Mailbag: X-factors, wing targets, backup center

Dylan Burkhardt

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. 

hailtoyourvictor: I say that this team has 4 wildcards…. Kameron Chatman, Duncan Robinson, Moritz Wagner, and D.J. Wilson. Gun to your head, who (of those 4) plays the most minutes in 2015/2016?

I love this question because these four players probably aren’t going to be Michigan’s primary options next year, but all four could be vitally important. I think more than one player in this group will play rotation minutes, but I’ll play along and choose one.

Watching Michigan play under Beilein over the last eight years, I’ve learned to bet on one thing before anything else: shooting.

Duncan Robinson is the best shooter in this group and if he can shoot it as well as has been advertised, it’s going to be hard to keep him off the court. I’m not sure where exactly he’ll play — his size (6’8″) and shooting ability make him a realistic option at a number of positions — but I’m confident in saying that he will play.

93grad: What are your thoughts on Kevin Huerter? He seems like the prototypical Beilein recruit and maybe the best fit at this point for a the wing spot (assuming Battle goes elsewhere)

I had a chance to watch Kevin Huerter play in-person at the Nike EYBL stop in Lexington and it was obvious why Beilein is so fond of his game. He’s not just a great shooter, he also sees and manages the game so well. He can make a positive impact without dominating the ball thanks to his vision and passing ability.

The key for Michigan will be to get Huerter on campus for a visit and make an impact in his recruitment. He plans to take visits in August and decide before his high school season in December, according to a report by the Times Union.

“I’m busy enough during the school year, worrying about going to practice every night and doing schoolwork,” Huerter told the Times Union. “I don’t want to have to worry about my future. I want to get it done with before (the season).”

Villanova, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Michigan, Miami, Iowa, Indiana, Creighton, Davidson, Penn State, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Stanford are all in the mix and vying for a visit.

bacon141: If Battle does not re-commit and Bridges goes elsewhere like most assume he will, where will we turn to for wings? Any potential late bloomers that we are looking at?

The top priority without an offer is probably Kevin Huerter – as mentioned above. He’s a terrific shooter and passer that would fit perfectly in the Michigan offense. He’ll need to visit, but if and when he does I would expect him to land a Wolverine offer.

One that has emerged over the last several weeks is Ibi Watson. Watson, who plays at the same Pickerington Central high school that produced Caris LeVert, played very well at Michigan’s College Practice Camp in June and John Beilein checked in on him on Saturday and Sunday.

It’s important to distinguish that this wasn’t just sliding over to another court at the Peach Jam, instead Beilein made the trip to the Best of the South tournament in Suwanee, GA just to check in on Watson.

Watson scored 14 pointsin a 69-60 win against Alabama Challenge in the tournament championship and was named MVP of the event. He added an offer from Indiana on Sunday night and is one to follow closely over the next several weeks and months.

Another name that I mentioned last week was Karmari Newman out of East English Prep. Michigan watched him play over the weekend and he definitely qualifies as a backup option.

mgobluehoops23: Who is your front runner to win the backup center job and why?

I’m still going to go with Mark Donnal, especially to start the season. Donnal is the guy with the experience, even if his redshirt freshman year was fairly underwhelming. He’s going to have the backup role as the first big off the bench until someone takes it from him.

But DJ Wilson might be that guy. Wilson looked to have made significant strength gains when he was coaching campers at Michigan’s College Practice Camp. That added size, and Michigan’s roster composition, makes me think that he’s angling for a role at the backup five position. Wilson has length and ability to provide a unique skillset at the five position and if he’s strong enough to hold his own (and can stay healthy). Wilson has the higher ceiling and even though he’s only played a smattering of Division I minutes I’d expect him to factor into the equation.

@cdbarker: What are you expecting from Michigan’s access to the Jumpman? Does it make sense for Nike to go back to the Fab Fives for $$$

It definitely won’t hurt. The Jordan Brand only sponsors four college basketball programs — UNC, Georgetown, California and Marquette – and it’s no secret that Jordan sneakers are the most popular basketball shoe. While it will help, it also won’t be some sort of magic bullet that changes everything about Michigan’s recruiting. Recruiting is also a lot more than a shoe contract. There are situations where shoes and shoe sponsors might matter, but at the end of the day recruiting is still going to come down to fit between prospect and school.

siliconvalleyumfan: How Stauskas and Hardaway fit into their new NBA teams?

I’m no NBA expert, but the fits seem pretty decent for both players.

For Nik Stauskas, a fresh start is just what the doctor ordered. Sacramento was a mess and Stauskas played for three head coaches in his only season in the league. Meanwhile, the 76ers have an offense focused on creating lots of three-point shots, but lacked the shooters to make them efficiently last season. With Jahlil Okafor inside to demand a double-team, Stauskas should get better opportunities in Philly.

Hardaway will finally have the chance to play for a winning team, but he’s also facing a lot of pressure to improve upon last year’s disappointing season. Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney questioned the move to trade for Hardaway:

Hardaway’s fit with Atlanta is far from simple. To date, Hardaway hasn’t shown the multiple-effort (or even single-effort) defense that Budenholzer prizes in wing players nor any propensity to share the ball as part of a complex offensive system. His greatest selling point as a pro (shooting ability) faded within New York’s scrambled offense last season. There’s good reason to think that skill could be revitalized in the right context, though the Hawks would hardly be the most logical landing spot for a player who tends to fire up shots indiscriminately. Atlanta apparently saw something in Hardaway beyond his sagging shooting (38.9% overall, 34.2% from three) and leaky defense that deemed him worthy of a decent first-round pick.

  • I just want to win

    Does Bridges have a offer? I have read on other sites that he does……I still believe that we will have a very good classes on “16” and “17”.

  • Ernie Silverthorn

    I think you meant Donnal will “start” as the backup center until someone takes it away from him. Unless I’m mistaken Ricky Doyle will “have the starting position until someone takes it away from him.”

  • Corperryale

    If Michigan secures a commitment from a first-choice wing (basically Bridges or Huerter at this point), does it mean that the PG search essentially gets shifted to 2017?

    Or is there a realistic way they can get a wing and a PG in 2016 — that is, without waiting till the last moment next spring to know for certain if they will have any attrition, by which time most of the Plan As and Bs on the board will probably be long gone. I don’t see early entry as a likely option for anyone next year but a lot of people seem to expect a transfer, although I don’t know what this is based on.

    I’m still surprised that they took a second big in 2016 considering the pressing need for both a PG and SG/wing.

    • They would take a wing + PG in 2016. Just like they would have taken Winston with Battle.

  • Mattski

    Thanks–the meaty stuff I have been yearning for!

  • Lanknows

    Re: X-factor

    It’s hard to argue against Beilein going with shooting given all available evidence. That said, I think things might be a little different next year only because there’s already so much shooting in the rotation. Spike, Derrick, Caris, Aubrey are all locks to be in the rotation and all are capable of shooting over 40%. That’s unprecedented shooting ability for Michigan. Robinson is seems to be in that class as a shooter also, but at some point Michigan needs other things from their bench players. I think Beilein has recruited enough non-shooters (Morris, Brundidge, MAAR) for us to know that he values other attributes too – as long as he has the requisite shooting to put around them. Next year – he clearly does.

    I’m not saying Robinson can’t have a role, but I think the priority for the next (last?) guy in the rotation will be defense and/or rebounding. That could be MAAR if we need perimeter one-on-one guy, but the mostly likely candidate (IMO anyway) is Kam Chatman.

    In Chatman I see a player who can be a physical presence with good size, an athletic asset, and a respectable (GR3-caliber at worst) 3 point shooter. If he can deliver on that promise he’s a great candidate not only to be a rotation guy but a starter. Chatman’s passing fits well here too, since the other guys around him (Walton, Levert, Irvin) are going to be shooters. Starting Kam at 4 would allow Irvin to be freed from the burden of guarding PFs and maybe buy him some more minutes on the floor.

    The way I hope it shakes out is that Dawkins is the 6th man, Spike provides backup minutes for both guards, and then Robinson, MAAR, etc filling out the fringe of the rotation minutes situationally. That’s all contingent of course on Chatman taking significant steps forward both mentally and physically. Seemed like the progress was showing through at the end of the year, so I’m optimistic it will continue.

    But who knows – it’s just guesswork at this stage. All about how these guys develop and evolve. It’s nice that there are multiple options with promise to fill out these supportive roles.

  • Lanknows

    Re: Hardaway

    I think his shot selection and defense were context-driven. We saw that at Michigan when he became a much smarter and more well-rounded player his junior year. He deferred to Trey when he proved he was excellent and watched talented freshman (Stauskas, Robinson, and McGary) play much bigger offensive roles than the guys who were there the year before.

    It’s one thing to jack shots when you’re options are to watch Carmelo or Bargnani do the same thing — another when you’ll be riding the pine if you don’t fit around all-stars like Horford, Millsap, and Korver. Again – that’s what we saw at Michigan. He went from playing beside accountants to working with future NBA players and you could see the positive change in efficiency, 3%, usage decreased, fewer drives to the rim, rebounding improved, etc.

  • BigHouseBoyz

    Re: X-Factor

    Excellent questions in the mailbag! Solid responses as well Dylan.

    I am more in the camp of Robinson as the leader for a bulk of the minutes of these four guys. IMHO JB has shown the propensity to side on offense over defense. If DR has a greater assistance to the offense, from a floor spacing, pick n roll efficiency, and knocking down shots, over his defense and rebounding deficiency JB will feel comfortable with that scenario. I am not saying he will be a defensive and rebounding liability because we have not seen him at this competition level. I also feel that DR can play the 2, 3, & 4 depending on the flow of the game, foul trouble, injuries, matchups etc.
    Chatman, Wagner, and Wilson I believe will get a very good amount of minutes as they bring different skill sets. The versatility of this team is going to be it’s greatest strength and I feel we will create matchup problems all over the court, on paper. I am really excited to see how this team responds this year. Go Blue!