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Michigan’s options at center in 2023-24, as explained by Moneyball

Hunter Dickinson is gone, but there’s still more than a few solid options at the spot.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament Second Round - Michigan vs Rutgers Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a famous scene in the 2011 film ‘Moneyball’ that explains Michigan’s situation at the center spot for the 2023-24 season.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie and don’t have time to watch the clip above, here’s a summary of it: GM Billy Beane sits down as team scouts for the Oakland Athletics figure out how to replace good players who have left the team.

What was true about the Athletics for more than 20 years is just as true today: they don’t have a lot of money and they don’t spend much with the money they do have. They can’t afford to spend in the offseason and sign talented, yet costly, players to replace some standout players from a 102-win team.

So Beane lays out a solution, albeit one that is scoffed at by the scouts in the room; they need to find players whose stats add up to the same on-base percentage as the departing players, and they can find players like that on the cheap for a variety of reasons.

The basic premise still applies to the Michigan men’s basketball team. Hunter Dickinson — the team’s leading scorer and rebounder over the last three seasons — is gone. After striking out on some big-name players in the transfer portal, Michigan doesn’t have a singular player to replace him. Life without him will be different, and the team may be worse without him.

But in true Moneyball fashion, the Wolverines could replace his scoring and rebounding production with a few different big men — all while being even better defensively. Let’s break down those options, including how they can help replicate Dickinson’s 18.5 points and nine rebounds per game last season.

Tarris Reed Jr., sophomore

Reed was an important player off the bench last season, and proved to be one of the team’s best defenders, all while grabbing a lot of rebounds and finishing well inside. He’s expected to take a leap this season, given his improvements physically and a better jump shot. He needs to stay out of foul trouble and improve as a free-throw shooter, but he should slide in as the starting center for the 2023-24 season.

In an increased role, I don’t think it’s crazy to think Reed can double his average of 3.9 rebounds per game. If he can do that while being an efficient scorer and a versatile defender, Michigan has a very solid option at the starting 5.

Olivier Nkahmoua, grad transfer

Looking at statistics and watching the tape, Nkamhoua appears to be the best player out of the three Michigan landed in the transfer portal. Based on the current roster, he likely slides in as the starting 4, ahead of the bounty of options Michigan has.

That being said, if Reed gets in foul trouble, the 6-foot-8 Nkamhoua is probably the first option to fill in at the center spot. He averaged almost 11 points per game with Tennessee, he’s a career 36.4 percent three-point shooter, and he’s talented enough to score more than he did last season.

With the ball in his hands more at Michigan, that average could tick up a couple of points, helping Michigan replace a good chunk of Dickinson’s scoring.

Will Tschetter, redshirt sophomore

Like Reed, Tschetter was a key spark plug off the bench for the Wolverines, even earning the chance to start at the 4 in eight games. He’s been in the weight room this summer, is poised for an increased role this season, and according to Phil Martelli on a recent podcast, he’s been getting some reps as the backup 5.

Tschetter could give the Wolverines a different look at the 5, as they could be able to play with five players on the perimeter, something they couldn’t do much in the Dickinson era. Much like Penn State last season, it may be wise for Michigan to go small and throw out a lineup with five guys who can hit a three to exploit bad defenders, create space, and simply do something different.

If he really wants more playing time, Tschetter needs to improve from his putrid 25 percent success from three. But if he can get to the point where he can reliably knock down one or two three-pointers per game, he can provide Michigan with that three-point production from the 5 spot that Dickinson gave them over his last two seasons.

Lee Aaliya, freshman

The Argentine big man is one of the biggest question marks on Michigan’s roster, but based on what we saw out of him in FIBA competition, he should be able to contribute at the center spot sooner rather than later.

He may need to bulk up a little to defend Big Ten big men, but he’s pretty quick and excels in the pick-and-roll, something Michigan used a lot with Dickinson. He wouldn’t command as much attention from the defense as the All-American did, but he can finish at the rim and is always in a good position to get an offensive rebound.

With all the options at the 4 and 5 on this roster, Aaliya may not get a lot of playing time, at least at the start of this season. He does provide depth at the position, and his proficiency in the pick-and-roll and his ability to run the floor in transition could earn him some key bench minutes.

The Wolverines will certainly miss Dickinson, and they don’t have a player on the roster who's as talented of a scorer as him, but the cupboard isn’t completely empty. Much like the A’s, Michigan can replace him in the aggregate, using a few players to replace his scoring total, rebounding and ability to stretch the floor, all while being better defensively.