Earlier this week, Michigan fans watched as sophomores Nik Stauskus and Glenn Robinson III stood before the media and declared their intentions to enter the 2014 NBA Draft. It was the second straight year U of M has seen its two top players make the jump before graduation. Stauskus is a hard player to replace because shooters of his caliber aren’t just walking around high school gyms looking to get noticed. He’s a special talent and it will likely earn him being selected somewhere in the lottery. An amazing achievement considering he came to Michigan as a three star shooter from north of the border. Robinson, on the other hand is a slightly different story. With that being said, lets look at how the Wolverines plan to replace their super talented sophomore.
Robinson’s game: GR3 came to the University of Michigan as a highly touted athlete with the raw talent to live up to his name. At 6’6" Robinson has ideal size that would translate to be a small forward at the professional level. He has good length and an excellent vertical leap that he has put on display on numerous occasions in his time in Ann Arbor. Robinson’s jump shot through the first season and a half was erratic at best and this has been a valid criticism. However, down the stretch and in postseason play we saw a more versatile GR3 as he shot the ball very well, particularly from 3-point range. He has a smooth shooting stroke, one would think with NBA coaching and without the limits on workouts that a college atmosphere presents, that Robinson can make that leap to becoming a good shooter. The last knock on Robinson all comes down to what’s between his ears. When comparing Robinson to, say, Nik Stauskus it can sometimes appear that he gets lost for stretches of the game and seems almost disinterested. Now do I think that a 20 year old super talented player doesn’t love to play the game of basketball? Of course not. But when fans watch one time down the court Robinson catches the ball on the wing takes three dribbles and throws a dunk down, and the next time down the court not even look for a touch, it’s easy to get frustrated. I think it’s clear Robinson rode his hot finish into his decision to declare. In January, draft experts were expressing on social media his need for another year. Robinson can be successful if he continues to develop and recognize his full potential out on the court.
How Michigan replaces his production: Unlike Nik Stauskus, Robinson is likely going to be replaced by a carbon copy of himself. Zak Irvin stepped in this year and played the role that Robinson occupied in stretches last year. While GR3 is better on the class, Irvin is a far better shooter, particularly from long range. Robinson was forced to play the 4 in John Beilein’s system, mostly because he was physically mature and gifted enough to handle true college power forwards. Irvin could do the same, but likely won’t have to as 4 star recruit Kameron Chatman joins the fold next year and should slide into that starting spot. That leaves Irvin to operate as a 6’7" wing player who can knock down shots. He needs to get more aggressive and use his jump shot to set up drives to the baskets and open shots for other teammates. He has an entire offseason to do what Stauskus did a year ago. Versatility wins in the NBA as well as the college game. Part of the reason Michigan has been so successful is because they recruit players who can score and guard from multiple spots on the floor. The two departing players fit that mold to a tee. The good news for Wolverines fans is the next crop of players has the ability to excel as well.