Home Virginia fans are dreaming of Hunter Dickinson: Why that won’t be happening

Virginia fans are dreaming of Hunter Dickinson: Why that won’t be happening

Chris Graham
hunter dickinson
Photo: UVA Athletics

Every fan base in America is salivating at the idea of their school landing Michigan big man Hunter Dickinson from the transfer portal, including the Virginia fan base, which needs to be disabused of the notion that Dickinson could actually end up at UVA.

The reason a guy with Dickinson’s profile – dude is 7’1”, 255, averaged 18.5 points and 9.0 rebounds a game last year, shot 56.0 percent from the field – is in the transfer portal, and not in the NBA draft pool, is that he knows he’s not an NBA prospect, at least not right now.

You won’t, for instance, find his name even in the Top 100 and Top 125 projections for this year’s draft class.

Thirty years ago, a 7’1” guy who can dominate in the post is a lottery pick, but the NBA game isn’t what it was 30 years ago.

Even Naismith Player of the Year Zach Edey, a 7’4” behemoth who averaged 22.3 points and 12.9 boards at Purdue this past season, is projected as at best a late second-round pick, and several mock drafts have him going undrafted this summer, though it’s likely that he will return to Purdue, for the same reason that Dickinson isn’t leaving the college game.

Edey and Dickinson seem to be good candidates to follow the blueprint laid out by UNC’s Armando Bacot, a perennial ACC Player of the Year candidate, who returned to college last year and is set to return again next year, for the simple reason that he can make more money in college with NIL than he can playing overseas.

Both Edey and Dickinson have two years of college eligibility left – their senior seasons and then their COVID redshirt seasons.

That’s two years to make serious NIL money.

The threshold has to be $500,000+ per year.

U.S. players in the Euroleague typically make between $400,000 and $800,000 a year.

For comparison, the NBA rookie minimum is $1.04 million, and guys on two-way deals – splitting time between the NBA and the G-League, make half that, or $502,000.

The minimum salary in the G-League, meanwhile, is $40,500, which, wow.

So, Dickinson is in the portal, and you can bet that he’s there because he’s seeing what might be out there in terms of NIL opportunities.

It’s Economics 101, basic supply and demand.

There aren’t many 7’1” guys who dominated the Big Ten on the market, so, let’s see who wants to pony up, basically.

A guy like Dickinson, ostensibly a student in good standing at a top-tier academic institution like Michigan, can get into any school that he wants to, and he no doubt starts and plays 30-32 minutes a game wherever he goes.

Virginia is but one of innumerable suitors, and honestly, has to be toward the bottom of the list of potential landing spots.

First reason: Virginia doesn’t have anything resembling even a decent NIL game yet, so the idea that Virginia can be competitive in that marketplace for a guy like Dickinson is a reach.

Second: what would Tony Bennett actually be able to do with a big who gets just under half his shots on post-ups?

Dickinson, in 2022-2023, attempted 213 shots on post-ups, according to SynergySports data.

Virginia, in 2022-2023, as a team had 106 field-goal attempts on post-ups this past season, according to Synergy, less than half what Dickinson did by himself in the post.

Dickinson shot 42.1 percent from three last season, on low volume (1.7 attempts from three per game), so he has the ability to stretch the floor on pick-and-pops, but he’s not going somewhere where he’d primarily be asked to set screens and tap offensive rebounds into the backcourt, no matter what the NIL money is.

Now, yes, you could assume that Bennett would be willing to adjust the offensive scheme if he were to land a talent like Dickinson, and that he’d share some ideas for how to do that in his sales pitch, but you could also assume that the other suitors would use the numbers that I just shared about Virginia’s stunning lack of emphasis on post play to plant seeds of doubt.

Those seeds of doubt, plus the inability of Virginia to show any interest in playing the NIL game, tell you where this one ends up.

It was OK to dream, of course.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].