Michigan Basketball: Top Storylines to Follow in Wolverines' 2014 Offseason
Following a second Big Ten Conference title in the past three seasons and a second-straight trip to the Elite Eight, the Michigan basketball program enters the offseason with plenty to feel good about. Despite a few pending NBA draft declarations, the Wolverines should have no problem reloading for 2014-15.
Last offseason brought plenty of drama, mostly regarding Mitch McGary's back injury, so Michigan is hoping for a much quieter break this time around.
There are five things Wolverine fans should be paying attention for during this offseason, though.
NBA Draft Declarations
For the third year in a row, the Maize and Blue faithful will be sweating out potential NBA draft declarations. Three Wolverines could elect to turn professional within the next month, which would certainly change expectations for the 2014-15 season.
Nik Stauskas has more than likely played his final game in a Michigan uniform. Fans will be hoping against hope that he chooses to return, but there is simply nothing left for him to do in Ann Arbor. After all, he was named the Big Ten Conference Player of the Year and earned several All-American honors.
About the only flaw left in his game is defense. Seeing as that quality is not of great importance in the NBA anymore, this is not exactly a concern for teams looking to draft a high-caliber guard.
Assuming he enters the draft, an NBA scout told Brendan F. Quinn of MLive, Stauskas will "be drafted in the late lottery."
The other two Wolverines with eyes on the professional ranks, Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, are in much different situations.
McGary is coming off back surgery, which is not going to do him any favors as the early entry deadline approaches.
Robinson's sporadic play and tendency to disappear leaves his draft projection in limbo as well. There is no doubt he has all the physical tools and freakish athleticism required to play in the NBA, but consistency and the ability to create his own shot remain worrisome to front offices.
"He just scares me because of his inconsistency," an NBA scout told Quinn.
Still, if Robinson receives a first-round projection, he could elect to polish his game on a pro roster.
Once the April 27 early-entry deadline arrives, expect Stauskas to be headed out of town, while Robinson and McGary opt to come back for one last hurrah.
Job Openings and Offers
The coaching carousel never stops spinning and it could affect Michigan's offseason. Last year, Brad Stevens shocked the world by leaving Butler for the Boston Celtics. Shortly after his decision, assistant coach LaVall Jordan became one of the top candidates to succeed Stevens.
Some of the openings at major conference programs have already come off the market, but there will be plenty of mid-majors hunting for replacements soon enough. And you can bet Jordan and fellow assistant coach Bacari Alexander will be getting more than a few phone calls.
The two have certainly proven that they are ready to take command of a program.
Jordan has developed Darius Morris, Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. into NBA guards. This year, Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. all made significant strides forward over the offseason and during the 2013-14 campaign.
Meanwhile, Alexander made sure to get the most out of Jordan Morgan this season. The fifth-year senior recorded two double-doubles in the NCAA tournament, and he outplayed big men who were supposed to possess superior talent.
Watching Mitch McGary blossom during last season's run to the national championship game certainly helps Alexander's case as well.
It will take the right opportunity for either one to leave Ann Arbor. That chance may be coming this offseason, though.
Rumblings About the Newcomers
Anything Michigan fans hear about the newcomers will more than likely be good news.
The best candidate for early playing time is versatile small forward Kameron Chatman. The 4-star prospect could very well crack the starting lineup, especially if Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas bolt for the NBA. Regardless of their decisions, he will play at the 3 or 4 next season.
Ricky Doyle and D.J. Wilson are candidates to redshirt, while Austin Hatch's situation is still up in the air.
One player who will not technically be a newcomer but could make an impact is Mark Donnal. The Whitehouse, Ohio native redshirted this season and has put on 10-15 pounds. The former 4-star prospect has the ability to shoot it from the outside and score out of the post. He is still a bit limited in terms of putting the ball on the deck, but John Beilein will find a way to play to his strengths.
The Maize and Blue faithful should keep their ears open for anything about the new faces entering the program.
Zak Irvin showed plenty of promise as a true freshman, but with the realistic potential of Nik Stauskas departing, he will have to take on an increased role in 2014-15. This makes the offseason all the more important for the shooting guard.
Irvin was one of four Wolverines to shoot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc and averaged 6.7 points off the bench. Those numbers are a bit worse than Stauskas' freshman season, though, there was not a pressing need to thrust him into the lineup.
With an opening at the 2, Irvin seems to be the best candidate to fill the void.
If he is able to develop and return to Ann Arbor with the ability to attack off the dribble, drive the lane and create shots for others, he could be in for a massive sophomore campaign.
Be sure to keep tabs on Irvin's offseason. It will be mighty important come November.
Next Year's Starting Lineup
It is tough to project Michigan's starting lineup for next season until the NBA draft early-entry period passes. A lot will hinge on the decisions of Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary.
What will be worth monitoring over the next couple of months is what John Beilein says about how the lineup will look. Last offseason, he flirted with the idea of playing two big men. Seeing as there will be a combination of six power forwards and centers on the roster next season, the chance of having starting five with two bigs is relatively high.
If this were to happen with Robinson coming back, he would likely try out the 3 again, Caris LeVert could shift to the 2 and Jon Horford and Mitch McGary would take the two forward spots. Kameron Chatman and Mark Donnal would be the top reserves for those lineups.
Things change completely if Robinson elects to leave. This would thrust Zak Irvin into the starting lineup, keep LeVert at the 3 and put some combination of Horford, McGary, Chatman and Donnal at the 4 and 5.
The lineup possibilities are endless, which undoubtedly has Beilein grinning from ear to ear, so keep an eye out for any news about potential starting fives.
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