After an eventful offseason where Michigan has seen a number of talented players leave, the Wolverines have gained a commitment from a talented big man in Olivier Nkamhoua from Tennessee.
Nkamhoua is the third transfer Michigan has landed this season, joining guard Nimari Burnett and forward Tray Jackson. Nkamhoua visited Michigan this past weekend and despite reports that detailed Michigan as out of the running for him, he elected to transfer to Ann Arbor anyways after not getting invited to the NBA Draft Combine.
The 6-foot-8 forward was the only Volunteer to start all 36 games of the 2022-23 season. He was an important piece for Tennessee, averaging career-bests in scoring (10.8 PPG), assists (2.0 APG) and minutes (25.3 MPG). Nkamhoua was also Tennessee’s second-leading scorer and leading rebounder (5.0 RPG) this past season.
Let’s take a look at what Nkamhoua brings to the Wolverines, and how he fits into the playing rotation.
What he does well
Nkamhoua is pretty efficient around the rim, can score with a quick turn-around jumper in the post and does a great job passing out of the post and finding the open man when double teamed. It is easy to imagine Nkamhoua playing alongside Tarris Reed Jr. and excelling in a two-big lineup like Reed did with Hunter Dickinson last season.
Nkamhoua is easily one of the best defenders on Michigan’s roster now. He’s a solid interior defender who times opponents’ jumpers well to collect blocks.
He’s a versatile big man who can play the 4 because of his ability to finish from mid-range. He also thrives above the rim, finishing alley oops and dunking down offensive rebounds he flys in for.
Watching Nkamhoua against other guys competing for NBA Combine invites at G League Elite Camp, he showed he can knock down threes from the wing and the top of the key. At the 0:58 mark of this clip, he also does a great job seeing his defender turn his head before floating to the mid-range, catching the pass and making a quick move to the rim before finishing in traffic.
You’d wish he were a few inches taller considering he’s entering a Big Ten known for dominant bigs like Zach Edey and Cliff Omoruyi. But he’s a smart player who can be relied upon defensively while playing the 4 or the 5; those kind of tweener guys are valuable, especially when your team is in foul trouble.
Nkamhoua’s fit on Michigan’s roster
With how talented Nkamhoua is, he’ll certainly play quite a bit. Michigan never really found a consistent answer at the 4 last season, so I could see him starting next to Tarris Reed Jr. there in 2023-24.
If both big men start together, head coach Juwan Howard will have to be mindful of his substitution patterns, as Nkamhoua and Reed are really the only guys on the roster who can play big minutes at the 5.
The Wolverines could certainly try smaller lineups with Will Tschetter or Tray Jackson at the 5 and experiment with a 5-out look they couldn’t use much in the Dickinson era, but Nkamhoua is a more logical fit there when Reed is on the bench.
At the very least, Nkamhoua will definitely be a key part of the Michigan rotation, and if he’s hitting threes, he’s a shoe-in to be on the floor late in close games.
The Wolverines have had a knack for developing players into draft picks; since Howard took over in 2019-20, four players have been drafted, and that number will jump to six with Kobe Bufkin and Jett Howard likely to get picked in the first round in a few weeks.
Michigan is the kind of place where Nkamhoua can develop into a draft pick, and you’d have to think that factored into his decision to come to Ann Arbor. I expect big things from him with the Wolverines, and it wouldn’t shock me if he led the team in scoring in a handful of games.