New-look Michigan roster is one of Beilein’s ‘most versatile’

Dylan Burkhardt

Three years ago, Michigan won the Big Ten with a starting lineup that measured 6-1, 6-3, 6-5, 6-4 and 6-8. The Wolverines were one of the smallest teams in the country and while they certainly rebounded like it, they also found a way to win.

Since then, John Beilein has been forced to overhaul his roster almost every season. The only players from that roster still playing college basketball are doing so at other schools. In its place is perhaps Beilein’s best combination of length and versatility yet. The Wolverines can now lean on a starting lineup that measures: 6-1, 6-7, 6-6, 6-8 and 6-9.

For all of the questions about Michigan’s youth and inexperience this season, there’s a lot to like about the roster that John Beilein has constructed. It’s tough to say how they’ll all fit together, but it’s clear that there’s a very flexible group for Beilein to develop.

“We have guards, we have forwards and we have a guy that plays in the middle. Sometimes we will have four guys out there at one time that are guards,” Beilein said. “Because of Kam’s ball-handling ability, I think he can play a lot of positions. This may be one of our more versatile teams.”

Caris LeVert is still Michigan’s most versatile player. LeVert grew to 6-foot-7, 200 pounds this offseason, according to Michigan’s official roster, and should be able to moonlight at any position in the backcourt or on the wings. His home will be the two-guard spot and he’s one of the top pro prospects in the league due to his ability to create off the bounce and knock down the three-point shot.

LeVert will be flanked by another wing guard with size, Zak Irvin, but beyond its returning players, Michigan’s younger players will add a lot to the table. The Wolverines might not have the most size with respect to interior girth and athleticism, but junior guard Spike Albrecht is impressed with the group.

“I think people will have a lot to like with our freshmen, and the versatility they bring,” Albrecht said. “We have a lot of length and athleticism this year and it’s exciting to be a part of.”

Albrecht has played alongside Trey Burke, Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III and Tim Hardaway Jr. during his two years in Ann Arbor, so it’s safe to say he knows a little something about length and athleticism.

Kameron Chatman headlines the incoming class and is the sort of five-tool player that John Beilein used to only dream about early in his tenure in Ann Arbor. He’s an ideal fit because his left-handedness allows Michigan to initiate more offense from the right side of the floor. Given his ability to shoot, pass and rebound, you’d be hard pressed to find a better fit for the four position in Beilein’s offense than Chatman and he has the potential to be much more.

“He’s going to play both forward positions, and if we ever got stuck he could play in the backcourt,” Beilein said. “He has done some really good things and all of the freshmen are okay. What happens when we string two or three weeks together? This summer, even though we did get to practice, it was at like seven o’clock at night after a day of classes and study hall. When we can put practices back-to-back it’s going to be really exciting to see his development.”

While he might be drawing the most praise, Chatman isn’t Michigan’s only versatile option. Beilein has different choices with different skillsets at the five position. Ricky Doyle can bang around the basket while Mark Donnal can step out and knock down the 16-footer. DJ Wilson measured in at 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, he has the ability to play the four or the five down the road and might be Michigan’s top long-term prospect.

The Wolverines have steady and experienced options at the point guard in Derrick Walton and Spike Albrecht, but Beilein has interesting wing guard options in reserve. Freshman Aubrey Dawkins is one of Michigan’s best athletes while Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman is one of its best off-the-dribble creators.

Entering last season, there were very few, if any Michigan players that didn’t know their roles. The Wolverines sophomores had played key roles in a Final Four run and the freshmen that would be thrown into the mix were asked to do the one thing they had done for their entire lives (run the point guard position or shoot threes). This year, there might be a few too many moving pieces to avoid some early growing pains. But, given Beilein’s track record, it’s tough to imagine that he can’t find the right mix for his young roster to excel by year’s end.

  • Fab 5 Legends

    its almost November – really excited for Beilein developing these freshman, I can see us surprising a lot of people, no pressure on these youngsters…go blue!

  • jihadist john™

    all good points, dylan, but what will wind up making this roster unique from all others in the beilein era, IMO, is also what will turn out to be its biggest strength: DEPTH…if italy is any indication (and also assuming DJ wilson doesn’t redshirt) they’re going to be a solid ELEVEN deep…that’s basically unheard of, in relation to what we’ve become accustomed to…not only will they be that insanely deep, the case can also be made that so long as either levert or irvin (go-to scorers) are on the floor at any time, they may not skip a beat…still a lot to be determined, but i’m looking forward to the word DEPTH being something we get to point at all winter…interchangeable parts at all positions and plenty of fouls to give…the latter which may significantly change some existing defensive philosophies

    • geoffclarke

      My two biggest hopes are that Doyle and Donnal can man the 5-spot by themselves, remaining healthy, and Wilson forces his way into playing time at the 4. With this type of lineup, I think we can compete with anyone. I know Chatman gives us more length at the 4 than we’ve had in a while, but Wilson’s length (and what he was able to do against Ivan Rabb) takes it to another level. I’m counting on relatively consistent and good to exceptional play from Walton, LeVert, and Irvin.

  • John

    Great observation JJ. I think the depth will help offset the youth of this team during the season. Although I don’t expect a BT championship (Wiscy)..another solid year building for the future is alright with me.
    Still think Beilein needs to get himself a couple of big time recruits because LeVert and Irvin won’t be here forever.

    • David

      “Still think Beilein needs to get himself a couple of big-time recruits…”

      Of course I agree big-time recruits are always a great sign, but I think Beilein looks for “coach-able” kids. I’m making a gross generalization but I feel like that coachable attitude is less prevalent among the upper echelons of talent, and Mitch was a perfect example of my flawed thinking.

      Either way, it HAS to be increasingly difficult each year for recruits and their parents not to see that Beilein is one of the best, if not the best, developers of talent in the country in terms of improving game and preparing for the NBA as evidenced by the last several years. Since 2011 JB has 6, as compared with Izzo, at a perennial bball powerhouse school, who has 3. This being the case, I see no possible way recruiting and performance will be a problem as long as John is at the helm.

      Also – you have to consider the age old question of 1-and-done vs. 4-year player

    • jihadist john™

      recruits BECOME “big time” under beilein’s tutelage…proven track record as an elite developer of skills…i trust his evaluation of players over dopey recruiting services any day…shouldn’t even be up for debate after this many years…it’s also worth noting that he does not go after any players diva characteristics, which are often a big part of the make-up of these “big time” recruits you desire…beilein can pick and choose at this point and he will always err on the side of team first kids who were raised well and fit into UM’s family atmosphere