Michigan lost three starters from last year’s roster and will have to replace 56.3% of last year’s minutes and 57.9% of last year’s scoring.
Using play type statistics from Synergy Sports, we can see what types of plays Michigan used the most last season, what portion of that production was lost, and who on the roster is best equipped to fill the void in each area of the game offensively.
% of Poss. Lost: 53%
% of Offense: 27.1%
Top Candidate: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (112 poss, 1.17 PPP, 90th percentile)
I expected to write up Duncan Robinson here, but Abdur-Rahkman is not only Michigan’s highest usage spot-up player returning, he was also more efficient than Robinson. Abdur-Rahkman scored 1.17 points per spot-up possession, using 112 possessions. Only Derrick Walton (1.5 PPP) was more efficient spotting up while Irvin (141 poss) and Wilson (119 poss) used more. Duncan Robinson wasn’t far behind at 92 possessions (and 1.13 points per), but Abdur-Rahkman’s efficiency surprised me.
Lost in the shuffle here is the fact that Abdur-Rahkman is actually a very good shooter off the catch. He had a 60 eFG% on catch-and-shoot jumpers last season and he’s more dynamic in spot-up situations because he has a nice array of moves to put the ball on the floor and attack closeouts. Right now a move like this isn’t in Duncan Robinson’s bag of tricks.
One other name to keep an eye on here is freshman wing guard Jordan Poole. If Poole is going to play a Zak Irvin-as-a-freshman type of role this year, then he could easily use 100 spot-up possessions off the bench. Irvin used 103 as a freshman with a 61.2 eFG% and Poole certainly has the range and a smooth stroke.
Pick & Roll Ball Handler
% of Poss. Lost: 80%
% of Offense: 15.1%
Top Candidate: Jaaron Simmons (228 possessions, .82 PPP, 65th percentile @ Ohio University)
This is the one that probably keeps John Beilein up at night. It’s also the reason that he went out and secured Jaaron Simmons as a graduate transfer from Ohio. Michigan lost 322 of 402 ball screen shooting possessions from a season ago — a staggering number when you account for the fact that the pick and roll is the most important element of the Wolverine offense.
Derrick Walton graded out in the 86th percentile as a ball screen scorer and, despite his ups and downs, Zak Irvin graded in the 63rd percentile. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman used 54 ball screen possessions, but scored in just the 31st percentile nationally.
It’s tough to adjust for the upgrade in competition, but Simmons appears to be the perfect answer. He shows the ability to score in the ball screen game from every level and has a significant sample size (228 possessions). Here’s a quick reel of Simmons’ ability to score in the pick-and-roll game.
% of Poss. Lost: 59%
% of Offense: 13.4%
Top Candidate: Charles Matthews (25 possessions, .64 PPP, 5th percentile)
This is where Charles Matthews should make an impact. Matthews is an elite athlete who can finish above the rim in transition. The problem with that assumption is that Matthews’ offensive efficiency numbers were bad in almost every area other than putbacks during his one season at Kentucky.
If you believe in Michigan this year, then you have to believe that Matthews will be a far better offensive player than he showed at any time in Lexington. That doesn’t take a big leap of faith, but the question is just how much better? At a minimum, Matthews should have his fair share of transition dunks this season.
% of Poss. Lost: 63%
% of Offense: 8.7%
Top Candidate: Jaaron Simmons
Michigan is generally heavier on pick-and-roll action than isolation sets, but the Wolverines graded out in the 87th percentile in ISO offense last season and Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin led the way.
Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman is a great isolation scorer in his own right, scoring 40 points in 39 possessions last year (87th percentile), and Moritz Wagner was also effective (28 points on 30 possessions) — make sure to check out our look at his isolation offense in Crete — but the sheer volume of isolation offense that Jaaron Simmons ran last season is impressive.
Simmons scored 126 points on 132 isolation possessions last season and only 6 Division I players scored more points in ISO sets last season. This isolation ability will be critically important because it will give Michigan an option to attack switches in the ball screen game.
% of Poss. Lost: 57%
% of Offense: 6.4%
Top Candidate: Charles Matthews
DJ Wilson scored a third of Michigan’s points off of cuts last season. He gave the Wolverines the production as a baseline finisher and backdoor cutter that they hadn’t had since Glenn Robinson III was on the roster.
It’s hard to be an inefficient cutter (Mark Donnal was the worst on the roster last year, but still managed 1.25 points per cutting possession), but great cutters create opportunities and finish plays that others wouldn’t.
Moritz Wagner had 37 cutting possessions to Wilson’s 55 and I’d expect to see that number increase, but from the wing Charles Matthews seems like another worthy candidate with his length, athleticism and finishing ability.
% of Poss. Lost: 41%
% of Offense: 6.2%
Top Candidate: Duncan Robinson (55 possessions, 1.11 PPP, 80th percentile)
This is one of the play types where Michigan returns its top option from a season ago. Duncan Robinson had a 59.2 eFG% coming off of screens and used 55 possessions. However, shots off of screens accounted for only 6.2% of Michigan’s offense. If Robinson plays more minutes this year — a safe assumption with the graduation of Zak Irvin and early departure by DJ Wilson — then it is easy to imagine John Beilein trying to generate some extra offense by running Robinson off of more sets like this.
Pick & Roll Man
% of Poss. Lost: 39%
% of Offense: 5.8%
Top Candidate: Moritz Wagner (89 possessions, 1.34 PPP, 90th percentile)
The story here isn’t losing the primary option, it is losing a damn good number two. Only two players in the country scored more points rolling (or popping) in the ball screen game than Moritz Wagner’s 119 — St. Mary’s Jock Landale and Virginia Tech’s Zach LeDay. Wagner is an elite talent in the ball screen game and Michigan should be able to get him even more touches in 2017-18.
What the Wolverines need to find out is whether Jon Teske or Austin Davis are capable of catching a ball screen pass and finishing appropriately. It’s unlikely that either is a pick-and-pop threat — an option that Michigan had from both Mark Donnal and DJ Wilson at the five — but they’ll have to prove that they can finish consistently to make up for the loss of Donnal and Wilson.
% of Poss. Lost: 60%
% of Offense: 4.1%
Top Candidate: Moritz Wagner (23 possessions, 1.13 PPP, 56th percentile)
Michigan has ranked better than 275th nationally in offensive rebounding rate just three times under John Beilein and two of those rosters had Mitch McGary. The Wolverines lose their best put-back man in DJ Wilson, but if it comes down to winning and losing games with offensive rebounding than this roster is going to be in trouble.
% of Poss. Lost: 33%
% of Offense: 3.9%
Top Candidate: Moritz Wagner (63 possessions, .952 PPP, 81st percentile)
Post-up offense accounted for just 3.9% of Michigan’s offense and Moritz Wagner was responsible for 61.2% of those possessions. Wagner is very skilled on the low block — his .952 points per possession rated in the 81st percentile — and I’d expect Michigan to get him more touches on the low block, especially if he can continue to improve as a passer.
% of Poss. Lost: 71%
% of Offense: 3%
Top Candidate: Charles Matthews
The dribble hand off in Michigan’s offense over the last few seasons has primarily been a way to get open mid-range jumpers for Zak Irvin in the middle of the floor. His inconsistency with this shot was maddening to Michigan fans at times, but the action is still a staple of Beilein’s offense.
When I think about how this action might look in Michigan’s offense in 2017-18, I envision much more Manny Harris than Zak Irvin. That’s because I can see Charles Matthews playing this same role, but using it as an opportunity to slash to the cup.
Here’s a look back at Manny Harris using an almost identical set to slash to the basket against Oklahoma in the 2009 NCAA Tournament.