilein and Darius have to do with this decision? Or was this totally a “he’s reaching for his dream” situation? With Manny leaving undrafted and Darius a likely 2nd round pick…just makes you wonder what’s going on between Coach B and the stars.

    • Sam

      OK, this is the rumor that needs to stop. I’m sick of hearing that DMo and Beilein hated each other and didn’t get along and everything else. Why did DMo come to Michigan in the first place? He repeatedly said that he loved the attention Beilein showed to him, always making trips out to California to watch him play and they ended up with a great relationship. Obviously in the heat of games some players and coaches may get frustrated and angry with each other, but off the court I guarantee they had a good relationship.

  • Adam

    I’m so sick of this Coach B and the “stars” talk… nobody questions it on only teams when players leave early. Why does there have to be an internal problem anytime a player leaves early? Can’t it be that they want to pursue their dream of playing in the NBA and are tired of college?

    • Jordan

      Look man I totally get what you are saying but it’s not like these kids are leaving for first round picks…theyre MARGINALLY getting drafted. Face it, if Darius doesn’t get a first round selection, with likely no summer ball, he’s in bad shape for making the league next year (if there is a league next year…)

      • ForeverBlue23

        Everything I read says he can’t improve his position by sticking around because of the depth of next year’s draft. He’s marginal either way it seems, with better odds this year. He’s a confident kid and maybe he knows more than the naysayers or maybe he thinks he can develop his game while getting paid.

  • alan

    ok while im hating the fact that Darius is jumping in early…im put to ease everytime i watch this trey burke workout video. The kid gets up at 4am before school for a 2 hour training session, then works after school. I think this extra work will give him a great edge next season. Im hopeful hes the exception to the rule when it comes to freshman and he has a THJ type year

  • CB2009

    Dylan/Mod’s-
    I’m wondering if you guys have heard anything about any “rockiness”, for lack of a better word, regarding the relationship between Beilein and Darius. It was clear that Manny and JB clashed during Manny’s time here, and that may have led to Manny leaving a year earlier than anticipated. Kelvin Grady left the team at least partially due to not being able to get along with his coach (I heard this directly from a former player who I asked about Grady). Darius was benched for the beginning of what I think was the Purdue game, and I never heard specifically why. Do you guys think there is any possibility that the sub-optimal player-coach relationship was steering Darius to the NBA at all?

    • CB2009

      just realized i pretty much said the same thing as a comment above… my bad

  • ChiGoBlueChicago

    I’m just throwing this out there….I gotta think atleast a PART of this decision has to do with Beilein and Morris’ icy (at times) relationship. Anybody with a REMOTE sense of reading people could see the akwardness between them on the court. Almost like lovers who know a break-up is on the horizon. I can’t help but feel like the same could be said for Manny. Given the situations are quite different, I gotta wonder….would Morris have stayed another year if he enjoyed playing for Beilein more? Before you rip my post to shreads….I’m a HUUUUGGEEE fan of Coach B! I love where he’s taken this program and look forward to next season!

    • ChiGoBlueChicago

      lol….beat me to it, CB and Jordan…I guess just re-emphasizing this point. But I would love to hear Dylan’s take on this, as it seems this topic has come up on the board numerous times this season and I’m not sure I’ve seen him tackle this touchy topic!

      • JD

        A lot of coaches and PG’s get into heated discussions. It’s just like coaches and QB’s.

        I just can’t see that being a big factor.

        • maxwell’s demon

          I mean, it potentially is a huge factor. We don’t know what goes on behind the scenes so clearly this is all speculation, but if there is truth to it then it would certainly provide an extra incentive to leave. It’s a bit odd that both he and Manny would leave with such dicey draft outlooks and we know Beilein at least carries an image of “my way or the highway.” At this point nobody knows but to completely dismiss it is as stupid as saying it’s definitely the cause.

          • DoubES

            This whole line of thinking that an “Icy” relationship was a reason Darius “risked” entering the draft is bunk. It’s arguable at best that he would get drafted higher next year, so while this wild speculation about their relationship could possibly be correct, it wasn’t the reason he left.

          • Sam

            Um, has anybody ever thought that if their stupid ideas in which Darius and Beilein apparently had some terrible relationship were true he could have just transferred rather than entered the draft? These rumors are just mind-numbing and I can’t stand people that throw them out there with no sources.

          • um basketball fan

            Agree w/ Sam & DoubES. Morris was 100% a Beilein recruit– they both knew what they were getting into, and Coach B recruits players that he knows will work with him. Manny was recruited by a different coach, for a different system. If ANY of the rumors about coach-player relationships are true, it is more likely to be the Manny ones, but let’s be honest, it’s not that dramatic. (On that note, did anybody else think that the look on Izzo’s face during MSU’s last game against UCLA screamed…. “Just let me be done with this team…” At least we know we’re not dealing with that.)

    • Anthony

      I herd on one of the broadcasts that morris stayed at jbs house over winter break so their relationship can not be that icy…

      • ForeverBlue23

        And on selection Sunday Morris and Beilein’s wife shared a long hug. Beilein might be a tough coach but former NBA players wouldn’t be allowing their kids to play for him if he was some kind of Bobby Knight.

  • JD
  • pyrrhic

    Why isn’t Eso in any of these conversations as a potential backup point? He seemed to show some ability last year in the small doses we were able to catch. Is he a terminal scout team all star?

    • billiam

      Yes

  • Section13Row15

    Morris came to Michigan because of John Beilein. Now he will be selected in the NBA draft, a life long dream of his. Injury and a lot of other things could happen next year. Just because his motivations aren’t the same as ours, doesn’t mean it was a bad decision or that he hated playing for JB.

    • Jordan

      I don’t think anyone believed that it would…just curious if Dylan knew anything about that.

  • Mattiz

    I support him in his decision. While everyone would like to see him return, it’s unfair to say he shouldn’t leave. This is his sole decision — if he has even a chance to get drafted in the first round (and is guaranteed a spot in the second if not the first), how could you honestly not take that opportunity? This is his dream. It will hurt the team a bit, but this is how college basketball works and Beilein has done a phenomenal job with freshman talent the last few years. For all we know, Burke will turn into an all-star freshman player and surpass all expectations. I’m happy for Morris — he has a chance to go the NBA. I can’t honestly imagine his stock going up any more by next year as the draft will be deeper next year and it’s unlikely that he’d have stock that places him anywhere earlier than a first-second round bubble prospect. With the additional possibility of a lackluster junior year (unlikely) or a career-ending injury, his decision to stay in makes even further sense.

    Look at Kalin Lucas, for example. His stock was probably at its height after his second year (I believe). He kept playing and now his draft status is completely questionable. He’s looking at free agency as far as I can tell. Some players stay in college to win, some to finish school. Some go with the full intent of playing at the next level. If you work hard and put yourself in a position to play at the next level, how can you turn that down? I won’t sit here and say I’d come back for my team if I was given the opportunity to fulfill my dream. I think it’s clear that this was a tough choice for him, but it’s understandable that he wants to reach his goals and it might prove to be a very wise decision for him to strike while the iron’s hot.

    I do wish he would come back, but I understand entirely why he wants to stay in the draft. Few people in this world can accomplish their life-long goal by his age.

    You can also consider how this will affect recruiting. Beilein will be able to tell prospects that he took a very solid recruit (in the top 150, but far from a world-class or earth-shattering commit) and turned him into a first-round NBA draftee within two years in the Beilein system. This is something that’s very important to recruits — the potential to play at the next level. Beilein is an amazing coach and Morris is a great example of how Beilein’s sytem coaches players to work within a disciplined system, but also allows for their own game and individual talents to prosper.

  • Casual Outside Observer

    As a casual outisder, having read a number of Beilien’s comments suggesting that Darius consider the NBA draft, it appeared to me that Beilien was pointing Darius in that direction. I thought that I was crazy in thinking that because it didn’t make sense especially if the kid wanted to come back for another year. However, we know that sometimes the NBA draft can be a nice leverage if a coach wanted to encourage a player to move on, especially if he has NBA skills. I like some readers have “heard” that all was not well in Camelot between the two. In any case, whether true or not, we wish Darius well in pursuing his dream, and Michigan success next year.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      Beilein’s comments on the matter were about pursuing it in the right fashion and helping Darius along. *Everyone* knew that Morris was serious about pursuing and evaluating his NBA opportunities after this season.

      Yes, he bumped heads with Beilein at times during the season, but that’s not why he’s entering the NBA draft. He had almost every opportunity to succeed this season, led the team in shots and had the ball in his hands more than any other player.

      I have also seen people say that he “didn’t care for school” but then he makes the Big Ten All-Academic team.

      No situation is cut and dry and there are obviously plenty of criteria that go into a decision of this magnitude. At the end of the day, this is the decision that he and his family decided was best.

      Players go pro in college basketball, a lot. It’s generally not because they hate their coaches but because they have worked their whole lives to make the NBA and believe they have an opportunity to do so.

      • JB

        Very well said Dylan.

      • C.O.O.

        I personally agree with what you’ve stated, I also believe that the presumptions “could” also be true in that as much as Beilien could use Darius for another year, having your star player selected in the NBA draft is also a nice recruiting tool when you’re sitting in a prospects living room and faced with the question “do you prepare players for the NBA?” Darius’ draft status and potential value as a recruiting tool “may” not be higher than it is this year, especially when next years draft is reported to be a stronger draft. It appears that most of the highest quality players are gone after their first year or two into the NBA anyway, and that causes many coaches to develop a recruiting strategy that accounts for that. I believe the same goes for coach Beilien as well.

        Beilien’s system has now been established at Michigan and he has four solid starters and veteran bench returning next year with a strong recruiting class coming in, therefore, his team will still be competitive without Darius. For sure no one aside from Beilien can speak to his personal motivations one way or another, however, because of his strong track record of success, I do give him the benefit of any doubt regarding judgment and character.

  • mat

    “It would have also been possible that he had a good junior season while his teammates shouldered a greater share of the offense, causing him to stay where he is in the draft, or even fall.”

    Eh, I think production is a secondary issue for the NBA talent evaluators. The big thing that scouts would have looked for in his junior year would have been how his jump shot developed, regardless of his usage rate. He also needs to develop strength to contribute to an NBA team.

    The key thing for Darius in the NBA is that jump shot and his ability to stay in front of quick PGs. The Andre Miller comparison is dead on and their college stats back that up (plus they’re both LA guys and even look somewhat similar). Miller got along without a great J, but he brings other unique qualities to the table.

    All that said, I agree with your conclusion about his decision. Its definitely debatable, but he probably made the right choice. Next year’s draft will be much deeper so his chances of going in the 1st are better this year than they will be next year unless he unexpectedly develops 3 point range. He wasn’t going to be a lotto pick otherwise.

    Can’t fault the guy for giving it a shot. Hopefully he lands in round 1.

    • allogic

      It was the right decision. I’d have been happy to see him return, but it was the right decision.

      /Injuries
      //The likelihood of a stronger draft class in 2012

      “Next year’s draft will be much deeper so his chances of going in the 1st are better this year than they will be next year unless he unexpectedly develops 3 point range. He wasn’t going to be a lotto pick otherwise.”

  • Anthony

    I think it is fair to say this is a bad decision because of the lockout people wonder why the draft will be deeper next year its because of the nba lockout which means morris might not even be playing basketball if he gets drafted in round 1. In round 2 he almost certainly will be playing in europe because their will be no d league or summer league to improve his game.

  • Dirtgrain

    Please don’t let the mean an end to the winning streak against MSU. Morris seemed to have raised the level of that series. Seeing those wins was great, and Morris helped turn U of M into an enjoyable team to watch this season. I’m still looking forward to next season. We can see good things coming, but it’s significantly more uncertain without Morris.

  • Phil

    Dylan,

    What do you think we do with the open schollie for 2012? big? small? best available?

  • Tim

    I know everyone is a fan of the kid, but there is very little chance this kid lands on an NBA roster unless he improves significantly this offseason. He is a terrible shooter, and you just can’t play in the league being that poor a shooter. Total non threat from 3, and a pretty poor jumpshooter from 2 point range as well. His ability to defend quicker guards is going to be an issue, and I would day his ball handling is going to be an issue as well. How did he bring the ball up against pressure this year? With his back turned, basically posting the guy down the floor… That’s the sign of a tall kid, not a great ballhandler.

    He does a lot of things well, he seems like a good kid, and I hope he does have success. But he needs a ton of development and that doesn’t happen at the NBA level. I will be shocked if he’s anywhere but the d league next year. Personally I think its pretty clear that another year in school would have really benefited him.

    • JB

      You’re looking at Darius under a microscope. Every draft prospect has weaknesses, we as Michigan fans are just hyper-aware of Darius’ weaknesses because we’ve seen so much of him. That doesn’t mean his weaknesses don’t exist, but it means that the players he’s being evaluated against also have weaknesses that we’re not privy to.

      Everything I’ve read since he has started testing the waters has shown he’s working hard and impressing in workouts. He’s trending up.

    • mat

      Development happens at the NBA level. Theres a handful of NBA PGs who can’t shoot – The model for Morris is Andre Miller.

  • Kenny

    My bet is that Heckmann is going to be the 4th member of class 2012. Without Morris, I think that the team is going to be fine. Hardaway is certainly going to have the ball more and this gives him incentive to improve his handling over the summer, for which he can conveniently enlist his daddy for help. If Hardaway shows the world that he can also play some one, his draft stock is going up big time. Stu is a seasoned veteran Burke, Brundidge, and likely Heckmann are all ready to play and each brings something different to the table. Burke may rival Craft’s freshman year, if he is a top defender as many people say he is, that can conveniently compensate for
    whatever holes morris left on offense. I can see Brundidge and Stu compliment each other well when they are on the court together. Heckmann is not known as a sharp shooter but still has respectable 32% from 3pt range, and I would guess that the 3rd german league is something equivalent to low mid-major NCAA conferences. As a slasher who has a strong finish, he can back-up both 2 and 3.

    • Ben

      I would rather save the scholly for 2012 and a potential big man in that class.

  • Dylan Burkhardt

    Chad Ford tweet
    Darius Morris looked really, really good in workouts today. He’s got a great work ethic and attitude. He’s going to be a first rounder.

    http://twitter.com/#!/chadfordinsider/statuses/65923170808512512

    • Mattski

      Great to hear. I had a hunch that if he was just outside the first round that once the dust cleared, a few more people dropped out, and scouts saw his potential, he would be in. The potential to run the point is so important, and a tall, creative point guard is worth his weight in gold. Go Darius; make us proud.

  • Champswest

    Dylan, I would disagree with you that Stu will be the player most hurt by Morris leaving. Or more specifically, I think that Stu will actually benefit the most from this. I think there was a log jam at the 2 with Stu, Zack, Brundidge & Vogrich. I think he will get the start and most of the point minutes early in the season and at least significant minutes even late in the season and more that he would have seen at the 2.

    • Dylan Burkhardt

      You are correct that he’ll play significant minutes at the point. I should have clarified that it will make him a much less efficient player. His shooting numbers will suffer and he won’t be used correctly. That’s what I was trying to say but I see how it was unclear

      • Champswest

        I totally agree with that.

  • rkw

    i wish dmo the best in his pursuit of an nba career. also noticed GR3 got a 4th star on scout.

  • Slacks

    I use to be an NBA draft nut before I went to college. As started watching more college basketball, I got less into it.

    While people criticize the NBA’s development of players, I would suggest that if a player really wants to develop skills, the NBA is a better situation. You have less time to worry about other things so you can more time getting better. You also have more money to afford some of the best trainers in the world. D-Mo works really hard on his own to improve his skills. Most skill work is done in the off season. In college, this is when you cannot have much contact with coaches anyway. I have no doubt that if D-Mo wants to improve his shot or left hand that he can do it while in the NBA.

    I just hope he gets drafted in a situation where he can succeed. I feel like he is best suited for a team that runs a lot in transition. His craftiness in the open court is his strongest quality. He is also pretty deadly in pick and roll situations. I think a team like the Knicks or the Suns would be the best situation for him. If he has a really good workout, I think he could jump all the way up to the Knick’s pick at 17. While that may seem high, the Knicks have a history of taking draft sleepers. It also possible that a team like the Knicks will buy a late first or early second. Chicago has 3 (two in the late first, one in the second) picks in the draft and I doubt they will use all of them. A late first can net Chicago 3 million in cash.

    That is my draft two cents. Draft Express is the best site for NBA draft rumors. If you are interested in the process, they should eventually have articles and podcasts about all the draft buzz.

    • Other Matt

      I agree that the Knicks make a lot of sense, especially because they’re bringing Billups back for another year and that gives them a year to work Morris in. That would be a good situation for him. I think that the Knicks will take the best available player and figure that they can address the PG position in free agency next summer.

  • Other Matt

    I’m really bothered by a lot of the sentiment on the board. I think some people are reacting emotionally about Darius departing. It seems like a lot of people want to have it both ways, and I bet a dollar that most people saying that he’ll never make an NBA roster would be the first people saying that he can make the lottery with a great junior season. This is a consequence of having a good basketball program. There’s good problems and bad problems, this is a good problem.

    Darius is a first round pick, there’s no doubt in my mind. Point guards who are a legitimate 6’4, good ball handlers, great distributors, excellent finishers, adequate rebounders, and possess an obvious work ethic don’t fall out of the first round. Yes, he could be better defensively, but that probably speaks to the fact that he’s not the most athletic guy out there. Yes, his shot needs some work, but why can’t he improve that in the NBA? There’s going to be teams at the back end of the first that would be perfect landing spots. LA and Boston both need a guard and could afford to bring him along slowly. Miami would be a good landing spot, though I’m not sure what their draft pick situation is.

    Am I bitterly disappointed that we won’t get to watch this team finish what it started? Absolutely. But objectively speaking this is the right time for him to go. Especially with a deeper draft next year and because there’s probably a draft ceiling for him given his lack of elite athleticism. Its okay to be disappointed, but let’s not disparage the kid and his game. We should be happy that he has this opportunity.

    • MikeSal

      Totally agree Matt, it sounds like people want great players to be here for 4 years…and that obviously doesn’t happen nowadays. He is 1st round material and its looking like guys like Chad Ford are noticing it. I can remember some people saying Beilein’s players don’t get drafted. Now that they have a chance people are getting mad. This same process will happen again. We have NBA talent on this team. As far as next year, the team will be fine…just a little worried about Maui now hopefully we can get at least 1 out there.

  • ScottGoBlue

    Yeah, I agree with the later sentiments. This is bad for next year’s UofM team, but a decent decision by Morris for himself (debatable, for sure, but decent) and good for the UofM program. Sure, both Morris and Manny are leaving without guarantees of being a lottery pick. But come June/July (whenever the NBA draft is) Beilein will have a 2nd guy in the NBA.

    So when JB recruits for his 3 spot (though which most of our offensive will run), he can say, “look at Manny Harris” (and Hardaway in another year or two).

    When JB recruits PGs, he can say, “look at Darius Morris” (see Mattiz’s comment above about a turning a okay top 150 recruit into a 1st Rounder in 2 years).

    This will help with recruiting tremendously. And Coach B will keep getting the right players for his system, with more options at his disposal. Sure, this is a blow for next season. I’m not getting too excited about any true frosh PG at this point; let’s see it on the court first. But it’s a net positive for the program, especially if Morris goes in the 1st round and makes a decent pro career. Let’s cheer him on to that end.

  • ScottGoBlue

    Now to the title of the article:

    STARTERS: I think next year’s team will struggle because of the PG hole left by Morris. Burke may come along through the year, but recall Morris’s own rough first year in Ann Arbor. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Burke as our starter in November. I would be surprised to see him be the field general we need next year. He’ll grow into it. Novak starts at 2 because of leadership and because he won’t start at 3 (Hardaway) or 4 (Smotrycz). Jordan Morgan rounds out our starting 5 for the beginning of the season.

    I agree that “no Morris” is bad news for Stu Douglass, who will be forced to play a lot of minutes at PG. That’s just not his strength. But he’ll give great effort, which I give him credit for in advance.

    I think “no Morris” will be good news regarding Hardaway because he’ll be relied on more (as Dylan said) … AND because it could mean Hardaway will stay for a 3rd season. Conventional wisdom has next year’s NBA Draft as packed with talent. If UofM has a ho-hum year, Hardaway may not be in a position to go pro after next year. We’ll see.

    BENCH: Our major bench contributors will be up for grabs. Horford should be a much better 2nd option at the 5. Depth at 4 is still a question mark, but there for the taking for either McLimans or Bielfeldt. There won’t be many minutes at the 3 for back-ups. I expect Vogrich to be our “we need offense” back-up option, and Colton Christian to be our “we need defense” back-up option.

    Morris’s departure puts the backcourt in upheaval, actually. The 1 would be a done deal: Morris gets major minutes, Burke gets spot duty and develops slowly. That would leave Novak and Douglass getting most of the minutes at 2 (with Vogrich and Brundidge making appearances). Now that’s all shot to you-know-where. The 2 will be a revolving door: Novak, Douglass, Vogrich, and Brundidge will all get minutes. Burke, Douglass, and Brundidge will all get minutes at the 1. Messy.

    SCHEDULE: I think that spells trouble for next year. We’ll have an extremely tough schedule, which will be both good for development and hard on our win column. I think the B10 will have 2 tiers: Ohio State and everyone else. Wisconsin will probably rise to the top of the “everyone else” tier. Michigan State could blossom after a very disappointing year. We’re in the mish-mash middle-of-the-pack. Purdue falls off, Illinois falls off, Penn State falls off, we fall off. So, I’m guessing we get 8-10 conference wins and flirt with the NCAA bubble.

    But I’m still excited to watch these guys play. I’m really enjoying the Beilein era of UofM Hoops. This site is a big part of that, too. Thanks, guys!

    • redman345

      i dont think we fall off.u didnt think they would have a good year this year.did you?we return everybody else back.and everyone is going to improve.hardaway will be alot better.the big fellas is going to be our biggest upgrade.everyone will get stronger and better.we have guards that can put it on the floor now.we didnt have that last year.it will be times in the game that we will have three guards that will break u down and get it to the big fellas or the three point shooters.im excited.trey burke has that it factor.he is probably the steal in this 2011 recruiting class.hes so far underated it doesnt makes sense.carlton b will be just as good.who knows he might start at the point.he is rated higher than burke.he is a beast at attacking the rim.he will be at the foul line and our shooters will love him.once he learns how to penetrate and kick out a little more.he took a lot of bad shots this past year.i seen plenty of times it looked like he didnt see the open man all the time.it was man open every time carlton would drive to the whole.he will do fine once beilein gets to him….him and trey will play together some times with tim at the three.its going to be fun

      • billiam

        Change the names and this argument was said verbatim 2 years ago.

        that’s what worries me.

      • ScottGoBlue

        I agree with Billiam 100%. We were making this exact same argument two years ago, having “only” lost a couple walk-on PGs, bringing in a 4* PG recruit. That didn’t turn out so well.

        You are right about my expectations for this year; I thought we’d be fighting to get out of the bottom of the B10. The main reason that we exceeded that expectation is Darius Morris’s vast and unforeseen improvement. I’m not willing to put that kind of expectation on Burke or Brundidge. The PG position is critical to success. The other positions are less so. We will struggle AND the B10 will be weaker, which is why I think we’ll be a bubble team at best this year.

        But I’d love to be wrong. Go Blue!

  • MFan15

    I think there will be a drop off with out Morris, obviously, but tto say that Trey Burke will have the same struggles that Morris did as a freshman is totally wrong. Burke may not have the true point guard game that Morris did, but he does have a way better jumpshot/3pter then Morris had then and now. His ability to make those shots will free up opportunities and he won’t have to force things.
    Also this team has more talent spread out on the roster than they had two years ago. The 5 keys to next season will be: The improvement of Horford and Smotrycz, emergence of Hardaway Jr as our go-to-guy, play of the PGs, Rebounding!!, Douglass finding a consistent shot!