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Opinion: Who should enter the NBA Draft, who should return to Michigan?

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3 Wolverines have a tough decision to make.

Purdue v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

The following article is an opinion piece.

After a disappointing regular season capped off with a surprising Sweet 16 run, the Michigan Wolverines men’s basketball team has entered the offseason.

This team will already look much different next year, with Eli Brooks out of eligibility and DeVante’ Jones declaring for the NBA Draft. Michigan has the chance to lose a lot more talent as well, with Hunter Dickinson, Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate facing the choice of coming back to school or heading to the NBA.

Let’s be clear about something: it would be wise for each one of these guys to at least test the NBA waters, if only to get an honest evaluation from brass with the league and learn what they need to improve upon before pursuing a professional career in basketball.

I have no inside information, and just like you, astute reader, I have no idea what these three guys are going to do.

After watching every game of this frustrating basketball team this past season, here’s who I think should go pursue their NBA dreams and who I think could benefit from another year of college basketball.

Hunter Dickinson

Dickinson was Michigan’s best player this past season. He led the team with 18.6 points and 8.6 boards per game while being their go-to guy on offense and their anchor on defense.

As good as Dickinson was in his All-American season in 2021, he was even better this season, showing clear improvements in his versatility on offense, his foot speed on defense and his jump shot, which were all areas NBA teams wanted him to focus on.

While Dickinson proved to be a bit predictable on offense his freshman year, he added much more to his repertoire by improving his finishing skills with both hands and showing he’s not afraid to use a fade away in the post, hit a mid-range shot or let it fly from deep.

He shot 32.8% from three on 64 attempts, which is far from great, but does show NBA teams he worked on his jumper and was confident enough to knock down a three.

Would it surprise anyone if he decided to come back, not only to dominate on the court, but to (literally) be the big man on campus and ink a few more NIL deals? I don’t think so. But in my opinion, Hunter Dickinson’s draft stock is not going to be much higher than it is right now. NBA teams should love his improvements from last season, and it would be a smart career move for him to go while he’s only 20. His NBA stock will only go down as he gets older.

Dickinson has clearly improved his draft stock since last season, and it’s hard to see a route where he gets much better throughout his college career.

For all those reasons, I think it would be smart for Dickinson to enter the NBA Draft. At the very least, a team will take a chance on him in the second round and give him a chance to prove himself in the G League and eventually earn a backup center job.

Caleb Houstan & Moussa Diabate

The season did not go exactly as planned for either of Michigan’s five star recruits.

Caleb Houstan showed flashes of why he was such a highly rated pick as the year went along, hitting some momentum-swinging threes and showing bursts on offense that prove he clearly has NBA talent.

The problem with Houstan, as Michigan fans know all too well, was he was really inconsistent, especially in the final 10 games of the year. There were games where his offensive contributions helped lift Michigan to victory; there were also games where he played 30+ minutes, yet you almost forgot he was even out there.

In terms of his defensive ability, he had the length to corral a few steals and rotated better as the year went along, but there’s still room to grow in that department.

After starting the year coming off the bench, Diabate proved he needed to start for the Wolverines, largely due to his defensive abilities and how well he complimented Dickinson offensively.

Diabate showed similar flashes all season long of why he has NBA talent. He was super impressive defensively, was a tenacious rebounder and thrived in a role as a finisher around the rim. He also showed improvements in his post game over the last month of the season.

He was probably Michigan’s best dunker this season, and his ability to make those highlight plays on both ends helped Michigan gain momentum through the lulls of the season.

Diabate has his flaws as well. He let a lot of passes slip out of his hands and let his emotions get the best of him on more than a few occasions. I’m sure NBA teams would love to see him expand his range as well, as he only attempted 14 threes this year and only made three of them.

Both Diabate and Houstan have room to grow and improve. With another year at the college level, I think both guys could become some of the best players in the Big Ten and develop into first round picks in the NBA.

Both Houstan and Diabate have room to grow as basketball players and could both grow into stars at Michigan. In order to improve their draft stock, I think it would beneficial for both guys to come back for at least another season.