Mailbag: Caris LeVert, Possession Distribution, Rule Changes, More

Dylan Burkhardt

Michigan 61, Syracuse 56-7
Dustin Johnston

The UM Hoops Mailbag is a collection of questions tweeted (@umhoops), e-mailed or sent via our Facebook page. Submit your questions and we’ll answer as many as we can.

@joealexis: Isn’t Caris LeVert being overlooked for next season? I think that he has tremendous upside.

@RyanParrill Chances Irvin doesn’t play more min than LeVert like people are concluding? LeVert was expected to RS & also used for his defense at the end of the year.

I love LeVert’s potential but his offensive production really tailed off in Big Ten play. Of Michigan’s returning players, it’s tough not to single out LeVert as one guy that might make the most important. He’s young for a freshman, he’s still growing, he has a ton of room to add strength and most importantly he made some plays as a freshman. Zak Irvin is actually only 11 days younger than LeVert. He’s also a really good player. Michigan needs to replace a lot of offensive firepower and Irvin fits the bill.

LeVert seems like the perfect super sub because he can combine well with other pieces. He has the quickness to guard smaller players and the length to guard some bigger wings and I expect his offense to continue to develop. Penciling Irvin into the starting line up isn’t so much a knock on LeVert, or doubting LeVert’s potential, it’s more about what Michigan needs to replace and who is best suited for that role.

@ImTheSchmid Who has a better big 10 sophomore season Glenn Robinson III or Gary Harris??

This might be sacrilege to my readership but I’m going with Gary Harris. I would argue that Harris had the better freshman season and he was playing through shoulder injuries. Robinson averaged 10 points and five rebounds in Big Ten play, Harris averaged 14 points, two rebounds and two assists.

I also feel that Izzo has the tendency to hamstring young guards before really unleashing them as a sophomore. Robinson can do a lot of things and I expect him to show significant improvement but I don’t see him as a likely Big Ten Player of the Year candidate right now. I would pencil Gary Harris in as a top-3 contender for Big Ten Player of the Year.

@colintj What will the possession usage distribution look like next year?

It’s no secret that Michigan loses the two players that dominated the ball in the offense. Trey Burke used 29% of Michigan’s offensive possessions while he was on the floor and Tim Hardaway Jr. used 22.3% of UM’s possessions. That means roughly a half of the offense is up for grabs. What do the Wolverines return? A bunch of high efficiency, low usage players.

2012-13 Michigan Usage Rates

Name ORtg %Poss
Go-to guys (>28% of possessions used)
Trey Burke 121.2 29.0
Significant Contributors (20-24% of possessions used)
Tim Hardaway Jr. 106.7 22.3
Mitch McGary 113.0 21.5
Role Players (16-20% of possessions used)
Nik Stauskas 122.8 16.2
Jordan Morgan 109.4 17.5
Jon Horford 115.7 17.1
Limited Roles (12-16% of possessions used)
Glenn Robinson 128.4 15.2
Caris LeVert 93.4 15.2
Spike Albrecht 120.7 13.8

Stats from (subscribe if you don’t).

The jump from low-usage high-efficiency player to high-usage high-efficiency player is very difficult. Some players are wired to take shots and demand the ball. That’s not to say it’s impossible but high-usage players usually remain that way and low-usage players usually remain that way.  Tim Hardaway Jr. used between 22 and 26% of Michigan’s offensive possessions throughout his career. Zack Novak and Stu Douglass both hovered between 13 and 17.5%. You get the picture. There are exceptions to the rule, players like Darius Morris, Drew Neitzel, Tim Frazier and Erick Green all made big jumps in usage throughout their careers.

The clear option to take more shots on Michigan’s roster is Mitch McGary. Luke Winn estimated Mitch McGary’s usage rate to be 23.9% in NCAA tournament games and I would suspect that to rise steadily from there. McGary will become more involved in the offense and he began to show just how many things he was capable of during Michigan’s tournament run.

One guy who I’m convinced will be ready to take shots when he steps on campus is Zak Irvin. Irvin’s not a ball hog but he is a scorer and he knows how to create offense. Playing on the wing in John Beilein’s offense will give him plenty of opportunity to create and he won’t hesitate to take those chances. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Irvin lead the Wolverines in usage rate as a freshman although I expect a more balanced offense.

While Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III will take more shots next season, I’m not convinced that either player would be comfortable using a quarter (or more) of Michigan’s possessions while they are on the floor. Robinson used less than 14% of Michigan’s offensive possessions in Big Ten play so a jump to the upper teens or low 20s would still be a big jump.

The point guard position has used 29% 27% and 29% of Michigan’s offensive possessions over the last three seasons. Michigan had pros at the point guard for the last two seasons but the position has grown into the focus of Beilein’s offense in recent years. I don’t think Walton will lead the Wolverines in usage but he’s sure to shoulder a big chunk of Burke’s usage.

I won’t throw percentages on it but forced to predict I’ll go: Irvin, McGary, Stauskas, Robinson, Walton as Michigan’s highest usage players in order.

@zajareich It seems like football has seen an increase in recruits recruiting potential targets, how often does that happen in basketball?

This definitely happens but it’s on a smaller scale in basketball than football as you are talking about classes of two, three, four or five prospects compared to 25 or so on the gridiron. Look no further than Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III and Spike Albrecht all ending up at Michigan from the same AAU team.

Austin Hatch helped recruit Mark Donnal and Monte Morris on the day that all three prospects were offered three years ago. Donnal committed the same day.

So this stuff goes on, there’s just a lot at play in every recruitment. The kid, his family, his high school coaches, his grassroots coaches. Summer events like the EYBL or various AAU events also provide a great stage for kids from different states and regions to meet up. In Michigan’s case, there’s not much here because Beilein’s only commitment in the class of 2014, Ricky Doyle, lives in Florida and doesn’t play AAU basketball – lacking both the regional and grassroots connections to act as a recruiter. Michigan’s other 2014 targets are far along in their recruiting processes and seem unlikely to be swayed by others at this point. It seems like it would be more likely to see this sort of bounce in the class of 2015, where Michigan’s recruiting is still taking shape.

@dsobes What can the Michigan team do to emulate more effective offenses in the NBA, like increasing corner 3’s and less long 2’s?

First of all, the corner three isn’t technically a more effective shot in the college game. The NBA three point line is closer in the corner but the college line is is equidistant all the way around.

Minimizing long twos is always a worthy goal but Michigan does alright in this department. According to numbers from Hoop-Math, just 30% of Michigan’s field goal attempts were two point jumpers. That number isn’t bad compared to some other Big Ten schools, 34% of Michigan State’s FGAs were 2-point jumpers, OSU 36%, Wisconsin 32% and Indiana 29%.

%Shots at Rim FG% at Rim %Shots 2pt Jumpers FG% 2pt Jumpers %Shots 3pt FG% 3pt
36% 66% 30% 38% 34% 38%

Stats via Hoop-Math

Not only that, Burke and Hardaway accounted for 387 (58%) of UM’s 663 2-point jumpers last year. No team is going to completely eliminate the two-point jump shot but the Wolverines do a decent job of minimizing those attempts. Michigan actually shot the exact same percentage on two-point jumpers as three-point jumpers, a reminder that the threes are always preferable.

Do you think the proposed rule changes will have any effect on B1G play? – D. Walter

A couple sections of the rule changes caught my eye, mainly the discussion of charges and freedom of movement.

In regard to the block/charge call in men’s basketball, the committee is proposing that a defensive player is not permitted to move into the path of an offensive player once he has started his upward motion with the ball to attempt a field goal or pass. If the defensive player is not in legal guarding position by this time, it is a blocking foul.

To curtail the impeding progress of a player, it will be stressed to officials that they must address these rules throughout the game. The committee wants the following types of personal fouls be called consistently throughout the game:
• When a defensive player keeps a hand or forearm on an opponent;
• When a defensive player puts two hands on an opponent;
• When a defensive player continually jabs by extending his arm(s) and placing a hand or forearm on the opponent;
• When a player uses an arm bar to impede the progress of an opponent. –

You aren’t going to hear many complaints here. Michigan has probably taken more of the charges that are being outlawed than been called for for them but that rule seems like a good one.

The emphasis on rules to impede the progress of a player are what John Beilein has pleaded for year in and year out. However, file that one under “need to see it to believe it”. The enforcement of those four principles has the potential to change the game but I’m not confident it can be refereed correctly.

Reviewing a shot clock violation and a deflection out of bounds within the last two minutes also seems like a good idea and no one will complain with more discretion on elbow calls. I would argue that a shot clock violation should always be reviewable.

  • ATLblue

    Agree that shot clock violations should always be reviewable. That 3 by Craft in the second half of the home OSU game could have haunted us had Hardaway not gotten hot.

    • rdogoblue

      In theory, I like the additions to what is reviewable. In practice, the additions are going to further slow down the last few minutes of games, which are already painfully slow due to timeouts, fouls and reviews.

  • cameron brooks

    i’m a huge Caris levert fan, whether he starts or not he will get PT as NIk or Zak’s SUB. could he start if he gained weight and improved a lot? yes. but it would take major improvement. if they were equal or close to equal in skill Caris may get the nod because of experience. People also forget coming out of high school caris was considered one of the best scores in OHIO(i live in OHIO) he struggled but it may have been because he was growing and very skinny.. either way he will get PT. But Zak is an amazing player so it will be tough. but put it this way IF caris is as good or better than Zak it means we will be even better GO BLUE

    • shielste

      Cam! No way! It’s shielste from ESPN.

  • Mattski

    Good stuff. Just thinking about the leaps to high-usage by high efficiency players– wouldn’t most such leaps take place from players’ freshman to sophomore years? That’s where all these players are. . . I guess you want a go-to guy, but good distribution, as you say, has to be one of the keys. Maybe this means that too much pressure does not need to be placed on Irvin’s shoulders. Also, I could see Stauskas getting not too much more usage, but hitting a good bit higher percentage, and Robinson’s usage inching toward 20 as more of the offense is geared to him and as he does more driving. . . In hindsight, it might have been nice for Caris to have had that RS.

    • It’s important to distinguish between a big jump in minutes vs. usage.

      DeShaun Thomas for example was always high usage, then got more minutes so his numbers shot up.

      A lot of guys that are high usage players prove to be high usage players even when they play few minutes.

      • I think Stauskas’ usage is definitely going to creep up just from taking up a % of Timmy and Burke’s usage. They are being replaced by a freshman PG and a low-usage player in GR3. Even with Mitch’s emergence we are going to need additional players to step up as far as usage and ballhandling and Stauskas + Lavert top my list.

        • gpsimms

          I agree. Stauskas seemed like he wanted to shoot, drive and shoot, or drive and dish whenever he touched the ball. I think he only deferred to others because he was told not to. He has a playmaker mentality, I think.

          • He also disappeared from the offense in quite a few games in the second half of the season. Was that because of himself? his teammates? his role? I suspect we’ll find out.

    • cameron brooks

      IMO if caris RS we wouldn’t have won the game against cuse where he had 8 points and played great D on cuse players.. maybe he didnt do a lot but he did enough. it was smart for him to play over MATT

      • Or MSU.

        • cameron brooks

          very true he had 8 points that game and played amazing D on harris holding him under his Season field goal percentage!

          • Mattski

            Good points. I meant more for the sake of his own development, since he’s still likely to be primarily a bench player this year. But he did help us to several critical wins.

  • mikey_mac

    I think UM is looking at 5 guys with b/w 18-25% usage rates, which should be fun. The bigger question is, who takes the big shots? Burke did this as alpha-male, but also because he can create his own shot. I think it may have to be the freshman that have to take over the clutch possessions. Not sure I envision Nik or GR3 really being able to reliably create with the clock near zero, and relying on a big like McGary is tough in college, because ball-handling tends to be such a crucial component of these types of plays.

    • cameron brooks

      Irvin is very good creating shots.. and if Nik improves midrange i could see him too

  • thanks for including my question Dylan. I”m excited to see if Walton can be as efficient running the offense as Burke is next year. I would love to see some shot charts a la the ones they are running on Grantland for our players, if possible.

  • Wayman Britt

    I think Caris will get a little more playing time, but I don’t see him beating out Zak. Caris would really have to improve and put on 15 – 20 pounds of muscle.

  • MikeInOH

    Dylan, you said Harris is in your top 3 for B1G player of the year. Who joins him? Craft for sure. I’m stuck coming up with a third. Frasier? Mitch? Decker?

    • Daniel

      Mitch McGary.

      • Northern Blue

        I would predict first team all big ten to be Mcgary, GR3, Payne, Harris, and Craft, with Bergren, Decker, Applng, Hammons, Ferrell, Hollins, Crawford as candidates for the 2nd team, as well as possibly some incoming freshmen like Vonleh or Irvin.

        In my opinion GR3 could be a top 3 player in the conference this year, not saying he will, but it’s possible he can be. He has the tools.

  • TJ

    ” In Michigan’s case, there’s not much here because Beilein hasn’t yet landed that first commitment.”

    Ricky Doyle?

    • Wow. Oops, good call. Brain fart on my part but the point remains that Doyle isn’t going to have a big influence because he’s in Florida and doesn’t play AAU ball.

      • TJ

        I hear ya.