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Hunter Dickinson’s passing has made him one of Michigan’s top playmakers

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The big man isn’t just good at rebounding and dunking.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 19 Roman Main Event - Michigan v UNLV Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After testing the NBA waters this offseason, Michigan Wolverines’ sophomore center Hunter Dickinson said at Michigan’s media day pro scouts told him to focus on improving on a number of things, such as using his right hand more, being more mobile on defense and outside shooting.

While he has shown a bit more versatility in the post through six games this season, one area Dickinson has shown clear improvements is as a playmaker, assisting his teammates and creating easier shots for the Wolverines.

As I’ve written about before, in Michigan’s two losses this season, the offense has looked stagnant and overly reliant on the clutch shooting of Eli Brooks. Michigan could use a reliable third scorer behind Brooks and Dickinson, and Dickinson’s abilities as a passer can help Michigan get creative on the offensive end.

Albeit a small sample size, Dickinson has made strides as a passer already this season, with his assist per game total up from 0.9 to 2.2. The advanced statistics favor the big man as a passer as well. He’s averaging more assists per 40 minutes (1.3 last year to 2.9 this year), and his assist percentage (an estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on the floor) has skyrocketed from 6.9% to 16.9%.

These increases are all in spite of his usage rate being slightly down (27.3% last year to 24.6% this year). In other words, despite having the ball less than he did last year, Dickinson is making more plays for his teammates this season.

A good big man knows what the perfect post entry pass looks like, and Dickinson has shown he can put the pass right where his fellow big man needs it.

Fast forward to the 0:13 mark to see it for yourself.

Dickinson starts the break with a nice outlet pass to Terrance Williams. He then gets the ball back, sees Moussa Diabate has great positioning inside and patiently waits with a few ball fakes to get him the rock for an easy bucket.

While defenses are focused on Dickinson thanks to his ability to score from inside the arc, I’d like to see Juwan Howard and company utilize his ability as a passer more often, possibly running more sets with guys cutting off him when he has the ball.

The 6:48 mark of this clip is a perfect example to showcase Dickinson’s passing talents.

After Dickinson passes up on the hand off to Caleb Houstan, he waits for Brooks to back cut before zooming in a bounce pass to help the Wolverines get an easy layup.

Look at this screenshot below: despite having the ball at the three-point arc where he hasn’t proven to be much of a scoring threat, three Seton Hall defenders have their eyes locked on Dickinson as Brooks slithers to the basket.

Screenshot from YouTube video, courtesy of Matthew Loves Ball.

I’d like to see Michigan runs more sets like this: the defense is focused on Dickinson, making it a perfect time for Michigan players to cut to the rim while defenders are watching the big man’s every move. Dickinson has showcased great court vision, solid patience and excellent passing in his tenure with Michigan.

The Wolverines need to create more open shots and easy buckets at the rim in order to avoid major offensive lapses, and using Dickinson’s ability as a passer to their advantage more often could help them become one of the best offenses in the Big Ten.