With a heartbreaking loss to the Kentucky Wildcats in the Elite Eight on Sunday afternoon, many of the key sophomores on this year’s Michigan Wolverines basketball team have decisions to make on their futures as players.
Shooting guard Nik Stauskas, small forward Glenn Robinson III, and power forward Mitch McGary are the three names everyone will be keeping an eye on in the next few weeks or so. All three are being talked about as possibly making the leap from college to the NBA Draft, but it is also possible that John Beilein and the coaching staff can convince these guys to stick around and finish what they started this year.
Stauskas led this team all year and made great strides in his game from his freshman to sophomore seasons. He won the Big Ten Conference Player of the Year award and was also named to various other All-American teams. If you’re looking for a prediction, Stauskas seems to be the one most likely to leave for the NBA.
People make the argument that his defense is not that great, and while they have a point, you have to look at the type of league the NBA is becoming. Gone are the bump-and-grind days of the 1980’s. In modern times, there is a role for guys like Stauskas in the NBA as a spot-up shooter. Players like Kyle Korver or Mike Miller have made a career out of being a team’s lethal option from the perimeter, and Stauskas’ role in the NBA will be similar.
Glenn Robinson III’s decision seems to be a bit tougher. Sure, he came on nicely at the end of the year, but his draft stock took a hit early on this year due to inconsistencies and other players rising ahead of him. With that being said, Robinson’s athleticism and slashing ability are things that are very appearing to front office NBA personnel. His decision is definitely the biggest wild-card of this bunch right now.
Robinson’s decision to stay or go will likely again depend on what his good friend Mitch McGary decides to do. McGary played in only eight games this season and missed the majority of the year after back surgery. At this point, if ever there was a time for him to head to the NBA, it would have been after his breakout performance last season.
Back problems tend to linger, surgery or not. Even before his injury, many scouts had questions of whether or not McGary’s athleticism and condition would improve. All things considered, it does not seem at this point as if he would be anything more than a second-round pick if he decided to come out this year. With his injury history now, McGary may be best suited to get a degree from Michigan, but we will see how that plays out.
The question that has to be asked when looking at whether these players should come out or not is very simple: Can they improve and are they the best player now that they possibly could be?
For Stauskas, I believe that this is the case. He could probably be drafted in the late-teens or early-twenties of the draft and have a Tim Hardaway Jr.-esque impact for a team. In terms of what he could be at the next level, he possesses all of the qualities needed to succeed and does many things well.
Robinson and McGary, who like last year appear to be a packaged deal, can certainly benefit from another year with the Wolverines. Robinson needs to develop a more consistent jump shot and find that killer instinct that elite college players have. McGary simply needs to prove he can stay on the court for an extended period of time. When healthy, he is a force to be reckoned with in the post on both ends of the floor.
No decision seems imminent from any of these players, but it would be nice to see all of them come back and finish what they started this season as a group. One thing is for sure, though. Whether all three leave or stay, or one, or two of them decide to leave or stay, the Michigan basketball program is one that is not going away any time soon, as it seems that there is always somebody waiting in the wings.
Even with that, it is rare to see a team this talented having as much fun as they did this season playing as not just talented individuals, but displaying unselfish, smart team basketball, and it would be exciting to bring the band back together to make another run at a national championship.