2013-2014 Personnel Preview: Big Men

USA TODAY Sports

Continuing Michigan Basketball's personnel preview with Jordan Morgan, Jon Horford, Max Bielfeldt, and Mark Donnal.

*Note: Mitch McGary won't be included in this preview because -- as the presumptive star of the team and a near-consensus preseason All-American (including featuring on the SBNation First-Team) -- he deserves his own post (which will come soon).

Jordan Morgan, Sr. C -- 6'8" 250 lbs

Year Min. Per Game Points Per Game FG % FT % Off. Reb. % Def. Reb. % Block %
2012-2013 15.9 4.6 57.7 % 55.8 % 13.4 % 18.8 % 0.6 %
2011-2012 24.4 7.3 61.9 % 50.8 % 11.9 % 17.8 % 1.3 %
2010-2011 24.0 9.2 62.1 % 56.2 % 10.7 % 16.8 % 2.8 %

This is Jordan Morgan's fifth year in the program, so there aren't any unknowns about his game at this point. He's a good screener in Michigan's pick-and-roll sets, finishes opportunistic looks near the rim (although his hands are unreliable), and plays solid defense, both in the post and away from the basket. He doesn't have a back-to-the-basket game, and thrives off of looks created by the scheme or off of individual shot-creation from the perimeter. Last year, Michigan experimented with him at the four, but it was only marginally effective; any gains defending the opposing four were lost because of the spacing issues resulting from Morgan's lack of range. He's a true five -- Michigan's coaches (and particularly Bacari Alexander) made him into an above-average Big Ten player for these last three seasons, and it's likely that he'll stay at that level this year.

Morgan has experienced a decrease in statistical production over his career -- he and Darius Morris had a unique chemistry in the pick-and-roll and Morris fed him with great looks when Morgan was a freshman; once he left, Trey Burke wasn't as adept at providing him with those quality looks the next year; and last year, he experienced a decline in field goal attempts because of the sharp uptick in general offensive talent level across the board with Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson, and others taking those shots instead. For that reason, the drop in production isn't that concerning: Morgan's responsibilities don't include scoring -- just playing great defense, functioning as a fulcrum on offense and cleaning up the glass.

Last year, he lost the better part of a month due to an ankle injury, opening up opportunities for extended playing time for Jon Horford and Mitch McGary. Morgan had suffered two devastating injuries prior to his redshirt freshman season, but managed to stay on the court unscathed until rolling his ankle early in the game at Illinois. His role was deemphasized after that; despite playing several games near the end of Big Ten season after coming back from injury, he was noticeably hobbled and wasn't as effective as before. In the NCAA Tournament, his minutes were almost all taken by McGary -- he only played more than ten minutes once, against Syracuse, and he only scored seven points in those six games.

Outlook:

When McGary is back to full health and on the court, he'll command at least thirty or so minutes a game. For that reason, a lot of his potential playing time hinges on whether or not J-Mo can transition to the four well enough to stay on the court. With his lack of range, it will put a strain on Michigan's typically well-spaced offense, and unless McGary develops a quality mid-range game, the lane might be too clogged to justify giving Morgan more than spot minutes at the position. However, his strengths will be utilized -- he's probably the team's best individual defender, provides insurance in case McGary gets into foul trouble (and history indicates that it will probably happen frequently), and will definitely feature as the key big behind McGary.

Jon Horford, Rs. Jr. C -- 6'10" 250 lbs

Year Min. Per Game Points Per Game FG % FT % Off. Reb. % Def. Reb. % Block %
2012-2013 8.8 2.7 57.6 % 70.4 % 10.6% 19.6 % 6.1 %
2011-2012 Horford was injured and took a medical redshirt
2010-2011 6.8 2.0 55.3 % 72.2 % 11.3 % 25.1 %
6.8 %

Throughout his career, Jon Horford has been stuck behind Jordan Morgan on the depth chart, limiting his playing time to sporadic first-half cameos or rare extended stretches (often due to foul trouble or injury). Even though he hasn't featured, Horford has been in the rotation every year he's been in the program -- he provides more shot-blocking ability than Morgan does, his length and activity around the rim frequently alter opponents' shots, and he's a very solid individual rebounder. Defensively, he's not necessarily an upgrade over Morgan (whose skills -- like individual post defense -- aren't tracked statistically), but he provides different things because of his length; generally speaking, he's good at protecting the rim and blocking shots.

Offensively, Horford's game is rather limited. He's shown in the past that he can make mid-range jumpers from the baseline (which is the bread-and-butter for his older brother, Al, in the NBA), but most of Jon's offensive game consists of scoring off of little back-cuts, rolls to the rim off of screens, and other easy looks off of put-backs. He essentially fills the same role that Morgan does on offense: setting good screens, working dribble-handoffs on the wing, swinging the ball across the court from the high post, and scoring off of looks created in the context of the offense and those created by the individual shot-creation abilities of the perimeter players.

Outlook:

Horford is still sort of stuck as the third man out of the big man triumvirate of McGary/Morgan/Horford, but he should still play roughly five to ten minutes a game. Again, a lot depends on whether Mcgary can transition to the four -- if not, Horford could be squeezed out of seeing many meaningful minutes (because he, unlike Morgan, won't be played at the four along with McGary). The bottom line is that regardless of how much opportunity Horford is given to contribute, he'll still be valuable depth -- it's not often that college teams can turn to their third center and have a starting-caliber player there. Because of his redshirt, and with McGary's likely departure to the NBA, along with Morgan's graduation, Horford is tentatively slated to start next year, but for now, he's still presumably at the back end of the rotation.

Max Bielfeldt, Rs. So. PF -- 6'7" 245 lbs

It's hard to project what happens with Bielfeldt this year -- he made a few brief appearances last year, but wasn't really a part of the rotation and saw limited minutes. Reputedly a tenacious rebounder on the offensive and defensive glass, Bielfeldt will likely step in for spot minutes at the four depending on if the coaches prefer keeping Glenn Robinson at the three. Bielfeldt has a nice-looking mid-range jumper, so he'll stretch the floor a little when he's in the game, but he mostly provides a presence on the glass and is used to body bigger fours. However, with Morgan providing similar skills at the four, it's hard to see where Bielfeldt fits in the rotation, especially when McGary gets back.

Mark Donnal, Fr. PF -- 6'9" 230 lbs

Donnal is probably the best shooter of all the bigs, but with the luxury of frontcourt depth -- and considering Donnal's need to develop physically -- Michigan will redshirt him in all likelihood.

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