All the stars have appeared to align for Michigan this season. A team that has lacked talent for a decade is suddenly full of difference makers. They are arguably the most talented squad in the country. That gives Michigan a very legitimate shot at winning a national title. It should be a great next few months for the Wolverines, as they battle through Big Ten play and the NCAA Tournament. The thing about talented players in modern college basketball is that they do not stay in school long. Michigan has multiple players either certain for the NBA draft or eying a potential jump to the pros. So, let’s look at who could be playing their final season in the maize and blue.
The Wolverines have three potential first round NBA picks on their roster. Trey Burke is working his way in to the lottery portion of the draft. He is undoubtedly the best collegiate point guard in the country, especially after the unfortunate, potentially season ending, injury to CJ McCollum. Burke barely stayed for this season, after flirting with the NBA draft last spring. His draft stock has greatly increased in the last few months. One of the big doubts against Burke is his lack of height, at just 6′ ft. However, his tremendous talent and long wingspan are more than making up for that. Burke is nearly a sure thing to enter the draft this summer.
Tim Hardaway Jr. is also very likely to enter the draft. He has grown tremendously this year from last. Hardaway looks like an NBA player out there. Offensively, he has a beautiful jumper, and has matured in his shot selection. He has a poise and confidence, that had been missing last season. Hardaway is very talented, but lacks elite athleticism. That is what is keeping him out of the top half of the first round, but I think he is still on pace to be a late first round pick.
The most interesting of these three potential NBA draft picks is true freshman Glenn Robinson III. Robinson has the most potential of any of these players. He is supremely athletic. Robinson’s body looks like that of an NBA veteran. He is strong and very nifty around the rim. Robinson has the ability to score 15-20 points a night, without having to have the offense run through him. It is hard to score a quiet 18 points, but Robinson has mastered that achievement. He scores by making smart cuts to the rim, running in the fast break and cleaning up loose balls and offensive rebounds in the paint. Robinson has an effective FG% of 63.7%, good for 4th in the Big Ten. He does all of this without any polished moves or a particularly good jump shot.
It makes you wonder, with good NBA coaching, how high Robinson’s ceiling is? Defensively, he can be very versatile. Robinson is big and strong enough to play in the paint, while being quick enough to defend on the perimeter. In a NBA where small-ball is the new trend, stretch three-fours are very valuable. Offensively, he is an improved jump shot and some post moves away from being a dangerous scorer. Robinson could very well be a top 12 pick. That is, if he chooses to enters the draft.
With a team full of NBA talent, it is no surprise Michigan is playing so well. When Burke announced his decision to return to Michigan last spring, he cited unfinished business. “ I felt like it was the best decision for me to stay for my sophomore year and compete for a national championship,” Burke said.
Well, Burke and his teammates are in great position to win that title. But winning a national championship will not be the only big journey this year, as the NBA lies around the corner.