Mailbag: Caris LeVert, Rebounding, Kameron Chatman and Recruiting Momentum

Dylan Burkhardt
Michigan 57, Wofford 40-9

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. (Photo: Dustin Johnston)

@connorjw1220: Can Caris LeVert be as effective coming off ball-screens as Stauskas was this past year?

Michigan scored .893 points on LeVert’s ball screen possessions compared to Stauskas’ 1.101 points per possession on ball screens last season. Stauskas’ efficiency was elite in the ball screen game, even better than Trey Burke as a sophomore.


The chart above shows that LeVert was already one of the more efficient ball screen scorers in the Big Ten last season (>100 possessions), but Stauskas was on another level. 

For LeVert to match Stauskas’ efficiency would be impressive, especially because he’s likely to see an increase in volume as well.  There’s no reason to doubt LeVert’s ball screen ability (he’s already very good), but expecting him to match Stauskas’ efficiency probably isn’t fair. The more likely outcome is that LeVert and Walton both make dramatic jumps in usage and maintain a similar efficiency.

@jlustig22:  How big of a concern will rebounding be next yr? It’s always been a weakness but their off efficiency overcame it. Can that continue?

As always, it’s important to distinguish between offensive and defensive rebounding. Over the last several years, Michigan has been a below average offensive rebounding team and an above average defensive rebounding team.

Michigan doesn’t need to be a great offensive rebounding team. The Wolverines were ranked 242nd nationally in offensive rebounding, but had the best offense of the last 12 years according to Michigan probably isn’t going to be any better on the offensive glass this season and probably isn’t going to have the best offense in the country for the third year in a row, but I’m not too worried about the offense.

Defensive rebounding is another story. Michigan managed to be at least proficient on the defensive glass over the last four years: ranked 124th, 71st, 99th and 65th nationally in defensive rebounding from 2014 back to 2011. The constant over those four years was Jordan Morgan. Morgan, McGary and the rest of Michigan’s front line is essentially gone and left in their place is a group of players that have never really been praised for their rebounding chops: Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle, Max Bielfeldt and DJ Wilson.

Kameron Chatman could be a boost in that department as he’s always been a good rebounder for a skinny wing forward, but getting passable defensive rebounding from the frontcourt will be a top priority leading up to the season.

@Pennington_Lee: When do you expect the deep NCAA runs to pay off in recruiting? Do they necessarily need top talent to continue the run of success?

I realize that Michigan has had some high profile recruiting misses lately with prospects that were supposedly Michigan leans at some point, but Michigan’s recruiting hasn’t slipped completely.

The 2012 class featured the No. 18, 28, 82, 171 and 215th ranked players in the country.

The 2013 class featured the No. 29, 45 and 86th ranked players in the country.

The 2014 class featured the No. 27, 121, 202, 326 and 379th ranked players in the country.

Michigan’s starting lineup next season will probably be comprised of entirely top-100 recruits or projected lottery picks with Walton, LeVert, Irvin, Chatman and Donnal. The best player of the bunch was ranked 215th out of high school and decomitted from Ohio University. Michigan added some late commitments from under the radar prospects this year and while it would be silly to expect them to develop into All-Big Ten caliber prospects, it’s also probably too early to judge them.

Michigan’s recruiting priorities have to be finding an impact wing guard replacement for Caris LeVert in the class of 2015 and putting together an impact class in 2016. With seven offers already outstanding in 2016, it’s clear that Michigan expects a big class and there are plenty of high-profile targets with legitimate mutual interest. The 2016 class is the class that will usher in the next generation of talent in a similar fashion to the 2012 group.

@jmstern23: For those that haven’t seen Kameron Chatman’s entire game, why should we be excited for his freshman season?

Chatman is a top-30 recruit and a very unique prospect. He played well on the Nike EYBL circuit before his senior season, averaging 16 points, 10 rebounds and three assists per game, and then led his Columbia Christian team to the Oregon State Championship in the small school 1A division.

Playing against lower-level competition during his senior year could affect his development a bit, but he should be expected to make an impact in Ann Arbor next season. He’s not a player that’s going to take 15 shots per game as a freshman, but he is the sort of player that could slide in naturally as a secondary option in Michigan’s offense.

He’s a picturesque fit for the perimeter-four position in John Beilein’s offense. He’s still skinny to play in the front court, but around 6-foot-7 and 200 pounds he should be able to hang in there and he’s a great fit because he’s a natural lefty. The four spot in Michigan’s offense generally plays on the right side of the floor into the middle, emphasizing the importance of a strong left hand.

Chatman isn’t a player that’s going to change the game with his athleticism, but he’s extremely versatile. He can do a little bit of everything: pass, rebound, handle, drive and shoot. Michigan doesn’t need him to be ever dominate the ball, but if he can make the right pass and the right shot on the wing he’ll help open things up for Caris LeVert, Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton.

The biggest question facing Chatman will be the one that faced Glenn Robinson III: can he knock down open corner threes? The corner three is pivotal to Michigan’s offense because it creates the spacing necessary to run the offense. Chatman shot the ball poorly in EYBL play, but seemed to knock down threes consistently whenever we watched high school footage of his senior year.

@aaronVD34: Biggest surprise player this year that no one is talking about?

I’m going to cheat and go with two players: Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Aubrey Dawkins. Both players have the skill sets to help connect the dots in Michigan’s rotation next season. Neither player is likely to be a star, but it’s tough to put together an complete sustainable rotation without realizing how they fit.

Abdur-Rahkman gives Michigan a backup guard that can play a number of positions, handle the ball, attack the rim and play defense. Michigan’s only backup guard or wing under 6-foot-7 is Spike Albrecht and someone needs to backup the two spot.

Dawkins provides a bit of athleticism and lineup flexibility as well. He projects more in the three or four spots as a 6-foot-6 player with great athleticism. Dawkins isn’t Glenn Robinson III, but he could help fill some of the sort of production that Robinson supplied. If he can finish around the basket and knock down threes consistently, he could be a nice role player in 2015.

Neither player will start, but both players might be necessary to fill a role in the same way that Spike Albrecht and Caris LeVert did as freshmen.

  • Champswest

    Dylan, you mentioned Chatman’s athleticism. How would you compare him to Nik in that regard?

  • GregGoBlue

    Great mailbag, thanks Dylan. Really cool stuff.

  • geoffclarke

    Lots of GREAT content, Dylan, as usual. Both from you, but also from readers in the blog comments and especially the forum. I have a couple other questions for you:
    (1) Most people believe that LeVert will be the leading scorer/alpha dog/go-to-guy. Does he have the right mentality? Could Walton, or even Irvin leap-frog him? What are the odds of that?
    (2) Are you in the guestavo camp who believes DJ Wilson will play the “5”, or in the majority “wishful thinkers” camp who believe he will give us more length than we’ve ever had at the “4”? Personally I can see both sides (can’t wait for the season to start), but if he plays the “5”, then I don’t see him also backing up the “4”, leaving that to Irvin and Dawkins. If he plays the “4”, then that likely means Doyle is good enough to get PT at the “5”, which would be my ideal scenario.

    • 1) I think LeVert definitely has the mentality. He’s never been afraid to take shots. I would expect him to lead the team in FGA by a respectable margin. I think Walton is the No. 2.

      2) Where Wilson plays depends as much on how productive Donnal/Doyle/Bielfeldt are as how ready Wilson is to bang. Chatman, Dawkins and even Irvin as he did last year, are capable of playing the four. I think longterm Wilson is a great four, but if the other fives struggle…

      • Mat

        Interesting thought about shot distribution. Last year Nik/Caris/GR3 had almost identical FGA. The two seasons prior to that Trey and THJ lead the team. Only in 2012 was there a significant gap between the top guy and the second guy. I’d be a bit surprised if we saw that again with Caris, as he won’t be the ball-dominant point the Trey was. I’d expect LeVert and Walton to take the lead and get around the same number – with Irvin not that far behind.

  • Mat

    Should we expect any redshirts? It’s hard for me to imagine 5 freshman playing, but you can make the case for each. MAAR is likely to fill a valuable backup guard role. Dawkins fits the bill as a 3/4 backup to Irvin. Chatman will play, probably at the 4. I’d be surprised if any of them red-shirted, but the real need is up-front. Doyle probably has to play due to the need at Center. That leaves Wilson, who seems like the most likely candidate to me.

    • I think it’s really tough to say. Usually when you redshirt someone… you do it because there’s someone clearly in front of them or they just aren’t ready at all.

      Michigan doesn’t have anyone proven in the frontcourt so it might just be best to throw all hands of deck and see what you can get out of the situation.

      • David DeMember

        Doyle seems ready to bang down low sooner rather than later. Outside of McGary, that’s not something we’ve seen for quite some time.

        • MAZS

          Huh? One, Morgan certainly spent the past 4 years banging down low. Two, what have you seen that makes you believe Doyle is ready? I find his tapes subjectively unimpressive–you may see them differently. But objectively, he played against smaller players in a low level league, has little AAU experience and was ranked 125-150. I see Horford. I see a project.

    • jkuofm27

      I agree that it seems like one of these guys could, because there are 10-11 solid players. But everyone pretty much maps as solid 2 man depth. If Bielfeldt really progresses he could push Wilson out or if Donnal or Doyle can play the 4 then they could have a 3 man rotation of Chatman/Donnal/Doyle at the big spots with Bielfeldt spelling in short stretches or during foul issues.



      To Ryan’s point above, the talent level on this team has risen significantly. Horford transferred because of graduate degree needs, but I think the talent we have coming in was threatening as well. Not that all of them are blue chippers, but Beilein is getting “his” guys with talent. As much as I like Max, I hope the freshman play well enough to keep him off the court. I will not count this coaching staff out on the development of anybody though and Max’s niche could be rebounding, considering Dylan’s comments about that potential weakness.

  • Ryan

    Great stuff indeed. It would seem the impression that the winning isn’t helping the recruiting comes from losing out on Booker and Blackmon. Add one of them, and the last recruiting class has equal star value as the previous two. I think the error in thinking our winning hasn’t helped recruiting is when someone just looks at the surface level picture of how Michigan Bball recruiting has developed over the last 3-4 years. Specifically, Robinson and Irvin, two of our higher ranked recruits, were ranked much lower when we did most of our significant recruiting. Obviously both blossomed and move up the ladder in star rankings, but we had already done most of our homework by then. McGary is really the only major recruit who started out ranked highly that we were able to win away from the likes of Duke and Kentucky. Although we did lose to Kentucky and Indiana respectively with Booker and Blackmon, one needs to realize a couple years ago we wouldn’t even be in the discussion of a possible commitment from high level guys like those. We would have been left off the top 3, 5, or even 10 list of these kids. Obviously, we are going to lose battles against other elite programs.

    Now, looking at 2015 and 2016, more so, we are in on several highly ranked kids and are looking to be in good position to nail down an elite 2016 class and get a great recruit or two from 2015. I think the progress from where we used to be is tremendous and will continue to grow as we continue to win and develop players.

    Also, with Dawkins and MAAR, it seems like Beilein wants a little more stability around the program rather than having to worry about not having enough players because too many kids are going Pro (good problem to have though). Both seem like two talented kids who can contribute immediately and will be heavily involved in the program for the next 4 years. Who knows, maybe they will even develop like Levert did. Wouldn’t put it past this coaching staff.

  • John Billington

    Spike Albrecht is a constant and I am sure will be very successful one day. It takes a lot for a player to accept a backup role and do as well as he does without quitting and going somewhere he could play. All the young incoming players might do well for themselves if they pay attention to his leadership skills by example not by yapping his mouth, good job Spike and Go Blue!

    • MAZS

      I really don’t think we’ve had a problem with our younger players “yapping” their mouths.

      • John Billington

        I did not say we had a problem please read what I wrote, I said Spike leads by example like one is suppose to do, again read what I wrote.

        • MAZS

          if your revised version of what you wrote is what you meant–simply that Spike is a great leader– then there was no reason to talk about “yapping” whatsoever. I also find it a little odd that you have focused solely on Spike’s leadership skills to the exclusion of others who may have a bigger leadership role. And, that said, I love me some Spike.

          • John Billington

            I focused on Spike because he is a backup player that still leads the team while on the floor by example. Horford for example talked last year about being a leader to the younger teammates but then bailed on the team by the end of the year. That’s an example of leading with yap or talk and not by example, if Spike leaves after this year for playing time elsewhere then I would say the same about him.