Here’s a trivia question for you, one that I’m not sure that I could have answered until just a few minutes ago: Which team has posted the best single-season offense during the KenPom era (2002-2014)?
It was Michigan this past season, as their adjusted offensive efficiency was 124.1, meaning, essentially, that on an average offensive possession, the Wolverines scored 1.241 points. That number barely beat out Chris Paul’s 2005 Wake Forest team and the 2012 Missouri team that won 30 games while playing with four sharp-shooting guards.
Perhaps what’s even more impressive is that the Wolverines were actually better offensively than they were when they had National Player of the Year Trey Burke, first round draft pick Tim Hardaway Jr. and a healthy Mitch McGary during the 2013 season, when they “only” led the nation in offensive efficiency.
That’s not necessarily a huge surprise. Head coach John Beilein has been known as an offensive mastermind for a long time, and the last two years he’s coached two lottery picks — one of whom was National Player of the Year — two more first round picks and a trio of guards coming back this season that will have a shot at getting drafted in 2015. Give a brilliant x’s-and-o’s tactician NBA-level talent and the result is almost always going to be positive.
But what has made this offensive explosion so impressive is that Beilein has completely revamped the way that he coaches offensively. Back in his West Virginia days and his early seasons with the Wolverines, Beilein ran an offense that featured a two-guard front, plenty of movement and a number of different offensive sets. His first season at Michigan, the Wolverines used ball-screens just 4.6% of the time offensively.
And now, as UMHoops.com beautifully lays out, the Wolverines are running ball-screens on nearly 30% of their possessions. It’s why they are winning, and it’s a huge reason why his players are getting drafted as high as they are.
In 2013, everything that Michigan did ran through Trey Burke. It was his ability in the pick-and-roll, and the fact that the Wolverines spaced the floor with a myriad of sharp-shooters, that allowed them to make a run to the national title game. His ability in ball-screen actions is what made him appealing to NBA team.
The same can be said for Stauskas. If he couldn’t operate in the pick-and-roll as well as he did last season, he wouldn’t have been the No. 8 pick in the draft. He might not have been a first rounder.
And all this came from a change in coaching philosophy more than three decades into Beilein’s career.