Mailbag: Rotation, DJ Wilson, Max Bielfeldt & Kameron Chatman

In this week’s UM Hoops mailbag we discuss next year’s rotation, DJ Wilson’s role, Max Bielfeldt, Kameron Chatman and more.

The UM Hoops Mailbag is a collection of questions tweeted (@umhoops), e-mailed or sent via our Facebook page. Submit your questions and we’ll answer as many as we can. 

@schnell_max: I think this is a general one but people want to know….most likely starting line up? First 3 off the bench?

I’ll go with Derrick Walton, Caris LeVert, Zak Irvin, Aubrey Dawkins and Ricky Doyle as the starting lineup although I could potentially see Aubrey Dawkins coming off the bench.

Limiting the bench to three is where things become difficult. Spike Albrecht is a shoe in as the backup point guard as long as he’s healthy. Mark Donnal is the only true backup five man so he has to factor in. Beyond that you have Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Kam Chatman, Duncan Robinson, DJ Wilson and even Moritz Wagner as potential rotation players.

Abdur-Rahkman has the most experience, but he’s backing up an NBA player. Duncan Robinson is the best shooter of the bunch while Kam Chatman is probably the best passer. DJ Wilson and Moritz Wagner are unknowns, but they could be the x-factor in the puzzle and feature somewhere in the frontcourt.

A few months ago, Michigan was bringing walk-ons off the bench in Big Ten games. Now they are almost certain to have one of John Beilein’s deepest teams. There are pretty decent arguments that could be made for anyone in that group to play a major role on this team, but it’s almost impossible to argue that everyone I listed will play a significant role because there are only so many minutes to go around.

@jmstern23: Does D.J Wilson have a better future at the 4 or 5? Seems like both positions will be tough to crack the rotation this year.

Great question and the answer will probably shift over time. John Beilein spoke about Wilson last week and noted that he could play inside this year while shifting outside as his career wears on.

“DJ had a tremendous redshirt year and, I think, if he plays in the middle, this will be the only year he probably ever played in the middle,” Beilein explained last week. “He showed us down the stretch … he can be valuable in that position as well. He’s a natural forward, but, as you know, we can play small at times.”

Michigan has just two natural five men on the roster in Ricky Doyle and Mark Donnal and getting a quality 40 minutes per night from that duo might be a tall task. Beyond that, you have to look at players that probably should be playing the four. Can DJ Wilson or Moritz Wagner fill that void? You can bet that they’ll get a chance.

We only saw Wilson log 24 minutes as a freshman. He never quite looked like he knew completely what was going on so it’s difficult to judge his game overall, but to me he looked much more like a player who could add weight and play small ball minutes at the five than a wing who was ready to make a serious impact on the perimeter.

Bacari Alexander compared his role to Evan Smotrycz’s during his time at Michigan.

“D.J. is a multi-skilled forward,” Bacari Alexander recently told the Free Press. “It’s very difficult to just peg him at the center position or at the power forward position. I think he’ll do a little bit of both. On some level I always joke about him being very similar to (Evan) Smotrycz. Smotrycz played for us on that right side (forward) then he migrated later in the year to the center position just to give us a guy to stretch the defense on the pick and pop scenario. D.J.’s role will be very similar.”

@FJFerrick: Why can’t Max Bielfeldt get the open scholarship ?

There’s nothing stopping Max from coming back to fill the open scholarship, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if both parties were just ready to move on at this point.

Bielfeldt could transfer somewhere else and play more significant minutes or play a traditional power forward role. From Michigan’s point of view, the future has to become the present sooner than later. Would having DJ Wilson or Moritz Wagner play Max Bielfeldt’s minutes help Michigan more down the road?

Those are the questions that everyone involved and right now it seems like the odds of that happening are low.

“I don’t even know,” Bielfeldt told MLive on Monday. “I’ve just been looking to see what else is out there. If this (situation did come up), I knew I’d have to take it for what it is. If I end up making a decision here in the next week or so and nothing pops up Michigan-wise, then I’ll move on.

“(I haven’t talked with Beilein about it) since the scholarship opened up.”

@YpsiTuckyBoy: What does Kam Chatman need to focus on the most this offseason?

The jumpshot is an obvious area as Kam made just 26% of his threes and shot easily a dozen jumpers that never even looked like they had a chance of going in. But I think it’s possible for Kam to succeed even with a below-average jumper.

The real key for Chatman is to allow the game to slow down and make the right play every trip down the court. He would show glimpses of his potential during his freshman year, but there was usually a mistake a few possessions later on one end of the floor.

I love his passing ability and think he has the ability to turn that into a real weapon, but he needs to be able to keep opposing defenses more honest by improving his finishing. Last year he shot just 41% at the rim and that’s a huge concern. He needs to be able to finish at the four spot, because of the residual action and cuts that can lead to baskets at that position. A year of added strength and training should help as he starts to get some of those scooping layups out of his system and starts to finish strong.

@Jack_Cardinal: ceiling and floor for next year?

I’m going to define ‘floor’ as where this team should finish with a roughly average season. Last year proved that a few injuries and bad breaks can pretty much shatter any season, but let’s say the floor is a ‘realistic expectation’.

I’d set the expectation somewhere around the top half of the Big Ten and comfortably in the NCAA tournament with around a 5 or 6 seed. That seems realistic for this group which has as much experience, and potentially depth, as any of John Beilein’s teams in recent years and still should have enough top-end talent to compete.

When we start talking about a ceiling, the question becomes whether there’s enough talent to win a Big Ten Championship or make a deep run in the NCAA tournament on the roster. Can this team win the Big Ten? 2011 taught me to never say never, but I would be surprised. I think they can compete in that top group, but some of the talent in the upper echelon of the league is impressive this year. Michigan’s lack of proven low-post options is a major concern is the limiting factor of this team’s potential. If Michigan is going to shatter expectations it’s going to be because one of the big men make a massive leap this summer.

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