Michigan Basketball: Ranking the Wolverines with the Most NBA Potential
Just more than a week ago, Michigan sent three players to the pros via the 2014 NBA draft: Nik Stauskas (No. 8, Sacramento), Mitch McGary (No. 21, Oklahoma City) and Glenn Robinson III (No. 40, Minnesota). And while they may not have a repeat in 2015, coach John Beilein's Wolverines are set to push more talent to the Association's hardwood in the near future.
This slideshow will rank the NBA potential of everyone expected to be on Beilein's roster in 2014-15. Criteria for ranking will come from a mixture of what scouts, media and other experts are saying about said prospects. Size for position and ability (or projected ability) to grasp the game—also known as basketball IQ—will also be taken into account.
While somewhat important and certainly interesting, players' standings in mock drafts won't carry much weight. For instance, a player could be projected to go in the 2015 draft, but that doesn't mean that he has greater potential than that of an incoming freshman who isn't slated to be selected.
5. Derrick Walton
Derrick Walton probably won't wow pro scouts with his size. At 6'1" and 185 pounds, he's in the average-build range for NBA point men. Of course, there have been, and always will be, exceptions to the rule. In the past, supremely athletic, yet smaller 1-guards have been quite successful.
Then again, the prototypical crowd has often floundered. However, one thing remains the same across the board: Running the show in basketball is a difficult undertaking for most guys, and Walton's still learning the ropes. Now, should he reach the Association, he'll face more of an uphill climb due to larger and more athletic competition.
Players often describe the transition from high school to college as being a monumental challenge. Well, the same can be said for jumping from college into the pros. Long story short: It doesn't get any easier from this point.
Walton's entering his sophomore year and is on the verge of being a top-tier talent in the Big Ten. It's quite possible that a pro team will view him as a viable option, but not before he completes at least three years in Ann Arbor.
4. Zak Irvin
Zak Irvin's another player who's getting his feet wet. Due to the Stauskas Show in 2013-14, Irvin wasn't really needed to do much other than continue to learn the system and get reps. Considering the fact that he was a freshman, that was the right course of action.
At 6'6" and 200 pounds, he has great size for an NCAA small forward/winger. However, he'll need to put on another 15, at least, before he's ready to collide with professionals. Whether he's at the 2 or the 3, Irvin's ability to shoot the long ball could spark interest from NBA management.
Stat lines can be deceiving, so don't let Irvin's average of nearly seven points per game take away from his potential. He's an aggressive scorer, decent defender and he runs well.
And did we cover his height? Guys who are 6'6" and shoot the ball well from everywhere are always a valuable commodity.
3. D.J. Wilson
He's yet to play at the college level, but D.J. Wilson, a 6'8", 200-pound incoming freshman, is worthy of a No. 3 ranking on this list.
Wilson is coming into his own, which should give Beilein all of the comfort in the world—the Michigan coach really outdid himself with his 2014 class. While he may not be the headliner of the haul, Wilson possesses a great deal of skill that should help the Wolverines win a few games and land him in the NBA.
Rebounding, passing and creating off the dribble are essentials for power forwards. Having the ability to make something happen in tight spaces, such as along the baseline, is how they earn their keep. Wilson needs to work on that, but again, he's entering his freshman year.
And Beilein's known for promoting growth, so Wilson will be in good hands.
2. Caris LeVert
At the rate he's going, Michigan fans will have to preorder "Caris for B1G POTY" T-shirts very soon. Now would be a good time to start, actually.
Draft Express projects LeVert, Beilein's star-in-the-making, as the No. 21 pick of 2015. At 6'6" and 185 pounds, he's not a physically dominant force of nature. However, he can shoot, and he's shown flashes of nastiness along the baseline (see UM's 80-75 win over MSU).
Michigan's pumping out draft picks: Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. bounced in 2013; Stauskas, McGary and Little Dog in 2014; and it sounds like it'll be LeVert next spring.
Experts see Caris LeVert as Michigan's next NBA draft prize http://t.co/mMMBPKNeDm— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) June 29, 2014
1. Kameron Chatman
OK, so before you say, "Chatman, are you kidding me?!" stop and remember the first slide. We're talking potential here, and Kameron Chatman drips with it.
At nearly 6'7" and 200 pounds (varies from source to source), Chatman's destined to be a super-athletic winger…who won't be in Ann Arbor for long. He's effective with both hands—he's a lefty, which is nice—runs well and defends. His smooth style should translate well into Michigan's system: Everyone runs. Everyone shoots. Everyone plays defense.
Three years. Tops. And with Beilein, three could become two. It's all on Chatman, who, barring extreme circumstances, will absolutely see action in the NBA.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81