Monday, October 29, 2012

Previewing The Roster: Jordan Morgan

One of the most consistent players over the last two seasons has been Jordan Morgan, the 6'8" center out of Detroit, Michigan.  Morgan will be a redshirt junior this season and may not have the same expectations as players like Trey Burke, who was recently named a preseason All-American, but many fans are looking for improved play from Morgan this season.  This will probably be the season with the most depth both at and around Morgan's position during his career, which means that he will have to battle for minutes, even if he ends up being Michigan's starting center, which I have already projected.

Morgan may have been on a better team last season, but that really didn't show in his numbers.  In fact, the majority of his production actually decreased.  He averaged 24.4 minutes, 7.3 points, and 5.62 rebounds per game during the 2011-2012 season.  In the season before, he average 0.4 fewer minutes, but actually averaged almost 2 more points per game and 0.3 less rebounds per game.  Arguably, a big piece of this was due to the emergence of Jon Horford, who got some significant playing time in the early season and actually started the first game of the season, but that kind of decrease is not what you like to see between a freshman and sophomore season, even if he did redshirt.  Of course, the team was better around him and there were more contributors, but if a guy averages more playing time, decreases on his points scored by a significant margin, and barely increases his rebounding, there are going to be some concerns going into the next year.

Things To Look For In 2012-2013:

1.  Stay Out Of Foul Trouble
Morgan did better with his fouls last year in comparison to the previous year.  Over the course of the season, he had 31 fewer fouls than he did the year before.  However, he still had 80 fouls over the course of the season and had at least 3 fouls in 14 separate games.  Unsurprisingly, these were the games that were associated with decreased minutes and production for Morgan.  This was incredibly important last season because Michigan didn't have a suitable replacement for Morgan once Horford had his season-ending injury.

Morgan will never avoid every foul, but continuing his positive trend towards fewer fouls will be important to improving his play and guaranteeing himself more playing time, especially if Mitch McGary starts to emerge as the season continues.  It's not extremely surprising, but Morgan averaged fewer points (6.79) per game when he had 3 or more fouls in a game than his season average.  This was also important because he had 14 games when he reached this number.  The main goal shouldn't be a total foul decrease, but reducing the games where his fouls add up (though they're both related).  If Morgan can reduce the number of games with 3+ fouls, look for a big year.

2.  More Offensive Moves
Not every player is going to have incredible offensive skills.  Just look at Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft.  If the game was only offense, he wouldn't even be close to an All-Big Ten player, but his defense is so outstanding that he is easily one of the best players in the Big Ten.  Morgan has offensive skills, but they are pretty limited at this point.  Do I expect him to nail some 3 points or shoot outside the paint?  No and Michigan has plenty of players that can fill that role, but he does need to work on expanding his offensive weapons.

For the most part, Morgan scored in one way, dunks.  Plus, not just dunks, but mainly two handed power dunks.  Yes, he would hit a shot here or there, but I never got the feeling that he was truly going to attack the basket or be dangerous using his low post game.  He can beat defenses here or there, but he didn't do much outside of dunks.  Morgan is not one dimensional and I hope it's not coming across that I believe he is one dimensional, but there's no denying that's the way he scores most of the time.  In his redshirt freshman year, he at least had his arch shot that he could throw over defenses and covered pretty well, but for some reason, it dropped off last year.  If he can get that back or develop some other way to score, I think he could have a big year, but if he continues to just rely on two handed dunks, I think McGary might start pressuring him for his spot on the floor.

3.  Improved Defense
Morgan was not bad on the defensive side.  In fact, the primary time that Michigan got hurt on defense was when he was in foul trouble and Beilein was forced to use Smotrycz.  However, Morgan was part of the frontcourt defense that let Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas run over Michigan twice last year.  Michigan never held Sullinger or Thomas to less than 10 pts in a game last season and Thomas was able to score 25 against Michigan later on in the year.  Of course, Morgan alone can't be blamed for both of these players having big games, but Morgan did struggle against the elite big men defensive.

I don't blame him for struggling, but it is an area for him to improve.  Can he slow down the Big Ten's best big men and avoid those offensive explosions?  Guys like Cody Zeller are going to score, but improving his defense will help separate himself from guys like Horford and secure more playing time.  Right now, I think Horford is better defensively than Morgan, but if he can close the gap on defense, he should be on the floor for the majority of the game.  There's no doubt Morgan will have some more competition for playing time, but I think he should be a very consistent and reliable player this year.

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