On Monday morning, Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio reported on a rumor about former Michigan Wolverines big man Hunter Dickinson. That rumor being that he is interested in playing for the Kentucky Wildcats, contingent on Oscar Tshiebwe’s decision.
“[Kentucky] would love to have Oscar back, but Oscar is wanting to wait until the end to decide and Hunter wants to make a decision,” Jones said. “So Kentucky is hoping Oscar will make his decision this week so that whatever happens they don’t lose Dickinson in the process.”
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Kentucky would have their choice between Hunter Dickinson and Oscar Tshiebwe, who are you picking? Let’s explore.
The Case for Hunter Dickinson
Ranked as the No. 1 transfer in the portal by multiple services, Dickinson could choose to transfer to any school in the country, and for good reason. In three seasons at Michigan, the 7-foot-1 center has proved himself as an All-American caliber player, recording 31 double-doubles and totaling 1,600+ points and 750+ rebounds in the process.
While the talent is clearly there, how would he fit on Kentucky’s roster?
Offensively, Dickinson may be the best big man in the country. He is a throwback center who uses his 7’1, 260-pound frame to shield defenders and carve out space in the paint. With that size, he is able to easily establish position inside and can extend out to the three as a capable shooter. To add is able to make good passing reads out of the post.
However, outside of his offense, Dickinson still possesses the same issues as Tshiebwe, being that he is an average athlete who is too slow to guard quicker players on the perimeter. To add he is a solid rebounder, but not as good as Tshiebwe who is historically great.
With all that being said, there are reports that Dickinson’s interest in Kentucky is questionable, suggesting he is only trying to drive up his NIL value, as many see his recruitment as a three-horse race between Georgetown, Kansas, and Maryland.
The Case for Oscar Tshiebwe
If Oscar Tsheiebwe were to hit the transfer portal again, he would undoubtedly be the No. 1 ranked player in the portal. In two seasons at Kentucky, Tshiebwe has proven himself as one of the best, if not the best, rebounders in the modern era of college basketball. To add, he is the program’s only unanimous National Player of the Year. Yet, it has resulted in just one NCAA Tournament win.
It’s not fair to put that burden solely on Tshiebwe, as there have been other contributing issues such as injuries, poor shooting at poor times, and roster deficiencies. However, it is fair to say that Tshiebwe is limited in some areas, notably on defense and passing out of the post.
Unlike his first two seasons, there are two capable players that can play center next season, five-star Aaron Bradshaw and a more developed Ugonna Onyenso. This will give the staff more options to compensate for Tshiebwe’s limitations, as both are great rim protectors and Bradshaw possesses impressive passing skills for a big. They both also serve as the lob threats that John Calipari likes to have.
This past season, opposing teams sent multiple defenders to combat Tshiebwe’s dominance in the post. Including the likely return of Antonio Reeves, along with the incoming freshmen, teams should not be able to do that next season given the offensive strengths of those players. If they do, Tshiebwe will have better looks in the paint. To aid in that, he did show improvement in his footwork/post moves, something more understated.
To put it simply, Tshiebwe is a former National Player of the Year and two-time All-American. Despite his limitations, he is one of the best big men in the country. With a roster that holds traits that can mask his faults and if the staff uses him as they did for the majority of the time in his first season in Lexington - not forcing the ball into him, letting him create his offense from rebounding - he can help Kentucky be more successful.
In comparison, Dickinson (22) and Tshiebwe (23) are what they are for the most part, given their age. While Dickinson is a better all-around offensive option, I believe he is a worse fit as he will take away from other players.
Based on the play styles and offensive strengths of the incoming players, the Wildcats would be better suited with a player that is able to create his own without needing the ball, as Tshiebwe can. As mentioned, just with the supporting frontcourt pieces, next season’s Kentucky team could be better prepared to scheme around his flaws.
Given what he has accomplished and done for the community, I would personally give Oscar some time to make his decision (1-2) weeks, if he and his people feel that it is necessary. However, the staff needs to make clear that they can’t wait forever because even if they aren’t able to get Dickinson due to waiting, they have to pursue someone.
What do you think? Provide your opinion in the comments below!