Evaluating Franz Wagner, Isaiah Livers, and Hunter Dickinson in the Michigan-Wisconsin Game

January 12th, 2021

By Alan Lu

I decided to take the time to watch Michigan’s sophomore forward, Franz Wagner play in a Big Ten conference basketball game against Wisconsin, as it was a match-up of two highly ranked teams.  Wagner’s draft stock had been rising, and so even though it coincided with another game I wanted to watch (Oklahoma State was also playing Kansas an hour later), I figured it was about time to watch Wagner play in a live basketball game.  Michigan also had a couple of other prospects that were worthy of note in senior forward, Isaiah Livers, and freshman center, Hunter Dickinson.

This also presented an opportunity to watch Wisconsin play.  Honestly, I had no plans to ever watch Wisconsin play as none of their players are on any draft prospect lists on any of the web sites that I have read, and they’ve been known for playing a really strict, slow-down style that can be rather unpleasant to watch.  On top of that, Wisconsin’s prospect to the NBA track record doesn’t look very good right now, especially considering that they are a power conference school.  Their last good NBA player is former All-Star Devin Harris, who retired a couple of years ago, and former All-Star guard and NBA champion, Michael Finley also retired a long time ago.  Their only NBA player right now is Phoenix Suns’ backup center, Frank Kaminsky, as Jon Leuer also retired recently, and Sam Dekker also had fizzled out of the league.  So, I had no real interest in watching Wisconsin play, but they came into this game as a top 10 college basketball team.

Still, if there was a chance to see Michigan play, it would be today, and this was a chance to see if Franz Wagner really could be a legitimate first round prospect that he looked poised to be.

Michigan’s sophomore forward, Franz Wagner turned in a dominant performance, as he played very well to lead his team to a blowout win over Wisconsin.
(Photo:
Leon Halip/Getty Images, via USA Today Sports)

Franz Wagner had an impressive showing in his team’s blowout win over Wisconsin.  He had a strong all-around game, as he scored 15 points, and had 10 rebounds, 4 steals, 1 assist, and 1 block.  He showed off versatile scoring skills, a high basketball IQ, and he made some athletic, highly energetic plays to help his team on both ends of the floor.

Wagner excelled at scoring on quick drives to the hoop.  He has a solid first step to the hoop and can finish plays using either hand, and he has good body control that allows him to regularly score around the basket.  He can quickly get past his man off the initial bounce, and he was able to score on crafty layups, and he also can throw down athletic, two-handed dunks.  He was able to make an especially impressive play by quickly jumping a pass to get a steal, and he then scored on a high-flying dunk on the break.

He also managed to score on a backdoor cut after running the baseline to get the ball, as he then scored on a quick, reverse layup.  Sometimes though, he would take contested jumpers that would lead to misses as he also missed on a turnaround jumper in the post, but Wagner especially excelled when he would get all the way to the rim. 

Though he didn’t take many outside shots in this game, Wagner was able to score from beyond the arc.  On one play, he used a pump fake to make a corner three off the catch.  He didn’t hoist up many long-range jumpers, but he showed that he can make spot-up threes when he elects to take them.

He also displayed fairly average playmaking skills.  Wagner handles the ball fairly well.  He was able to push the ball up the court to find an open shooter on the break to notch an assist, and he has solid court vision.  He didn’t seem to face heavy ball pressure for extended periods of time, and the other team did not have athletic players his size that could really challenge him, but Wagner did what he was supposed to do, as he tended to make smart plays, and he was effective as a shot creator and ball mover on offense.  Adding to that, he also did not turn the ball over once in this game.

He also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  Wisconsin missed a lot of shots, so there were many rebounding chances to be had, but Wagner made the most of them, as he led all players in defensive rebounds and total rebounds in this contest.  He was active at crashing the glass, and he would leap up to get numerous boards, as he would sometimes push the ball up the court afterwards.

Plus, Wagner also played solid defense.  He was very effective as a help defender, and his length, athleticism, and instincts made it difficult for his opponents to get their shots or passes through.  Wagner is a rangy player that excelled at intercepting passes quickly to get steals, and he did a good job of forcing turnovers to create fast break scoring opportunities for his team. He also leapt up high to block a shot off of a cut, and he was active at contesting shots out on the perimeter as well as in the paint to force misses.  However, sometimes he struggled to defend opponents in one-on-one situations, as he would sometimes get beat on moves to the hoop, which would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.  Other times, he would be too aggressive in trying to make plays, which would lead him to be out of position and late on his rotations every once in a while.

In general, Franz Wagner played very well, and he had a strong showing in his team’s blowout win over Wisconsin.  Michigan was favored to win, but the way he helped his team do so was impressive.  He showed off versatile scoring skills, made strong hustle plays on both ends of the floor, was very active on the glass, and he played very good defense in this game.  Of course, Wisconsin is not a very athletic team, and so maybe I should have expected the Badgers to get blown out. Still, Wagner played a strong all-around game, and Wisconsin’s lack of athleticism does not take away (that much) from his terrific performance to help Michigan get the win.

From what I saw in this game, Franz Wagner looks to be a solid prospect whose all-around skill set could definitely help him at the next level.  I’ll still probably need to see him play against another upper-tier team just to make sure, but he definitely impressed me in this game.  He has the skills to thrive as a role player in the NBA, and he could be a solid pick for an NBA team in the mid to late first round range of the 2021 draft.

Michigan’s senior forward, Isaiah Livers also played very well to help lead his team to a double-digit win over Wisconsin.
(Photo:
Leon Halip/Getty Images, via USA Today Sports)

Michigan’s 6-7 senior forward, Isaiah Livers also had a sterling showing, as he also turned in a strong all-around performance to lead his team to a double-digit win over Wisconsin.  He poured on the points early and often, but he showed a strong commitment to the defensive end seemed lacking in previous years, and Livers’ stellar defensive play also helped his team today.

Livers shot the ball very well, especially from downtown.  He excelled at knocking down spot-up threes off the catch, as he can make them in transition as well as off of pick and pop plays to effectively space the floor for his team.  He also pulled up to score on a mid-range jumper.  He also tried to score on a fadeaway jumper out of the post, but missed that time. He also was able to draw free throws on a drive in transition.  He wasn’t quite as effective as a scorer from inside the arc, as he still had trouble getting all the way to the basket off the dribble or finishing plays in traffic.

He also displayed solid playmaking skills.  He passed and handled the ball well, and he showed off solid court vision in this game.  He was very effective at making drive and kick passes to consistently find open shooters, and his ability to get them the basketball enabled him to rack up assists in this game. Plus, Livers did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He was able to haul in plenty of defensive boards to help his team on the glass.

Also, Livers played solid defense against Wisconsin.  He did a great job of blocking shots in the paint, as he was able to swat a shot off of a cut, and he also hustled back to swat a shot off of a drive in transition due to possessing solid athleticism, instincts, and motor.  He also would contest shots out on the perimeter as well as in the post to force misses, and he also would get his hands on balls to get deflections for his team.  However, sometimes he would sag a bit too far off of shooters and give them too much space, which would occasionally lead him to allow them to score on three-point shots.

Overall, Isaiah Livers played well, as he scored 13 points, made 3 threes, and he also had 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks in his team’s win over Wisconsin.  Livers played a far more complete game than he looked to show in previous years, and it’s clear that he’s starting to make significant strides as a draft prospect.  He’s always been able to shoot the basketball, but he’s also shown improved playmaking and defensive skills.  Right now, he currently projects to be a second round prospect, but he could thrive as a 3 and D role player in the NBA.

Michigan’s 7-1 freshman center, Hunter Dickinson played fairly well, and he especially excelled as an interior defender in his team’s blowout win over Wisconsin.
(Photo:
Leon Halip/Getty Images, via USA Today Sports)

This also presented an opportunity to watch Michigan’s 7-1 freshman center, Hunter Dickinson play in a live college basketball game.  He turned in a fairly good showing.  He didn’t quite dominate, but he made some solid plays on both ends of the floor, and he was very effective as a shot blocker against Wisconsin.

Dickinson did a decent job of scoring in the post.  He is a strong, physical player that can back his man far into the paint, and he was able to score on a couple of turnaround jump hooks.  He was able to use a quick spin move to get his shot off, and he also can use a powerful drop step to get a defender to foul him on the way up to draw free throws.  He was streaky with his shot down low though, as he missed his fair share of jump hooks.

He also excelled as a scorer on hustle plays.  Dickinson was especially effective as a scorer on rolls to the rim.  He has good hands to catch tough passes, and he is a powerful finisher around the basket.  Plus, he also managed to score on a put back after leaping up to grab an offensive rebound.

Plus, he also displayed adequate playmaking skills.  Dickinson can pass out of the post to find open shooters, though he also threw an inaccurate pass to a cutter that led to a tie-up that nearly resulted in a turnover.  He also is a solid screen setter, and he was able to set a hard, firm screen to help his teammate score on an open, mid-range jump shot. He also did a decent job of rebounding the basketball.  He was active at crashing the glass, and he was able to leap up to get plenty of boards on both sides of the ball.

Also, Dickinson played fairly good defense in this game.  He did a great job of blocking shots in the post, as he would swat shots hard to his teammates to get stops on the defensive end.  He has great strength to hold his ground when defending in the post, as he would not budge or move back, and he is a surprisingly effective on-ball defender that would use his length, strength, and timing to block shots.

He also managed to poke a ball away in the post to nearly get a steal.  He did a good job of contesting shots in the post to force misses, and he also was able to successfully challenge a three-point shot another time.  However, sometimes he would sag too far off of shooters to allow them to score on corner threes.  Another time, he bit on a pump fake to allow a score in the post.  He also can struggle to defend pick and rolls, and there was one play where he hugged his man and was not able to rotate to a drive off of a screen in time, as the other team scored on a layup instead.

Overall, Hunter Dickinson had a fairly good showing in his team’s win over Wisconsin.  Though he’s not overwhelmingly athletic, he is a tough, bruising center that is mobile enough to consistently make solid plays on both ends of the floor.  He showed off a solid basketball IQ, and he consistently made solid team plays to help his team in this game.  Right now, he likely projects to be a second round prospect with an outside shot to sneak into the first round, but his strong interior play could enable him to be an effective role player in the NBA whenever he decides to declare to enter the draft.

Michigan’s 6-5 senior guard, Chaundee Brown played well in his team’s win over Wisconsin.  He is a very athletic swingman that showed off versatile scoring skills, and he also would make solid hustle plays to help his team on both ends of the court. Brown can score on hustle plays, as well as in the post.  He ran in to score on a thunderous tip slam after leaping up to get an offensive rebound, and he also used a drop step to score in the post.

He also did an adequate job of knocking down jumpers to help his team space the floor on offense.  Brown was able to make an open, spot-up three off the catch, but he missed on two other occasions. In this game, Brown did not collect an assist, but he did commit one turnover, as he threw a bad pass that got intercepted once.  He was fairly active on the glass, as he was able to leap up to get boards on both sides of the ball.

Also, Brown played good defense.  He was able to rotate to block a shot hard off of a drive out of bounds due to possessing very good athleticism, timing, and instincts.  He also showed good feet to guard opponents out on the perimeter, and he also used his length to contest a mid-range shot to force a miss.  He also managed to poke a ball away when defending in the post to nearly get a steal.  He did commit a foul when guarding an opposing ball handler once due to over-aggressiveness.

Overall, Chaundee Brown is a very athletic, energetic swingman that would otherwise be one of the featured players on a college basketball team if he hadn’t chosen to play for one of the best teams in the country.  He is playing very well in his role this season, and he may be an underrated prospect.  He does not have much draft stock right now, but he could be an interesting player to keep an eye on, as he could project to be a 3 and D type of role player in the NBA.

Michigan’s 5-11 redshirt senior point guard, Mike Smith played very well in his team’s win over Wisconsin.  He showed off terrific scoring skills in this game, and he also shot the ball well.  He is a crafty player that showed a knack for putting up points in this game, and he also was effective as a distributor and defender against Wisconsin.

Smith did a good job of scoring off the dribble.  He used a pump fake and drove in from the baseline to score on a crafty, reverse layup.  He also showed a knack for making pull-up, mid-range jumpers.  He also showed good speed, quickness, and body control to regularly score on layups around the basket.  Sometimes, he would take tough, contested shots that would miss, but he was very effective at getting shots up and scoring in this game.

He also excelled as a floor spacer on offense.  Smith used a nifty, step back move to make a pull-up three, and he also made another three from beyond the arc.  He showed solid range, and he is a good ball handler that excelled at creating separation to score on long-range jumpers.

He also displayed fairly good playmaking skills.  Smith is an unselfish player that tended to throw good interior passes, and he has solid court vision, as he can find open teammates on the move to set up scores for them.  He did commit plenty of turnovers, but he showed a solid ability to draw in multiple defenders and then getting the ball to an open man to set up a score around the basket to help his team. Though he didn’t grab many rebounds, Smith was able to collect a pair of defensive rebounds.

Smith also defended well.  He was able to jump on a loose ball to help his team get a steal once.  He also stayed in front of an opposing ball handler and contested a shot off of a drive to force a miss.

Overall, Mike Smith had a sterling showing in his team’s blowout win over Wisconsin.  He hasn’t exactly put up gaudy stats, as he hasn’t looked to score enough this season, but he is a talented player that can shoot, score, and effectively run a team’s offense.  Right now, he may be a long shot to be drafted, but Smith is a skilled high IQ playmaker that may have the skills to make it as a backup or a third string point guard in the NBA.

Wisconsin’s 6-0 redshirt senior point guard, D’Mitrik Trice had a decent showing in his team’s blowout loss to Michigan.  He excelled as a shooter and scorer in this game, and while he did not do a good job of trying to get his teammates involved on offense, he made shots, as he scored 20 points and made 4 threes against Michigan.

Trice shot the ball very well to provide floor spacing for his team on offense.  He especially was effective at knocking down three-point shots off the catch, as he has a quick release that enables him to easily get his shot off, and he also was able to run off of a screen to knock one down early on.  He also pulled up to make a mid-range jumper, but he struggled a little more to make shots from that range. He also did a fairly good job of scoring on quick drives to the basket, and he also will go hard to the hoop to draw fouls upon his defenders to get to the free throw line.

He displayed fairly average at best playmaking skills.  Trice is a ball-centric and ball-dominant player that often would not look for his teammates, and he tended to only look for his own offense for most of this game, albeit he was quite effective at scoring on offense, while his teammates were not.  Still, he generally did a bad job of passing the basketball, as his passes would tend to be off-target, and he also threw a pass that got deflected and intercepted once.  He also lost the ball while handling it, as he collided into a teammate to commit another turnover.  For the positives, he can make simple drive and kick passes, but his inability to consistently get his teammates quality looks on offense was really frustrating to watch. While he didn’t grab many rebounds in this game, he was able to help his team get a pair of defensive boards.

Defensively, he looked to be about average at best.  He was able to deflect a pass out of bounds to nearly get a steal.  However, his lack of size made it difficult to defend taller players.  There was one play where he didn’t box out his man, which led his team to allow a tip dunk, and he also allowed a taller player to score on a three-point shot.

Overall, D’Mitrik Trice looked to have played the best amongst the Wisconsin players in this game, but Wisconsin did not play well at all as a team in their loss to Michigan.  Trice showed a solid ability to shoot and score, and he is an agile guard that can get his shots up.  However, he will need to improve his playmaking skills, and he will need to do a better job of getting his teammates higher quality shots on offense.  Right now, he is a long shot to be drafted, but in a favorable scenario, his ability to score could enable him to compete for a roster spot as a John Lucas III-type of player in the NBA either next season or sometime down the road.

Wisconsin’s 6-10 senior center, Micah Potter had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Michigan.  He showed some promise as a shooter and scorer early, but he  also struggled defensively, and he also seemed to fade into the background in the second half of this game. Potter is a floor-spacing big man that can shoot the basketball.  He was very effective at making open spot-up threes off the catch, and he should look to take more shots from downtown.

He also did a fairly good job of scoring in the post.  Potter has solid footwork and scoring touch down low, as he was able to use an overhead ball fake to score on a jump hook, and he also would use spin moves to score in the paint.  However, sometimes he would try to do too much, and he would sometimes not go up strong enough, which would lead to some misses around the basket.

Potter was quite turnover prone in this game.  He would sometimes be called for setting moving screens on offense.  He also had a ball poked away when posting up to lose it to an opponent another time. He did a satisfactory job of rebounding the basketball.  Potter was fairly active on the glass, and he was able to leap up to get multiple boards on both ends of the floor.

However, he will need to improve his defense.  For the positives, Potter would use his length to contest shots in the post to force misses.  However, he had trouble defending quicker players out in space and sometimes he would be late on his rotations.  He would allow opponents to get past him to allow scores, and he also would also sag too far off of shooters.  Another time, he got outmuscled when defending in the post, as he ended up fouling an opponent on a hook shot.

Overall, Potter is a skilled big man that can shoot and score the basketball, but he will need to cut down on his turnovers, and he will need to improve his defense.  He doesn’t possess great lateral quickness or athleticism, and he tended to have trouble guarding quicker opponents on the floor.  Right now, he may be a long shot to be drafted, but in a favorable scenario, his jump shot could allow him to compete for a roster spot as a Jon Leuer-type of big man in the NBA either next season or sometime down the road.

Wisconsin’s 6-11 senior center, Nate Reuvers did not play well at all, and he was pretty bad in this game, as he scored just 4 points on 2 of 9 shooting, and he only grabbed 2 rebounds, as he did not block a single shot in his team’s loss to Michigan.

He did display decent low post scoring skills, despite not shooting the ball well in general.  Reuvers was able to score on a crafty, up and under move while scoring on a reverse layup.  Reuvers also made an open mid-range shot, but he struggled to consistently knock down jumpers in this game. He didn’t show much playmaking skills, as he did not get an assist, nor seemed to make any noteworthy passes, and he also was called for traveling on a drive to the hoop.

Defensively, he was not very good, either.  He had trouble defending in the post, as he would give up deep position to allow scores.  He also had trouble defending on pick and rolls, as his team would allow scores to roll men.

Overall, Reuvers did not play very well, and his inability to consistently create quality shots for himself or his teammates, combined with his general lack of athleticism makes him at best, a very mediocre prospect.

He’s also not a good rebounder, and he has never averaged at least 5 rebounds per game in any collegiate season to date.  His best chance to get to and succeed in the NBA would be to make it as a Jon Leuer-type of stretch big in the association, but he didn’t play well at all against a more athletic, Michigan team.  He’s a long shot to be drafted or to make it to the NBA, and he will need to play much better than how he did today to have a realistic chance of making it and succeeding at that level.  Most likely, he probably won’t quite get there, but his jump shot could still enable him to carve out a lengthy career in the G-League or overseas when his collegiate career ends.

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