In Sunday’s win against Ohio State, Hunter Dickinson put on a masterclass on offense, scoring 26 points while grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing two assists. He absolutely punished Ohio State junior Zed Key and freshman Felix Okpara, patiently picking them apart and using a variety of moves in the post to score.
The big man was cooking and as Juwan Howard addressed post-game, his teammates did a great job getting him the ball.
“Hunter recognizes as well as his teammates, the big fella had it going inside,” Howard said. We’ve got to continue feeding him the ball. I’ll never forget, during a time out, Terrance Williams was like, ‘Let’s keep going to Hunter.’ I said, ‘You know what, I agree, let’s keep going to Hunter’ because he had it going.”
In terms of his repertoire of moves in the post, Dickinson still loves to go the left-hand hook over his right shoulder. That used to be the only way he scored in the post, and it’s been great to see his offense develop over the years; he’s far from a one-trick pony these days.
Let’s break down how Dickinson has gotten better as a scorer year-by-year, with more versatility, an improved jump shot and patience in the post.
Stats: 26 minutes, 14.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 0.9 assists per game, 59.8% from field, 73.9% from free throw line.
Dickinson burst on the scene and put up impressive numbers for any big, let alone a freshman. As good as he was, he really scored in four main ways: easy buckets off dump-down passes, put-backs off offensive rebound, drop steps from the left block and his signature left hook over his right shoulder.
Looking at his shot chart from that season (all shot charts used in this article are courtesy of CBB Analytics), he was super-efficient near the rim. He clearly preferred the left side of the floor, with a lot of hooks coming from the left baseline.
Perhaps most notably, as efficient as he was inside, he didn’t have a whole lot of range. He was 0-for-4 from three and didn’t attempt many mid-range shots.
It should be noted this was the most talented team Dickinson has played on; playing with a quality point guard in Mike Smith and two NBA wings in Franz Wagner and Isaiah Livers helped him quite a bit — those guys drew attention away from him knew how to get him the ball. He wasn’t Michigan’s main offensive option and didn’t get doubled nearly as much as he does today.
Dickinson has come a long way since this season.
Stats: 32.3 minutes, 18.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists per game, 56.3% from the field, 32.8% from three on 2 attempts per game, 80.2% from the free throw line
After his freshman season, Dickinson entered his name in the draft, but ultimately decided to return back to school. He’s talked before about how NBA teams told him he needed to get quicker on defense, get more versatile on offense and improve his jump shot.
That jump shot definitely improved, as we saw him hit more mid-range jumpers his second season. He also stepped out to the three-point line and knocked down a few deep balls before doing his signature celebration that has helped him grow into the Tyler Hansbrough-esque, folk villain of college basketball.
Looking at his shot chart, he still prefers the left side of the floor, but his range is much better. He was more efficient in the paint and around the rim, and when he shot threes, he shot a better percentage from the top of the key and the left wing.
One of the most underrated parts of his game is his passing ability. He really started to showcase that his sophomore season; he’s got great court vision and does a great job finding open teammates, especially when he’s doubled.
“It’s nice to see that he’s not selfish,” Howard said after Sunday’s game. “He reads the defense. When he’s not doubled, he’s going to make his move one-on-one. If he gets doubled, he’s going to throw the ball out.”
It’s no secret the Wolverines struggled with inconsistency last season, but the biggest reason why they were able to sneak into the NCAA Tournament was Dickinson’s dominance on offense and increased versatility.
Stats through 23 games: 30.8 minutes, 18.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists per game, 55.4% from the field, 37.1% on 1.5 three point attempts per game, 72.0% from the free throw line.
As Michigan fans can see from watching games and looking at his counting stats, Dickinson hasn’t taken another leap like he did his sophomore year. Part of that is because he’s the main focal point for opposing defenses and is always getting double-teamed, but it also has to do with him playing with young guys who don’t always set him up for great shots. Michigan hasn’t played with a lead much this season, and playing from behind generally leads to more threes and less post touches.
Looking at his shot chart, he’s still great around the rim, but he’s less efficient in the paint than he was last season. He loves mid-range shots near the right elbow and still excels on the left baseline. And granted, it’s a small sample size, but having your post player shooting 40% from the top of the key is a crucial part of winning in modern basketball, as it stretches the floor and forces defenses to respect everybody’s three-point shot.
By his standards, Dickinson struggled at times this season, but he seemed to get his groove back in that Ohio State game.
Young post players should watch his tape from this game. He still goes to his signature move a lot, but this game shows how he’s become more patient before going to that move, and how he has grown as a scorer and a post player.
He does a great job passing and finding the open man under the basket (7:00) or for a three (15:10). He gets great post position, adjusting his feet when the ball is rotated and using his size to his advantage (13:00). He shimmies to get big man out of place just enough to draw fouls (9:10) and slips screens to keep defenses guessing (15:35). He throws in more fakes than he used to (12:34) and with that improved jump shot, defenses have to play to it when he faces up, giving him an opening to shot fake, drive baseline, embrace the contact and finish near the rim (13:05).
It’s no secret signs of stagnation have crept up when watching Dickinson this season, and when defenses double him effectively, Michigan’s offense gets a whole lot worse. But this Ohio State game shows how much he’s grown as a post scorer, and his improved jumper has helped him become a much better offensive player than he was two years ago.
The Wolverines have a little ways to go to ensure they get into the NCAA Tournament. In Joe Lunardi’s most recent bracketology, he placed Michigan in the “considered” category. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Michigan is +4,000 to make the Final Four.
A big part of if they make the tournament — or if they make a deep run in the tournament — will be whether Dickinson is able to consistently perform like he did against the Buckeyes. If he is able to continue to step up, Michigan will have a shot.