On the final day for early-entry prospects to pull out of the NBA draft, Michigan received both good and bad news.
Sophomore center Moritz Wagner announced Wednesday that he is withdrawing from the draft and returning to the Wolverines for his junior season.
Yup ain't getting rid of me that fast ???????? pic.twitter.com/P4nvWtNWya
— Moe Wagner (@moritz_weasley) May 24, 2017
But redshirt sophomore forward D.J. Wilson is forgoing his final two years of eligibility and turning pro.
Buried on the bench the previous year, Wagner and Wilson both enjoyed a breakout 2016-17 season for a Michigan team that caught fire in the postseason, winning the Big Ten tournament and coming within a single basket of the Elite Eight.
Wagner, a tough cover for opposing centers because of his outside shooting prowess, averaged 12.1 points per game and hit 39.5 percent from 3-point range. Wilson, a spindly but athletic 6-foot-10 forward, made an impact in numerous different ways, protecting the rim, leading the Wolverines in rebounding and scoring anywhere from at the rim to behind the arc.
The skill level that Wagner displayed might have been enough for an NBA team to take a second-round chance on him, but he can solidify his draft stock next season if he gets stronger and improves his defense and rebounding. Wilson is likely to be selected anywhere from 20-40 in this year’s draft, but the team that takes him may have to stash him in the D-League for long stretches of his rookie season while he adds the muscle necessary not to get pushed around in the paint.
The return of Wagner will allow Michigan’s young centers Austin Davis and Jon Teske to grow into a big role in time rather than having to do so before they were ready. Wagner’s prowess as a pick-and-pop shooter will also be a big boost for point guards Xavier Simpson and Jaaron Simmons as they try to replicate the success graduated senior Derrick Walton had this past season.
Duncan Robinson is one possibility to replace Wilson in Michigan’s starting lineup, as is freshman forward Isaiah Livers. The sharpshooting 6-foot-8 Robinson would allow Michigan to have shooters all over the floor, but he would not be able to replace Wilson’s rim protection or rebounding prowess.
If Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews can duplicate Zak Irvin’s wing scoring and Simmons and Simpson can collectively make up for the loss of Walton, Michigan should be an NCAA tournament contender once again next season.
Getting Wilson back would have certainly helped that goal, but at least the Wolverines will still have one of their two promising young big men.
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