DeVante’ Jones announced on Sunday his declaration for the 2022 NBA Draft, setting the table for what could be more to come for the Michigan Wolverines’ roster.
Hunter Dickinson, Moussa Diabate and Caleb Houstan are all deliberating their futures and the opportunity they may have at the next level. All three have appealing traits to NBA scouts, but each also has flaws in their game that could make them less appealing.
Let’s take a look at each’s case for moving on from Ann Arbor and where the experts have them being drafted, if at all.
Freshman Forward Moussa Diabate
Per Game Stats: 9.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 54.2/21.4/61.9
Weight: 210 pounds
Accolades: All-Big Ten Freshman Team (Coaches), McDonald’s All-American
NBA Draft Prospect Ranking: No. 47 (CBS), No. 50 (The Athletic), No. 62 (SI)
Diabate may have the most interesting case of the three players listed here. His athleticism is off the charts and he has a wow factor to him that is going to have scouts drooling for a player his size. His only notch physically is his weight, which will surely change with another offseason of collegiate or NBA training. The effort and passion Diabate plays with are also going to translate well to the next level.
Skill wise, Diabate is extremely raw on the offensive end. His jump shot is a work in progress, you can’t rely on him handling the ball, he doesn’t finish with dunks when he should and he isn’t always strong with the ball in the post.
I will commend Diabate’s ability to find open cut lanes for easy looks at the rim. He did it extremely well against Iowa when Dickinson was doubled-teamed nearly every time he touched the ball; he finished that game with 28 points. However, he sometimes lacks situational awareness when cutting, which can clog lanes for teammates and ballhandlers. This is what caused spacing issues for the team when he entered the starting lineup six games into the season.
Free throw shooting is going to be something that almost every scout will point out to him. If he is going to earn playing time at the next level, he has to shoot the ball better from the charity stripe. Converting at just 61.9% from a player of his skillset will not be enough. Although, he did improve it throughout the year.
Defensively, Diabate has a lot going for him. He uses his size in the post to send back shots at a high rate. He also is athletic enough to keep up with most guards off a screen and roll. The only issue is he can be undisciplined, resulting in foul trouble that takes him off the court. Rebounding on both ends is a definite plus — he had a career-high 13 in a game against Minnesota in December.
Some project him as a second round pick but many have Diabate as an undrafted player. We’ll see if that will be enough to convince the freshman he is ready to make the jump or if another season would help increase his stock.
Freshman Wing Caleb Houstan
Per Game Stats: 10.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 38.4/35.5/78.3
Weight: 205 pounds
Accolades: McDonald’s All-American
NBA Draft Prospect Ranking: No. 19 (CBS), No. 23 (SBNation), No. 39 (The Athletic), No. 47 (SI), No. 62 (Tankathon)
Houstan’s projections may frustrate the Michigan faithful. Simply put, the five-star recruit didn’t live up to the hype this season. Plenty of people thought he would replace the production of Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner by being a sniper from deep. Instead, he was the most inconsistent player on the Wolverines’ roster while also being a catalyst for the success of the team.
Hitting only 35.5% from deep was not what was expected from Michigan’s top recruit. He lacked the confidence to break out of shooting spells both in-game and throughout multiple game stretches. But when he was on, he was an electrifying, game-changing performer. If an NBA team thinks they can adjust his passiveness with the ball, they are going to take a chance on him purely based on his potential.
On the defensive end, Houstan improved vastly throughout the season. Opponents would often lose him off the ball to open the season, but he became much more aware of players cutting during the year. On ball, his length does him well to stymie guards and he has the size to defend wings that like to post up.
The inconsistent play everyone saw from Houstan this season is why the projections for his draft position vary. Some have him as high as a first round pick in the teens, while others say he is undraftable. There will be a team that believes they can get the best of Houstan in every game and at just 19 years old, they have plenty of time to work with him to get there. A good Pro Day or Combine for Houstan will go a long way.
Sophomore Center Hunter Dickinson
Per Game Stats: 18.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 56.3/32.8/80.2
Weight: 260 pounds
Accolades: All-Big Ten Second Team — Media and Coaches (2022), AP, USA Today, and USBWA All-American Second Team (2021), Big Ten Freshman of the Year (2021), All-Big Ten First Team — Media (2021), All-Big Ten First Team — Coaches (2021)
NBA Draft Prospect Ranking: No. 85 (The Athletic)
I have a feeling a very upsetting offseason is ahead for Dickinson. Last year, he explored the NBA waters and received several notes. At the top of that list was improving his right hand and showing his range when shooting. He clearly made an effort and succeeded in both of those areas this season. But I still wonder if it will be enough to get him drafted.
The Athletic was the only site of seven used that had Dickinson as a prospect on their watch list and he was ranked 85th, meaning he would likely go undrafted. It doesn't help this class is stacked with big men. Chet Holmgren, Jalen Duren, Oscar Tshiebwe and Christian Koloko would very likely go ahead of Dickinson.
As the traditional big man continues to die at the professional level, players like Dickinson are forgotten. While he is extremely successful on the collegiate stage, as time progresses, it feels like he could wind up being one of those guys who dominates in college for several years before turning pro.
Dickinson was the best player on his team, one of the best in the conference, and up there as one of the best in the country as well. It just doesn’t seem fair he likely won’t get rewarded the way he should in the NBA.
Continued improvements from deep and working on getting a little faster should help over time but until then, it feels like he is stuck and waiting to get the ball rolling with the NBA.
*Eli Brooks and DeVante’ Jones were not listed by any site.
*Stories by ESPN and The Ringer were also used for this piece.