When it comes to scoring, it’s no secret the Michigan Wolverines need someone to step up. They lost four of their six top scorers from last season, and the transfer that fans thought would pick up a lot of that scoring load — Caleb Love — is no longer coming.
Dug McDaniel and Tarris Reed Jr. were big-time contributors last season, and were especially key in Michigan victories. McDaniel stepped up when thrust into the starting point guard role, and Reed dominated on the offensive glass and proved himself on defense with his quick foot speed and solid play around the rim.
McDaniel and Reed are roommates who developed more chemistry as their freshman season went along. They are both heading into their second season, which is when we often see players take a leap after getting used to their offensive system and the speed of the collegiate level.
Michigan will need to find a way to get consistent baskets next season, and embracing the McDaniel-Reed pick-and-roll may be the best way to do it.
Taking what the defense gives you
We saw McDaniel improve on navigating the pick-and-roll deep in Big Ten play, mostly because he got much better at dictating the pace of the game and not playing too fast.
Watch him score 20 points in the home win over Wisconsin, or 18 points in the home win over MSU, and you can see McDaniel got a lot of his points off the pick-and-roll. Hunter Dickinson was usually the roll man, but McDaniel and Reed also do a nice job in that set.
McDaniel used a screen from Reed to finish at the rim in the overtime period of that win over the Badgers (1:35 mark of first clip). Eight days prior, he scored off a Reed screen and took what the defense gave him, stopping short of the lane and floating a shot over Joey Hauser when he stepped up on help-side.
McDaniel’s 18 points led the Wolverines in scoring in that MSU win. Head coach Juwan Howard was complimentary of McDaniel in the postgame press conference, especially of his patience, not always playing with his foot on the gas.
“He made some tough shots, but he also allowed the game to come to him,” Howard said after that win. “Not saying he didn’t before, but when he set the tone the way he did, the guys really rallied behind Dug.”
It felt like Reed was always playing with energy when he came in, but like McDaniel, he had to learn how to reign in that energy and slow down a bit — focus on finesse, rather than speed and power.
“I’m still out there sometimes rushing to shoot up shots, but knowing I got to let the game come to me,” Reed said after the MSU win. “That’s what coach Howard told me — I got to slow down sometimes, find a pace to compete.”
We already know McDaniel and Reed play pretty well together, and with them both focusing on slowing down and playing at the proper pace, their timing on these pick-and-rolls is only going to get better.
This offseason, Michigan should prioritize that duo practicing pick-and-rolls to develop chemistry and learn more about where the other thrives with the ball.
Let’s look at some shot charts to determine where these screens should come from.
(all stats are courtesy of @CBBAnalytics on Twitter)
We only have one season of data to assess these guys, but from the small sample size we have, we know McDaniel thrives at the top of the key, near the left elbow and in the right short corner.
If McDaniel’s shot chart looks like this again next season, it would be wise for Michigan to set up these pick-and-rolls set to McDaniel’s left in order to get him an opening heading towards that left elbow.
The Wolverines knew this about McDaniel to start last season; they often set him up screens to his left to head down. The below video was an exhibition game, but most of the screens set against Ferris State were to McDaniel’s left.
With McDaniel loving that short corner, it would be wise for Michigan to have Reed roll hard after screens set to the right side of the floor, especially on occasions where the help steps up and McDaniel has to stop short before getting to the rim.
If we need more evidence Reed needs to increase his range on offense, look no further than this chart. He was above average around the rim, but made just a little more than 30 percent of his shots in the middle of the paint, and rarely even attempted mid-range shots.
Reed said in a recent interview that he’s going to stay on campus this summer and try to “shed some baby fat, get more cut and be more athletic.” I hope he also focuses on increasing his range.
If Reed can knock down shots from 15-feet at even an average rate, it increases his ceiling. It also allows Michigan to get more creative with his screens for McDaniel; as we saw Dickinson do last season, Reed could pop out and find an opening in the defense for a mid-range shot if he develops a more reliable jumper. That would keep defenders guessing and also give McDaniel more space to get to the rim.
McDaniel and Reed are two of the best returning players on this roster. They got their taste of meaningful minutes last year, and for Michigan to compete in Big Ten play this season, these two are going to have to step up.
The pick-and-roll is the best way to get both guys going with some easy buckets. The more reliable the McDaniel-Reed pick-and-roll is as a primary offensive option, the better the Wolverines will be.