Monday, April 29, 2013

Michigan Looks To "Size Up" In The NBA

Photo Credit: Thomas Beindit
Michigan basketball hasn't been in good shape for a long time.  Entering the 2011-2012 season, the Wolverines hadn't won a Big Ten championship since the Reagan administration and hadn't made a Final Four appearance in nearly 20 years.  Over the last two seasons, Michigan has erased these deficits and truly returned the Wolverines to national relevance.
However, one of the gaps that still exists is in the NBA.  Michigan has produced a bunch of quality NBA talent during its history, but right now, that talent pool has largely dried up.  Though the NBA ranges somewhere between 360-450 players at a time (varies due to roster size), Michigan only has 3 players on NBA rosters.  Along with this, they only have 1 player who has been a major contributor; Jamal Crawford.

Sure, Darius Morris got the chance to start a few playoff games and Juwan Howard was on the Miami Heat when they won the NBA title last year, but neither of these guys are exactly all-star caliber right now.  I won't minimize the significance of making an NBA roster because it's extremely difficult, but in terms of evaluating Michigan's performance in the NBA, being a contributor or on the bench is a pretty big difference.  If the Wolverines really want to increase the strength of their program and its relevance at the national level, putting quality players in the NBA is one of the biggest steps.

The good news is that Michigan is set to take a big step this year in achieving this goal.  They only have two players in serious consideration for this year's draft (Trey Burke & Tim Hardaway, Jr.), but both of these guys are in good position to get drafted and make an NBA roster.  Burke has been projected as an NBA lottery pick and Hardaway appears aimed to go somewhere in the 2nd round.  That is not only a big jump for Michigan simply in the number of NBA players for the program, but also in the number of quality players.  Burke has a very high probability to start in his rookie season and although Hardaway will probably fall into more of a Morris role, depending on the team, he might be able to log some solid minutes.

What's also significant is that this year's draft should inject some youth into Michigan's NBA players.  Howard is certainly nearing the end of his NBA career and even Crawford was drafted in 2000.  That gives Michigan just one player on an NBA roster that has been drafted in over a decade.  This really doesn't matter that much year to year, but it definitely increases the odds of Michigan having solid players in the future considering the typical length of NBA careers.

Plus, to go along with what should be a great NBA Draft for the Michigan Wolverines this year, they have a bunch of solid NBA prospects on their roster next season.  Not only will Michigan have two players that would have easily been drafted this year (Mitch McGary & GR3), but they are adding Zak Irvin who has the potential to be a one and done type of player, adding Derrick Walton who could certainly be drafted in a few years, and have a few guys like Nik Stauskas who will probably get on an NBA roster at some point.  If things continue at this rate, Michigan is going to have a big presence in the NBA not just in the next year, but 5-10 years down the road.

Michigan has definitely been making positive steps in rebuilding its program.  They've been making the NCAA Tournament, winning conference titles, and winning tourney games.  Michigan has also drastically improved its recruiting and is now bringing in top talent.  The only thing left to take Michigan's program to the next level is increasing its role in the NBA.  The Wolverines are in a good position to start fixing that this summer.

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