Before the season it seemed like Hardaway Jr. was a lock to leave for the NBA.
The mercurial shooting guard has the size (6'6, 205lbs) and the range (37 percent from three on 195 3PA) to play a role in an NBA backcourt. The issue is, what role?
After a very strong freshman year where Hardaway Jr. announced himself as an all-Big Ten caliber guard, the results the past two years have been decidedly mixed. Old "hot and cold" Hardaway has struggled with consistency at times and is getting to the age where GMs begin to lose interest. It is no secret that Hardaway Jr. can take over games. He did it against OSU, SDSU, and blazed through the non-conference season. However, he is prone to disappear for stretches. After a good first weekend of the NCAA tournament, Hardaway Jr. scored just 44 points and shot 5 of 22 from three in the last four.
Being a junior, it would seem that it is now or never time for Tim. To significantly improve his draft stock he would need to come back and take full control of Michigan's offense while improving his defense from serviceable to near lock-down. This seems like a lot given what we know.
As it stands, Hardaway Jr. is probably a second round pick, which raises the question, if your draft stock sits there, is it worth leaving college early?
Only time will tell.
Robinson III's situation couldn't be any more different than his elder teammate's. Where Hardaway Jr. is languishing as a probably second round choice, Robinson III is a hot name based on almost limitless potential -- something the NBA fawns over.
While GRIII spent the year largely dependent on Trey Burke for most of his offense, often unable to create his own shot from the perimeter, his athleticism is tantalizing to scouts who see him as a prototypical NBA small forward.
All of this raises the question of whether it is worth it to ride this high draft stock to a possible late lottery pick. With Trey Burke, the main catalyst of Michigan's offense, gone for the NBA, the scoring load is going to fall to those players that Burke did so much to bring along. If Robinson III comes back and fails to grab the reins of the offense, it could hurt his draft stock in the same way it did Tim Hardaway Jr. a couple years ago when he followed up a promising freshman season with an up-and-down sophomore campaign. However, if Robinson develops his offensive game and asserts himself in the offense, he could see a jump next year into the top ten.
In either case, he is at least a couple years away from being a contributor on an NBA team. Whether he spends those years on campus or on an NBA bench is what he has to decide.
Mitch McGary was such a lock to return that he even came out and said it.
"I haven't even thought about (leaving)," he told MLive.com after practice Tuesday at the Crisler Center. "I don't have a decision to make -- I'm coming back."
Is he 100 percent sure?
"Yeah," he said with a laugh. "I'm coming back."
...until he realized that he may have spoke too soon.
Now McGary has a tough decision. A month ago he was a relative unknown on the national scale. A highly rated freshman that showed only glimpses of what kind of future he had. After just a handful of games helping Michigan make its run -- a run that he was arguably as integral a part of as Trey Burke -- all of the sudden McGary is a potential lottery pick. The sample size is small, but it serves to confirm what most scouts saw when McGary was a five-star high school recruit. He has limitless energy, a refined offensive game, and adds deft passing and disruptive defense. There are areas where he still needs to improve, but the upside is too great for some NBA scouts to pass up.
However, McGary sounds like he is the least sure of his three teammates as to what he wants to do.
"This will be a great team next year, with great guys coming in and a great group of guys leaving, you can't replace those five seniors," he said. "We'll see."
"There's some unfinished business. ... We'll see next year."
With all three back and a strong recruiting class coming in, Michigan would no doubt be a top-ten team and most likely a popular pick to win the Big Ten.
If all three decide to cash in their draft stock, Michigan is a fringe top-25 team that could get into the NCAA tournament anywhere from the bubble to a 5 or 6 seed.
Only time will tell.