It’s been a roller coaster of a season for the Michigan Wolverines’ men’s basketball team, who are fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives and could use a few more big wins to get into the Big Dance. Through the up-and-down season, one constant throughout the year has been Hunter Dickinson, who has drastically improved since last season.
NBA teams told the sophomore this summer he needed to become more versatile offensively to improve his draft stock, and he’s done exactly that.
Last season, Dickinson got most of his baskets on left-handed moves over his right shoulder, cuts and slips to the rim, easy put backs and free throws. This season, he’s gotten a lot less predictable, improving on his post positioning, showing an ability to finish over both shoulders and showing more confidence in his turnaround jumper.
The sheer attention he gets from opposing defenses creates so many open opportunities for his teammates. Dickinson was a good passer out of the post last season, and he has since turned into one of Michigan’s most reliable shot creators, ranking third on the team with 48 assists.
Dickinson is incredibly patient in the post, not panicking when a double team comes and helping both his teammates and himself in the scoring department. You can see that patience on display for yourself at the 1:17 mark of the clip below.
The play is set up to get Dickinson the ball on the block off a screen. Indiana defends it well, sending a double as soon as he takes his second dribble. He dribbles out to the perimeter, scans the floor, and signals with his other hand for Caleb Houstan to come get the ball off a hand off. He fakes that handoff, takes a few power dribbles to get to the paint and eventually finishes the play with a nice turnaround jumper.
That’s a play Dickinson would have never made last season. Not only did he show himself to be pretty comfortable on the perimeter, but he made a smart move and took a shot he wouldn’t have even attempted last year.
Speaking of jumpers, there’s always going to be a place in the NBA for big men who can stretch the floor and make an occasional three. Dickinson has shown drastic improvements on his jump shot, making 39% of his 41 attempts and ranking at the top of the Wolverines’ leaderboard in three-point field goal percentage.
Dickinson’s ability to make three-pointers has helped a stagnant Michigan offense keep up with some the conference’s best offenses. You can see the confidence boost in the body language of the Wolverines whenever he makes a deep ball.
One performance he’s going to want draft scouts to see is his game against Purdue in last week’s win. He dominated against the best front court in the league, corralling rebounds, playing excellent post defense without fouling and leading Michigan to a win.
Dickinson’s three-point shooting is a big reason why the Wolverines almost played spoiler to one of the best teams in the Big Ten at their place earlier this month.
The stats back up the eye test when it comes to Dickinson’s improvements. While it’s important to note that his minutes per game (26.0 to 31.5) and usage rate (27.3% to 27.8%) are both slightly up, he’s averaging more points (14.1 to 18.1), rebounds (7.4 to 8.2) and assists (0.9 to 2.2) per game. It helps his case that his efficiency from the field has stayed about the same now that he has the ball in his hands more.
In terms of Dickinson’s draft stock, he could stand to improve his foot speed when playing on-ball defense. And while it may not help his case Michigan has been far from dominant as a team this year, you could argue that only emphasizes his value and that without the star big man, the Wolverines could very well be Big Ten cellar dwellers with Nebraska.
It’s a smidge too early for mock drafts, as the only one I could find with Dickinson being drafted is this one from nbadraftroom.com, where he ends up going to the hometown Detroit Pistons late in the second round.
The second round feels like the right place for him, but don’t be shocked if a playoff team in need of a backup big like the Dallas Mavericks or the Philadelphia 76ers takes a flyer on him towards the end of the first round thanks to his improved shooting ability.
Dickinson needs to stay dominant to end the year, and it would certainly help his draft stock if Michigan can manage to get into the NCAA Tournament. If he can remain as one of the top big men in the country, he should appear in more mock drafts over the coming months.