Friday, January 8, 2010

Manny Harris diatribe (cont.)

I don't care that Manny didn't have a great game last night. That's not what this is about. Anyone who's been reading this blog knows that I haven't been particularly impressed with Manny Harris this season. I tried to explain why and everything I said came off as pretty circumstantial--inflated numbers because there wasn't much help on the roster, unable to take over games, whatever that means, and inconsistency regardless of averaging nearly 20 points a game. But watching the team last night completely regress in the first half, it finally hit me what bothers me so much about Harris' game.

A while ago, I said this of Harris,

Stars make their teammates better and Harris rarely does so. I'm not expecting him to run the point because that's not his position, but he doesn't flow with this team, working within their system. Simplistically, DeShawn Sims is the post presence and all the other players are the three point shooters, except Harris, who's schizophrenic and often plays with blinders on. But whatever the case, Harris seems to transcend Beilein's system and work on his own set of rules.

That was painfully apparent last night in the first half, and thinking back to the rest of the season, this is exactly the problem. On most offensive possessions, Harris stands on the shoulder of the three point line. He does half-hearted back cuts and tries to pop back out to get the ball in his hands. And the guards, inexperienced and not knowing what else to do, wait for him. They stand and stand and stand and wait until they can pass Harris the ball, at which point, there's about 10 seconds left on the shot clock, and Harris has the ball at a standstill 25 feet from the basket. And worse, Harris isn't Kevin Durant or Carmelo Anthony. He simply can't be relied to make a play on every possession.

There was a period of a few minutes in the first half against Penn State that Michigan pulled Harris, mostly because Taylor Battle was taking a breather (they both returned at the same time). The lineup was Sims/Novak/Douglass/Vogrich/LLP(?). The few possessions they had together ended poorly. Vogrich jacking up an airball. A few missed shots. But their play together looked great. There was movement by all five players on the floor. Lots of screens and cuts. And they actually produced some open shots that, were it not the first half and, well you know,  probably would've gone down.

When Harris is on the floor, the team plays a different system, and it unfortunately starts and ends with Manny Harris. The creed that this team "lives and dies by DeShawn Sims" is no joke. And there's a reason it's Sims and not Harris: Sims fits into the Beilein system in a way that Harris simply doesn't. When Sims is working on the block, the three point shooters can get open and produce good looks. When the game runs through Harris, the point of attack begins at the three-point line and the shooters have really no options besides swinging the ball around the perimeter.

This is, again, not supposed to be a condemnation of Manny Harris who is a great player and likely an NBA Draft-level talent. But in the system that Michigan runs, he just doesn't fit.


Andrew Kahn said...

Whoa whoa whoa. I have a feeling you are going to miss Manny terribly next year. Maybe we've got a recruit coming in who can come close to replacing him (though I doubt it), but nobody currently on the team is going to be that guy. I'm not saying replacing Sims is going to be easy; it's not. Michigan is going to have its work cut out trying to replace that duo.

But the bottom line is, even a team playing in a "system" like Beilein's needs a star. Do you want 100% of the non-Sims shots to be threes? Because Manny is the only dribble penetrator we have. He is not flawless, but he is our best player.

Chris Gaerig said...

It's not that I want all shots to be threes or that I don't think Manny is a valuable player. But when he's on the floor, it's not the same offense (and this often needs to be said with a negative connotation). My objection is that once we lose Manny, there will be different shots and cuts, opening things up for different players. Manny seems the only player able of creating off the dribble, but this creation comes at the expense of the system. If he weren't in it, I think you'd see a lot more back cuts, more inside-out play, and better looks, even for the outside shooters.

Chris Gaerig said...

More to the point, I think Manny takes an undue amount of shots and uses too many of Michigan's possessions. Now, he makes a lot of those shots because he's a great talent, but at what expense to the offense?

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