Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Peedi-less basketball team

I missed Obama's State of the Union address last night because I spent most of that time doing a podcast with friend and former Daily coworker Andrew Kahn who writes The Sports Journalists. The podcast should be up sometime in the near-ish future. But that's not the point. What is, is that we spent the time talking about Michigan basketball and I finally had to confront the idea of this Michigan basketball team without DeShawn Sims next year. The outlook is bleak.

Per UMHoops' scholarship breakdown--and assuming the current commits hold--Michigan has one open scholarship spot next year with basically two targets left: 6'5" wing Trey Zeigler and 6'9" power forward Jon Horford. Best case scenario, Michigan picks up Zeigler and more or less replaces the athleticism of Manny Harris, whose departure is imminent. But with the loss of Sims and senior Zach Gibson, Michigan is left with the following "big" men:
  • Ben Cronin (broken and from the sounds of it, might never play basketball again)
  • 6'8" Jordan Morgan
  • 6'10" Blake McLimans
  • 6'8" true freshman Evan Smotrycz
Assuming we don't see Cronin again, the team gains minimal size--McLimans' two inches--and loses it's most talented player, replacing him with a true freshmen and two (likely) redshirt freshman as the crux of the offense. Kill. Me. Now. Whether or not Harris decides to stick around for his senior year, Michigan is going to take a serious step back from this year's production and performance.

Simply put, three-point shooting teams don't function without either a) a functioning and threatening low-post presence or b) a Steve Nash-like point guard that can slash and dish. It's easiest for me to use NBA comparisons, so allow me to do so. If you look at the Orlando Magic, they're essentially a three-point shooting team. What happens to them, though, if they replace Dwight Howard with a mobile, albeit undersized, power forward? Or, say, Ben Wallace? Howard is the focus of that offense even though they're most effective from the three-point line (when they're winning anyway). The point being, three-point shooting teams need the pivot point of their offense to be in the lane. This opens up three pointers and good looks for your perimeter shooters. Without that pivot point, you turn into an amorphous blob with no apparent identity besides contested threes (see: Michigan 2009-2010, pre-Big Ten season).

Beilein says the team runs best when Sims is performing well. And this is exactly why: It has to run through Sims to be an effective team. With the loss of Sims, though, Michigan is going into uncharted waters. With similarly undersized big men, Michigan is apparently lacking the kind of post presence that can make their scheme truly effective. And worse still, the players that are stepping in for Sims are untested and young. Try to imagine what this team would look like right now if Sims were a freshman. Ick.

Now, the other option, and one that I think is probably more likely, is the emergence of Darrius Morris. I really like Morris' game. He's quick and smart with the ball and is clearly second to Harris as the best slasher on the team. Next year, when Morris gets a little more confidence and playing time, I think we see him become arguably the most effective and important player on the team. And he's going to have to, what with the harrowing lack of depth in Michigan's frontcourt. But if Morris doesn't develop or I'm terribly wrong about his game, Michigan is going to be in a significant amount of trouble. Either way, expect regression next year. And what will look like a seriously undercoached squad, whether or not they actually are.

[/Depressing rant on future sanity and enjoyment]


Anonymous said...

You're one of the first Michigan fans to explicitly say how important Morris will be next year. I think its safe to say if he isn't able to slash and dish we are in a heap of trouble

Lankownia said...

Seconded. Excellent point about Morris being the key player on next years team. I don't think he's quick enough to be a consistent threat on the drive though... Losing Prather to Florida was crushing. Dark times ahead.

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