There are many good things about Hunter Dickinson returning to Michigan basketball, as it obviously raises the floor of the team and the Wolverines get at least one more year out of last year’s leading scorer.
One of the underrated parts of Dickinson coming back to Ann Arbor is seeing how he fits in with the new recruits, including how he fits with 6’10” forward Moussa Diabate.
The incoming big man is the 16th ranked prospect and the 5th ranked power forward in the 2021 class will likely be on the second unit to start the season with Brandon Johns returning for his senior season.
Diabate’s position on the floor is fairly fluid, as he possesses the skills to play the five while also playing alongside Dickinson in some lineups.
The French big man’s game could complement Dickinson’s well on both sides of the floor.
Defensively, they have the length to protect the basket and make it hard for opposing players to get to their sweet spots. In a recent interview with Michigan’s play-by-play announcer Brian Boesch, Diabate said that he feels like Dickinson and him should be able to thrive on the defensive end.
“I feel like we’re going to have a great tandem,” Diabate said. “I feel like, defensively, we’re going to be great, because post-wise, he’s a pretty good defender. And on the outside, at least I can switch. Let’s say, we need to recover — I can be the one to recover on a shot or even on a rebound; I can give great help, too, and hopefully be a great support for the team.
Moussa has the athleticism to keep up with quicker forwards, and when Hunter Dickinson steps to challenge the incoming driver, Diabate has the timing and quickness to make blocks consistently on help side.
As Ant Wright broke down in a recent video about the class, Diabate should be able to guard multiple positions, giving Michigan a lot of defensive flexibility within their front court rotation.
Diabate moves quick laterally, and is an incredible on-ball defender for his size who should be able to guard pretty much anyone 6’6” and up in the Big Ten.
Diabate also brings the same versatility that makes him an intriguing defensive prospect to the offensive end.
In the same interview with Boesch, Diabate complemented Dickinson’s ability to make defenders pay down low
“Offensively, that’s Hunter, man. He’s huge; he’s like 7-1,” Diabate said. “There’s not a lot of people that can guard him in the post, and by doing that, he’s going to attract so many people that, by the end, he’s got the four shooters open. I’ve just got to knock them down at that point. And also, because I’m quicker than other big men most of the time, I can drive on them and make a play. Like I said, you’ve got Hunter in the post. They’re going to be so focused on him that I could get a cut or wide open, easy shots.”
With Hunter Dickinson playing the role of a traditional, back-to-the-basket post, Diabate should be able to get a lot of opportunities to shoot from deep and capitalize in the high post.
Fast forward to the 1:11 mark in the clip below and watch how controlled Diabate is when he catches the ball just above the free throw line.
He squares up towards the basket, gathers himself and surveys his surroundings before taking what the defense gives him and knocking down a smooth mid-range jumper.
It’s only one play, but it still offers a glimpse as to what Diabate’s life could be like with Dickinson. Making a few of those 15-footers should help him gain confidence early into his collegiate career.
Diabate is going to be able to get so many of those looks this upcoming season with defenses worried about Dickinson in the post. He has incredible range for a big man and can knock down catch-and-shoot threes off of Dickinson double teams.
Playing both big men at the same time gives the Wolverines an advantage on the class, as if Dickinson grabs a board, Diabate can run like a deer in transition before getting some easy buckets on the other end.
Compared to Dickinson, Diabate is more of a raw prospect and will need a little time to develop his own offensive game. Juwan Howard and Co. should take time before conference play to experiment with lineups and see just how high of a ceiling the team has with both big men on the floor.