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After playing a minor role for most of the regular season as a freshman, Mitch McGary became a vital piece of the Michigan Wolverine team during the NCAA Tournament, emerging as a major force and helping them to the National Championship Final. With Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway leaving for the NBA, many were looking forward to McGary's second season to see how he would adjust to playing a larger role. However, his season was cut short by a back injury, and McGary was only able to participate in eight games.
After testing positive for marijuana during the NCAA tournament, McGary was facing a season-long suspension and another lost year on the Michigan bench, which made his decision to enter the NBA Draft a very easy one. Since he played just 198 minutes this past season (although he did face some tough competition in Arizona, Duke, Florida State and others), teams will not be able to garner much from the 2013-2014 season, even if his numbers he produced were quite solid. Teams will need to look back to their evaluation of McGary from his freshman season, upcoming pre-draft workouts and his physical to determine the current health of his back and how to rate him as a prospect in the 2014 Draft.
Much of what we said in our preseason video, where he was ranked as the #2 returning prospect in the Big Ten is still very much relevant, due to McGary's limited minutes. McGary benefited from playing alongside a dynamic point guard in Burke, which allowed him to play within himself and complement his teammates nicely. He was able to fill certain roles for that Michigan team which demonstrated the value he can provide to a NBA team.
McGary continued to play a similar role as a sophomore as he did the previous season, relying heavily on offensive rebounds, transition opportunities, cuts, and pick and roll finishes to score most of his points. He was the second best offensive rebounder in our top-100 his freshman year, pulling down 5.1 per 40 minutes pace adjusted, and posted a similar mark as a sophomore (4.9), despite seeing an uptick in playing time.
McGary is a solid finisher around the rim, converting 62.3% of such opportunities his freshman year, and 61% as a sophomore, according to Synergy Sports. While he's not a high-flyer, he's extremely aggressive in the way he attacks the rim, not being afraid to take contact and playing the game with the type of edge you love to see from a big man, which translates to every facet of the game.
While McGary doesn't possess great length for a center with his 6-11 ½ or 7-0 wingspan (depending on which measurement you believe), his quickness and agility will help him on both ends of the floor. He will be able to get down the floor in transition for easy baskets, as fast-break opportunities made up 10.5% and 11.5% of his possessions as a freshman and sophomore, as he was often the first big man down the court. His effort level is terrific, which NBA coaches will certainly love.
Taking pride in setting solid picks is another area McGary will be able to help an NBA team, as he works hard to free his teammates both in ball screens and for off-ball actions. In ball screens, he focuses on sprinting hard at the ball handler to force the defense to react, which often gives him a free run to the rim.
Rolling to the rim after a pick was one of McGary's biggest sources of offensive production as both a freshman and sophomore, and he was often able to get easy looks at the basket because of the quality of the screen he set and the aggressiveness he shows, as well as the terrific spacing Michigan enjoyed.
McGary started taking more jump-shots as a sophomore, but it's difficult to gauge how effective he is in this area considering the limited sample size (he was 2/9). His form and follow through aren't great, as he often appeared to be rushing through the motion, which hurt his accuracy, but he did show some progress with his free throw shooting, converting 67% of his attempts after making just 44% as a freshman. Again, the limited sample size (24 attempts) leaves a lot to be desired here.
McGary does not have an advanced post game and was not often asked to score in the post, as he attempted a handful of shots with his back to the basket in his 46 games at Michigan. He has quick feet and nice agility, but average footwork and often looks rushed with his moves, not really reacting to what the defense is giving him and forcing up difficult shots. He also relied too heavily on turnaround jump shots instead of making a move toward the rim. McGary does pass well out of the post, finding the open man and delivering the ball accurately and willingly to teammates.
Defensively, McGary has average length and explosiveness, which will likely prevent him from offering much in the ways of rim protection, but his lateral movement will allow him to help defensively in other areas. He has a high basketball IQ and an even better motor, which puts him in the right position on defense and allows him to play the passing lanes, where his 2.2 steals per 40 minutes pace adjusted was one of the highest rates among all players in our top 100 his freshman season. He was off to an even better start as a sophomore, averaging 3.2 steals per-40 minutes, a rate that is certainly unsustainable but shows just how aggressive he is fighting around opponents in the post and poking away entry passes.
McGary can use his lateral quickness, agility and motor to become a solid pick and roll defender, which is valuable in today's NBA. He should be comfortable switching out to quicker players for short bursts, cutting off dribble penetration and funneling them to the help defense, even if his man to man defense and weakside presence likely won't be anything more than average.
At this stage it is difficult to project McGary's draft stock until he goes through his pre-draft physical to determine the long-term health of his back. If healthy, he could have a long career fitting a valuable role as a screen setter, rebounder, finisher and high motor glue guy. Unfortunately his extremely physical style of play inside the paint doesn't lend itself well to someone with injury concerns, which is something NBA teams will have to weigh together with their team doctors. McGary's skills don't project towards the highest ceiling, as it is unlikely he will become a dominant player on either end of the floor, and turning 22 next month, there are some question marks about just how much better he can still get. With that said, players with his combination of size, agility and motor don't grow on trees, and if healthy, he could absolutely have a long and successful NBA career by simply filling a role on the right team.
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