Stu Douglass seems to be a common scape goat among Michigan fans but, by the time his career is over, he’s on pace to be ranked among the top 10 Wolverines in minutes played and top 5 in three point field goals made. His junior year was his most productive statistical season to date, despite shifting between various roles. Douglass opened the season as the sixth man, providing a shooting boost off the bench. He played more minutes as the season progressed, eventually moving into the starting lineup and growing into Michigan’s primary perimeter defender as well. Many Michigan players saw their roles change throughout the season but Douglass’ shift was the most dramatic.
- Defense: Douglass was Michigan’s best perimeter defender by a wide margin. He was tasked with guarding players like Kalin Lucas, Talor Battle and Demetri McCamey and, for the most part, did a great job. He’s not Travis Walton or Chris Kramer by any means. He’s not the longest or quickest player but Douglass is great running through screens and guarding players off of the ball. He was the best defender on the Michigan roster this season.
- Shooting: Douglass didn’t have a great shooting year but it was the best of his career: 49% on twos and 36% on threes for a 51.9% effective field goal percentage. For comparison, Stu’s eFG% the last two seasons were 47.4% (so.) and 50.3% (fr.). Those are good but not “lights out” great shooting numbers.
- Experience & Leadership: Douglass isn’t a passionate rah-rah guy like Zack Novak but he made large strides as a leader this season. His defense sets an example but he also did a number of little things from time to time whether it was grabbing 10 rebounds versus Kansas or 7 versus Illinois or handing out five assists versus Tennessee. The bottom line is that the Stu Douglass that we saw over the last two months of the season seemed to have a bigger chip on his shoulder – grabbing impressive rebounds, diving for loose balls and playing physically defensively.
Room for Improvement:
- Playing Point Guard: Douglass is not a point guard and it’s best for everyone if he plays off the ball. Unfortunately, he was still forced to spell Morris for stretches this season. His passing numbers were down, assisting just 11% of Michigan’s made field goals when on the floor, but part of that was the fact that he didn’t have to play on the ball as often this season. Stu is a smart player that knows the offense but he still looked uncomfortable facing full court pressure and wouldn’t play point guard in a perfect world.
- Free Throws: This problem is two-fold. First, Douglass never got to the line. His free throw rate (FTA/FGA) is jaw-droppingly low at just 5.5%, or 13 FTA to 238 FGAs. Second, he doesn’t make his limited opportunities count, knocking down just 3 of those 13 free throws or 23% of his attempts. Douglass was 21/27 and 19/28 in his sophomore and freshman years, so perhaps this is some sort of sample size anomaly but it was certainly painful.
- Shot Selection: Stu’s shooting mechanics are very good but he limits his shooting numbers by taking far too many ill advised attempts. There’s no metric to measure this – unless we had shot charts for the entire season – but as a senior it would be great to see Douglass be a bit more selective before letting them fly.
Shining Moment: Stu’s two late baskets in East Lansing take the prize here. A pull-up jumper with four minutes to play and a deep three to ice the game with with 20 seconds left (bigger than his three versus UCLA?). They are worthy of video:
Runner-up: 19 points on 7 of 10 (5-7) three point shooting versus Harvard, a game Michigan doesn’t win without Douglass’ production. Video.
Stu’s transition from sixth man to starter didn’t necessarily go smoothly from an individual perspective. As Douglass began playing more minutes, his shooting efficiently declined steadily. Michigan also started winning games. The Wolverines were 7-4 in the games that Douglass started down the stretch and he saw his minutes increase significantly during Michigan’s late season run. Still, this graph is a bit sobering:
The graph also raises some interesting questions about Stu Douglass’ role going forward. What benefits Douglass? What benefits Michigan? How many minutes should he play next season? There is a large external component to this equation that relies on the other pieces in Michigan’s backcourt.
- Does Darius Morris enter the NBA draft or return to school?
- Are the freshmen guards ready to play? Offensively but more importantly defensively.
- Where does Zack Novak play the majority of his minutes? The two or the four? This is closely related to Evan Smotrycz’s development, something we’ll focus on in later report cards.
In an ideal world, Douglass would play somewhere around 25 minutes per game, all at the two position. That really seems like it would be the sweet spot, keeping him fresh enough to play a role offensively without taxing him by having him chase the opponents best player for 35 minutes This isn’t really a knock on Douglass, playing fewer minutes feels like a move that would make him a significantly more efficient offensive player.
The sticking point is that, in order for Douglass to play fewer minutes, Michigan’s perimeter defense has to improve across the board. Darius Morris, Zack Novak, Trey Burke, Carlton Brundidge and Matt Vogrich are the players most likely to play minutes at the one and two next season. None of the upperclassmen are necessarily known as great perimeter defenders and it’s tough to expect any freshmen to be a lockdown defender.
If 25 minutes per game is the best case scenario, the worst case scenario would be that Morris goes pro and Douglass is forced to split time at the point guard position with Trey Burke. That would be a situation eerily similar to Michigan circa 2009-10, when Douglass was forced to play major minutes at the point guard and struggled all season.
Douglass’ 2010-11 season was up and down but his defensive performance during the last two months of the year was extremely impressive. He’s not a perfect player but he’s willfully accepted whatever role this team has required. Ideally he’ll finally be able to grow into a role that is catered toward his strengths and really allows him to blossom into an efficient offensive player as a senior.