Report Card 2015: Aubrey Dawkins

Alejandro Zúñiga
on

Previously: Spike Albrecht, Ricky Doyle

Aubrey Dawkins was the final member of Michigan’s 2014-15 recruiting class, but the Wolverines benefited greatly from the forward’s contributions this winter. The Palo Alto, California native didn’t make his first start until Jan. 20, but he proceeded to play 30-plus minutes on 10 occasions as he quickly became an integral member of the frontcourt.

During workouts last summer, John Beilein claimed Dawkins was the team’s most athletic player, even comparing him to Tim Hardaway Jr., and Dawkins certainly proved it this year. He capped off warmups before every contest with a thunderous dunk and made electrifying plays in-game, too — with Illinois’ Nnanna Egwu the biggest victim.

But Dawkins excelled in other areas as well, most notably behind the arc. He finished Big Ten regular-season play with the league’s best effective field goal percentage (63.3%) and true shooting percentage (65.8%) against conference opponents.

While there were games during which Dawkins struggled with his shot, he teased fans with the constant possibility of the spectacular, whether it be a highlight-reel slam or daggers from deep.

dawkins

Strengths

Three-point shooting: Dawkins became a household name December 30th against Illinois, when, in front of a sellout crowd, the forward nearly stole the show from newly hired Jim Harbaugh by exploding for 20 points on 6-for-7 shooting from beyond the arc. The performance in the Wolverines’ Big Ten opener set the tone for the rest of the winter — Dawkins made 48% of his three-pointers in conference play. More than half of the freshman’s shots were three-pointers, and his 1.268 points per possession on those opportunities place him in the top 10% nationally.

Mid-range game, curls: Late in the season, Dawkins began to show the ability to catch the ball at the elbow and knock down 16 foot jumpers off of curls. He graded out in the 95th percentile nationally in scoring off of screens, but had limited attempts. While he had just 22 mid-range attempts, he made 46% of them on the season — well above the NCAA-average.

Zone buster: Dawkins scored 1.58 points per possession against zones, one of the best performers in the nation. But the forward rarely seemed to struggle too much no matter what looks opponents gave him. His 1.13 points per possession this season rank in the 98th percentile, per Synergy Sports — not too shabby for a freshman.

Room for improvement

Defense: According to Beilein, Dawkins saw limited playing time early in the season because he was too much of a defensive liability. (The freshman played 10 or more minutes in just three games before the new year, then did so in every game after that.) While he has the athelticism to be a plus-defender, the game still moved a bit too quickly from him on the defensive end of the floor. He’ll need to add strength — a summer with Jon Sanderson should help — but also improve on his awareness on the defensive end of the floor.

Creating offense: Much like Zak Irvin was last year, Dawkins excelled at catch-and-shoot opportunities but didn’t create many looks for himself or others. He executed just a handful of ball screens — creating 6 points in 19 possessions — and isolations — 12 points in 17 possessions. His assist rate of 4.1% was the lowest on Michigan’s roster among players that played the 1 through 4 positions and it was even lower than Zak Irvin’s assist rate as a freshman.

Rebounding: Given his ability to elevate, Dawkins’ rebounding numbers left a lot to be desired. He rebounded just 8.5% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor. That was the worst defensive rebounding rate on the team among rotation players.

Shining moment

Dawkins posterizes Egwu

Honorable mention: Dawkins buries Illinois at Crisler, dazzles vs. Rutgers

Quotable:

Max Bielfeldt on Dawkins’ 31-point performance on Senior Day: “He can steal my shine all he wants if he wants to do that the rest of the year and the rest of his career. Oh my gosh, that’s something else. Eight threes? That’s stupid. That’s ridiculous.”

John Beilein on Dawkins’ growth: “There’s been tremendous growth in him. When he got here, he could shoot, but he had to get it off quicker. He’s worked hard at that. He has a short memory when it comes to when he misses. He gets back out there, loading the gun, shooting it again. He works really hard at this, really happy for him.”

Grade: B

Despite his inconsistencies early in the season, Dawkins significantly elevated his game, averaging 18.8 points per contest in March. The forward was excellent offensively, and the possibility of SportsCenter-worthy moments every night made him Michigan’s most exciting player to watch.

After earning 13 starts in 2014-15, Dawkins role should be up for grabs along with Michigan’s host of other wing players. The Wolverines will add Duncan Robinson and DJ Wilson back into the rotation, two players that could eat away at minutes at the four or three (Robinson) positions next season. Add in Zak Irvin, one of the few sure-things on Michigan’s roster, and the potential of Caris LeVert returning or even a late signee, and the minutes could be scarce on the wings.

While the Wolverines would have no complaints if Dawkins could replicate his lethal offensive efficiency, learning to attack the basket more regularly and, most importantly, improving on defensive end of the floor is probably the best way for Dawkins to secure his role. But the forward is in the enviable position of entering his sophomore campaign with 620 minutes logged, and Michigan should reap the benefits of that next year.

  • Mattski

    Gotta give this kid an A. Best effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage in-conference? Given expectations? I don’t see how you can deny him.

    • MrLG

      I think we need two grades: overall value to team and improvement over the course of the season. For value to team, Aubrey gets a B. For improvment, a solid A.

    • JohnNavarreIsMyHero

      How again did Dawkins not at least get Big Ten Honorable mention? He had incredible shooting numbers.

  • countourzealous

    Totally hypothetical situation: If Jaylen Brown comes to Michigan and Caris decides to stay, what the heck would our starting five look like? Who the heck would play the play 4? I can’t seem to work it out. I’m still dreaming, however. But we’d be having high-caliber players like MAAR and Dawkins coming off the bench… there would be a lot of depth.

    edit: and I wasn’t even thinking of Zak at the 2. So it’d be Walton at the 1, Zak at 2, Caris 3, Jaylen 4, Doyle 5?

    • Wayman Britt

      I am not sure who would play what position, but this would be a great problem to have.

      • countourzealous

        Even taking Caris or Jaylen out of the equation leaves a lot of depth and talent.

    • Corperryale

      Brown would presumably want to play the 3, so he would play the 3. Zak could play the 4.

    • ChaseGoBlue

      Let’s hope Beilein can get Caris to stay and get Jaylen to come. If he can do that I can see Michigan going on a big tournament run next year.

    • Bart

      This may sound nuts, but I think you may move Zak to the bench and have him be that 6th man role. I would love have Zak and Dawk coming off the bench! I still believe that Kam at the 4 is the way to go, I see him making HUGE strides.

  • Wayman Britt

    Dawkins has the physical tools to be a very good player. His jumping ability can take him a long way. I hope he practices his blocking out and defensive over the summer.

  • Wayman Britt

    Congratulations Wisconsin, always love it when a collegiate team beat a professional team.

    • Madrox

      But could Wisconsin make the playoffs in the NBA now?

    • countourzealous

      They had a TON of bad calls against them, just like Michigan in the NT game. Fortunately they had the experience to still bounce back. I’m definitely pulling for them as a type of redemption. Looking back on the season, we took two final four teams to overtime. That doesn’t look so bad retrospectively.

  • David Remmler

    I’d give him at least an A-. He was an A+ on the offensive end. For an unheralded freshman to be the leading scorer and literally take over games at times is almost unheard of. He’s showing NBA potential. His weaknesses rebounding and on defense will improve significantly with a little work in the off season.

  • Barth Applefeld

    An unheralded freshman starts slow but has several very big scoring games down the stretch. I would call that an A. He has much to learn, of course, but since when do we judge freshmen as if they were juniors or seniors–or Kentucky recruits?

  • jake

    Dawkins deserves an A. He was expected to come off the bench and relieve the starters for a few minutes a game. So what he doesn’t yet have a great all around game! He ended up being a go to guy on offense that could take over games! I also think everyone is dogging him on defense too, I didn’t think he did too bad

  • sam

    Starting lineup 1.Walton 2.levert 3.brown 4.irvin 5. wagner or doyle. Irvin needs to improve passing and rebounding in offseason