Michigan players see draft stock rise with tournament success

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan 78, VCU 53 - 17
Bryan Fuller

April is a month that Michigan fans have grown to hate. The month has become synonymous not with the end of the season but with attrition.

Manny Harris left after his junior season in 2010 and Darius Morris continued the early entry trend in 2011. Last spring, Trey Burke flirted with the NBA before returning to school while Evan Smotrycz headlined a large group of transfers out of John Beilein’s program.

Michigan is the youngest team in the NCAA tournament this season and will face a Kansas team that starts four seniors on Friday evening. John Beilein emphasized the importance of nurturing experience in the program.

“Right now Michigan has had growing crowds, great facilities and really good teammates [to get to that point of stability]. That’s the formula that it takes,” Beilein said at a press conference on Tuesday. “And [we want to] recruit the right kids who are unpacking their bags when they get here so that we aren’t renting them for a couple of years before so they can go somewhere else or transfer.”

Attrition – both by transfer and early entry to the NBA Draft – is a large part of the current high major college basketball landscape. When Michigan’s 2012-13 season – its most successful in two decades – ends, attrition is assuredly going to be a hot topic once again.

Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary are all on the NBA draft radar, and all four players boosted their stock in Michigan’s early round tournament success.

Despite Burke’s subpar (by his standards) weekend at the Palace, he continues to rise up Ford’s big board into the top 10:

So how did he rise three spots on our board? Because every scout I spoke with was so impressed with his poise, toughness and leadership ability despite the tough games. Most common comment I’ve heard from NBA GMs this week is “Trey Burke is the real deal.” If he can lead Michigan past Kansas and probably Florida to the Final Four, he’s got a shot to leapfrog a few more guys on the Big Board and get into the top 5 or 6 in this draft.

Ford also raved about Robinson, bumping him up from 24 to 16 on his big board:

Robinson may have helped his draft stock more than anyone on our Big Board this week. After coming up with a few empty performances against elite teams in the Big Ten, he’s had two big games for Michigan in the tournament, going for 21 points on 8-for-9 shooting against South Dakota State and for 14 points and nine boards on 7-for-10 shooting against VCU. He’s still raw offensively and depends on Burke to set him up, but he has all the physical tools of a NBA small forward and is showing increased confidence at the right time. Someone will roll the dice on him in the 10-to-20 range if he decides to declare.

Mitch McGary also raised his stock with his monster weekend:

McGary struggled coming out of the gate for Michigan, but he has been on fire of late and put up two very strong games for Wolverines, including career highs in points (21) and rebounds (14) against a feisty VCU team on Saturday. McGary is particularly skilled. However, he has a great motor, has NBA strength even as a first-year college player and ranks No. 8 nationally in offensive rebound percentage. He clearly is benefitting from having an elite point guard like Trey Burke setting him up, and he’s older than your average freshman (he actually turns 21 before the draft this year), but rebounding typically translates at the next level — as do toughness and motor. McGary went a long way this weekend toward putting himself firmly on the NBA radar as a potential second-round prospect

In Ford’s latest who’s in, who’s out update he listed Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. as prospects with “one foot out the door” and Glenn Robinson III as a “50-50” player. Draft Express slots Burke at No. 10 in its latest mock draft with Robinson projected as the 6th overall pick in 2014. Tim Hardaway Jr. is also projected as the first pick in the second round in the 2014 draft. NBADraft.net projects Burke at No. 12, Robinson at No. 14 and Tim Hardaway Jr. at No. 19 in its latest mock draft.

Robinson addressed his draft situation last week before the South Dakota State game.

“It’s kind of hard at times to ignore that. Everybody’s going to be talking about that,” Robinson said. “I definitely keep that in mind because I think every player does. But I’m just going to continue out this year, and then after this year we’ll see what happens and we’ll see what I’m going to do next.”

Burke, who most expect to enter the draft, echoed those sentiments but insists he’ll make his decision after the season.

“Pushing it aside is not really hard because obviously I like college a lot and I’m looking forward to going deep in this tournament. Honestly, I’m trying not to really think about the next level right now. That’s something I’ll think about after the season,” Burke insisted. “Last summer, when I was actually thinking about it, it got overwhelming — you guys already know about that. This year, as far as this season goes, I’ve had so much fun with the team — just being at the top, going back down, winning, losing — I haven’t really thought about it a lot. It’s not something that’s been overwhelming, it’s just something I’ll definitely think about and take into consideration at the end of the season.”

Michigan’s All-American point guard did admit on Dan Patrick’s radio show that the decision would be much easier if Michigan won the National Championship.

Burke also mentioned that he hasn’t spent much time counseling Michigan’s other players on the draft process.

“More so Glenn and some of the freshmen that potentially have that opportunity. Tim doesn’t really need any type of guidance, he knows what it’s like. As far as Glenn and Nik, they may ask me questions about the process sometimes and I’m able to tell them about it. … It’s probably going to a be a ‘we’ll see, I don’t know yet,’ depending on how the season goes.”

Beilein discussed the important but precarious nature of convincing kids to stay in school.

“The only approach you can have is you have to really build your relationships with your players to make it the best place they can be, without going to the point where you’re not teaching them to be a man. You just do what you do and you can’t control it as much as you think you can control it. You just try to create that atmosphere that enriches their life and they appreciate it.

“Are we going to go and recruit a different kid? No you don’t know [what will happen], they are 18-years old and we get them and we hope they are going to get here and unpack their bags. Or they are in a situation their second or third year and it’s too good to leave.”

That has been the case for a couple of Michigan’s best draft prospects. Nobody was talking about Trey Burke or Glenn Robinson III as a future pro when they signed letters of intent. That point wasn’t lost on Beilein.

“We’ve had a couple of guys that were not coming out of high school seen as pro prospects that are pro prospects,” Beilein emphasized. “It’s a good problem to have.”

For now, Michigan’s talented group is focused on the task at hand – winning two games in North Texas to advance to the Final Four – but when the final whistle of the season blows it will be time for some difficult decisions to be made.

  • Northern Blue

    Trey, and Tim to an extent are ready to play. Robinson has great natural talent that intrigues the scouts, but he should not go. I believe he will become a much better player as one of the go to guys as one of the best teams in big ten than splitting time between an NBA bench and the D league, because he is not ready to play meaningful minutes for an nba team. It would be ridiculous for Trey to even think about coming back after dominating the NCAA. If I was a prospect I would be much more comfortable heading to the pros after knowing I had dominated in the college ranks, GRIII did not.

    • Merlin50

      I agree. I want the players to go to the NBA when they are ready and have the greatest chance for success. I will always believe Darius Morris and Manny Harris went too soon to have successful NBA careers. I think Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway are ready to go. Glenn Robinson needs to stay another year and I think his dad will advise him to stay.

  • David

    The last three years, I have been quite disappointed by the reaction of the Michigan fanbase when Manny, Darius, and (almost) Trey declared for the draft.

    Let’s keep in mind that these young players owe us (i.e., fans) nothing. If we are true fans, we will understand that heading to the NBA early is often a better decision in the long run than staying in school. Even with Darius Morris, who’s been buried on the LA bench since Steve Nash got healthy, it was probably the right decision; he got an extra year of salary and development, which in net probably benefitted him more than playing college hoops.

    In summary, Trey, Tim, and GR3 may all reasonably elect to enter the draft this year. Instead of bemoaning their departure and “lack of loyalty” to the program, let’s celebrate what a great year they gave us. They all seem like great kids, and I hope they have successful pro careers after college.


    • ForeverBlue

      I really dislike this argument. I am a Michigan fan first, I throw my support behind the guys who wear their jersey. Why should I owe a player more than what you say a player owes a fan…nothing? Of course, I have a certain affection for anyone who has worn the jersey who turns pro, I also have the right to an opinion that some leave too early.

      I have a much bigger problem with those who call out a player during the season for bad games or a poor decision on the court. And there is much more of that going around.

      • David

        Nah, completely wrong.

        Trey Burke has the autonomy to do what ever the F he wants next year, just like you have the right to switch jobs if you want. Trey Burke isn’t going to tell you what to do with your career based on what’s beneficial to his personal fandom.

        Trey Burke’s career > your personal fandom.

        As for the counterfactual that Darius or Manny left “too early,” I find that highly dubious given that both have been given a shot at making it in the NBA. I don’t see how an extra year would have changed anything at all, other than it would have cost them a year of NBA and helped out your personal rooting interests in U-M sports (which is really, really important, obviously).

        • David

          cost them a year of NBA money*

          • Adam

            The only reason NBA players make money is the fans. Keep that in mind.

        • Chazer

          I think the extra year could be a huge difference if you can upgrade your draft poistion to the first round. D MO could have easily become a first rounder with another year of coaching and more experience/exposure from the tournament. I also think a team has a greater investment and cash into the first round picks. With that said you dont really lose a year of pay if you get first round money vs. second.

          Trey made the right move by staying, though somewhat of an injury risk. He will cash in as a potential lottery vs. last year as a 2nd rounder. From my perspective i only want these young men to capitalize on their investment. It also helps UM when they have solid NBA careers vs. Europe or the D league.

          Good luck to them all and thanks for the memories!

        • Champswest

          True, the players have the right to make whatever decision they feel is best for them. At the same time, we as fans, have the right to express our opinion as to what we think they should do.

    • People can get frustrated because our rivals (MSU, OSU) have had great retention rates.

      • mazs

        I agree that Izzo does a great job of retaining his players–though he takes few top 20 players and even fewer grads have had meaningful NBA careers. His better NBA players did leave early–Randolph and Richardson. I can’t agree on Matta/OSU. Oden, Conley and Cook all left after one year–Sullinger came back (surprisingly) for a 2nd year, as did our Trey. Who stayed that has become a more meaningful NBA player than Morris–or even Harris? I trust your not counting college-good, NBA-no chance Aaron Craft.

    • ChathaM

      You can’t lump “the Michigan fanbase” into one group that has a common sentiment re: players leaving prior to graduation.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    i bet Evan Smotrycz wish he was on this team…he would be contributing probably as well…i think he would get minutes as a junior..

    hopefully GR3 comes back 1 more year to excell his skills…i do see Trey leaving no matter what…but maybe Tim stays for his senior year…

    if we win the national title or in final four…i expect all 3 to leave or at least 2

    • Kenny

      The ironic part of his transferring is the perception of him fitting better in ACC, now he will be right back to Big Ten.

    • Champswest

      Actually, there was an interview with Evan that was published a month or so ago in which he stated that he is still in touch with some of the Wolverines, that he is happy for their success and wishes them well, but that he feels that transferring was the best thing for him.

  • Chazer

    I like the ESPN ARTICLE “guards make Michigan favorite” and again I post this question…..was Big Blue built to win the Big Ten or the tournament?

    I guess we will find out soon!

    Go Blue!

    • GoBlue09

      Kentucky isnt even in the tournament

      • Kentucky players are criminally overrated. Moron NBA scouts see the Calipari stamp of approval and assume the guy must be good regardless of productivity. That guys like Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe could go 1-and-done and get drafted in the first round is a freaking joke.

        • serious

          GoBlue09 was trying to say that ‘Big Blue’ = Kentucky, not Michigan.

        • gobluemd16

          Eric Bledsoe is a beast and will start on an NBA team very shortly, but I do take part of your point. Scouts do overrate Kentucky players, with Orton being a good example.

      • Chazer

        Please forgive my ignorance….i meant the maize and Blue!

  • Wayman Britt

    I think some of these analysts and us fans need to step back on putting GR3 in the pros already. It was only a couple of games ago where he could not hit a jumper, got beat on defense consistently and was soft against teams that liked to bang.

    Having two good games against teams that let UM run and fastbreak doesn’t make GR3 ready for the NBA in my eyes all of a sudden.

    • Northern Blue

      Agreed, needs to polish his game. Trey and Tim have done it and both were probably more skilled as freshman. It’s weird how I have looked at the mock drafts all year and I feel like Trey should be a top 5 pick and hes been kept down, while I don’t think GRob should even consider and hes been late lotto. That’s just me. I understand the potential of GRob and thats why hes ranked so high, but still, Trey is absolutely dominant and plays against the toughest competition in NCAA. I expect Trey to be top 15 atleast, if not top 10 point guard in the NBA in a couple years.

  • Danny Duberstein

    Yeah, the only counterfactual I can think of, which could even be mentioned in protest of autonomy from prosecution in regards to leaving early, is if they were paid accordingly in college. Many players may not be ready, but it does not invalidate there ability to choose whether or not to attempt a pro career. Burke made a great decision in staying, as his draft stock skyrocketed. One could also argue that Morris made a mistake. Regardless, while “fandom” may be a bizzarre phenomenon removed from the rational, I would hope Michigan men could logically untangle there convoluted desires in regards to program success and value what is logical instead.

  • Champswest

    If Hardaway leaves after this year, I wonder if/when we will ever have a Senior starter. Horford? Stauskas? LaVert? Will we always be a young team?