Nik Stauskas has a future in the NBA.
Despite the fact it failed to score a marquee victory in nonconference play, the Michigan basketball team sports plenty of NBA-caliber talent. Unfortunately, one of those stars with the potential to enter the draft come season's end, is likely out for what remains of the Wolverines' 2013-14 campaign.
Meanwhile, another duo is on the rise thanks to a recent hot streak.
One budding star sure to return for another year in Ann Arbor is sophomore shooting guard Caris LeVert. The wiry Ohioan drastically improved his game over the offseason, but he is not developed enough to consider joining the professional ranks.
LeVert is averaging 13.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and shooting 45.8 percent from the field, which indicates there is some NBA potential there.
Consistent production as a 30-plus minute per game player and adding more muscle to his lanky frame, are the two things he must do before scouts will seriously consider him.
Another youngster with great upside is Zak Irvin. The freshman shooting guard is scoring 7.6 points in just 16.5 minutes per contest. Irvin’s three-point shooting (40 percent) is what gives him a chance to play at the next level.
For now, though, let’s move on and analyze the three Wolverines NBA executives might be drafting next summer.
This season is not what Mitch McGary had in mind when he chose to come back for a second year at Michigan.
The preseason All-American only played in eight of the 12 nonconference games due to recurring back injuries. Even when McGary was on the floor, he was a shell of the player that helped carry the Wolverines to a Final Four back in April.
He only scored 12 or more points three times and struggled with his conditioning (24.8 minutes per game).
"I was trying to rehab these last six months, and it was kind of painful to play through...It was the last few strikes that were wear and tear on my body that led me to this decision," McGary told Andy Reid of TheWolverine. "It all added up. It was a little overwhelming, because I wasn't back in the shape that I wanted to be in, and it added up over time."
Even with his struggles early in the campaign, McGary was still pegged as the No. 21 overall draft prospect by Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com. Now, however, his stock is in limbo with back surgery looming.
Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger fell down NBA draft boards due to a back injury in 2012, so it is reasonable to expect a similar reaction from executives when it comes to McGary. This may force him into one more year with the Wolverines.
When all is said and done, expect the former 4-star prospect to be in a Maize and Blue uniform next season.
Glenn Robinson III
Through Michigan’s first eight games, Glenn Robinson III did not look like a potential lottery pick. Moving from the 4 to the 3, in addition to taking on a much larger role in the offense, had him in a bit of a funk until early December.
Robinson failed to score more than 15 points in any of those games and shot below 50 percent on four occasions.
Over the past four contests, which include matchups with No. 1 Arizona and Stanford, the 6’6”, 220-pounder has been nothing short of dominant. He averaged 19.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists to help the Wolverines close out nonconference play on a high note. Robinson also knocked down 28-of-42 shots and went 7-of-15 from beyond the arc during that stretch.
The biggest difference in his performance has been his willingness to attack the rim. Robinson is driving the lane and using his freakish athleticism to finish off scoring opportunities in the paint. According to Hoop-Math, the Hoosier State product is making 90.6 percent of his attempts at the rim.
Becoming a more efficient jump shooter is the only thing Robinson has left to do. Shooting 38.1 percent on two-point jumpers is not going to cut it in the NBA.
If Robinson continues to light up opponents throughout Big Ten Conference play, he will have a tough time passing on the NBA draft for a second time.
Without question, Nik Stauskas is Michigan’s best player entering league play. Robinson may have more upside at the professional level given his athleticism, but Stauskas is a much more consistent scorer and creator.
In 11 appearances this season, he has six 20-point performances and is pouring in three-pointers at a 47.5 percent clip.
"Although Stauskas is neither an elite athlete nor a great defender, his offensive abilities are getting him a serious look from NBA scouts," ESPN.com's Chad Ford told Brendan F. Quinn of MLive. "Not only does he continue to be a lights-out shooter but he's getting to the line this season."
The two biggest improvements on Stauskas’ stat line this year, though, are assists and free-throw attempts, as Ford noted.
He leads the Wolverines with 3.3 assists per game, up from 1.3 helpers a season ago. Most of these assists are a result of him drawing attention in the lane by attacking the rim. This is the main reason why his trips to the charity stripe are significantly higher as well. Stauskas took 87 free throws as a true freshman. This season, he is already 59-of-74 at the foul line.
As long as the Canadian shooting guard keeps filling up the basket, he could wind up vaulting himself into the first round of NBA draft projections. It is hard to see him returning, if that comes to fruition.
Want to talk more Michigan basketball? Follow me on Twitter @Zach_Dirlam.