Monday, April 28, 2014

Examining Dewayne Dedmon's 2013-2014 Magic Season

Over the course of the Magic's offseason, leading up to the NBA Draft, I'll be analyzing all of the Orlando players that are still on the roster and how they did in their 2013-2014 campaign. I'll be going in ascending order based on games played. I won't be assigning grades or scores.

Let's take a look at Dewayne Dedmon.

Orlando was the 7-footer's third NBA stop in his rookie season, but it may be his last for a while. It was an impressive 6 starts and 16 total games for Dedmon. The Magic franchise had not signed a D-League player midseason since Andre Barrett in 2005. That's absurd when you think about how far the developmental program has come. Dedmon's success isn't the start of GM Rob Hennigan tapping a new resource with Orlando now being rumored to acquire a D-League team of their own.

Dewayne was brought in with Adonis Thomas and initially it was Thomas seeing more court time than Dedmon. But Dewayne settled into his new home, took two 10-day contracts in late February and March, and transformed them into a full contract that has Dedmon signed through the 2016-2017 season. It's a completely non-guaranteed deal, but if he keeps performing and improving, then Orlando has a steal of a deal for a 3rd-string center.

The University of Southern California product might be the fastest guy at his height in the league, and that proved ideal when it came to Head Coach Jacque Vaughn wanting his men running as much as possible. The 24-year-old still appears raw offensively, and that's fine since Dewayne didn't start playing organized basketball until his senior high school year. He doesn't have a go-to post-up move yet, but at least he's displayed a possibly consistent jumper. His timing and instincts in the paint can't be taught, neither can his team-best leaping ability. That translates into putbacks, alley oops, and chaotic defensive potential that this team hasn't had since Dwight left town.

Dewayne's March 1st Magic three-minute debut in a Miami Heat blowout wasn't exactly memorable, but it was Dedmon's performance on the practice court that was winning coaches and teammates over. You could see the ambition, the humbleness, and his immediate locker room chemistry. Once Dedmon got signed to his full contract, he began receiving consistent playing time during Orlando's final 4-game Western Conference road trip in the third week of March.

When Nik Vucevic got shut down in April, so did Dewayne's responsibilities and playing time. I can specifically recall Coach Vaughn's praise of Dedmon even if his contributions didn't light up the stat sheet.
Jacque Vaughn on Dewayne Dedmon's 2nd start: "It's tough for guys to recognize and accept what they do and just to continue to do it. He's done that since he's been here. You see him get an offensive rebound; if he's not in position he'll bring it out and give us another possession. Those things matter and he understands that. He rolls to the rim. He might not get it but in the 4th quarter he did get it. He ended up putting it in the bucket for us. He's long, he blocked some shots for us tonight, and he was aggressive and running the floor in every possession."
In #3's final 5 games - all as a starter - Dewayne averaged 9.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per contest in about 24 minutes per game. The only downside was Dedmon having to deal with opposition team scouting reports and seeing his offensive efficiency suffer because of it. That didn't prevent Dewayne from posting career-highs in points (8) and rebounds (13) on Fan Appreciation Night.

Dedmon in those last five contests shot just 9-of-28 (32.1 FG%) from the field. But no matter, the groundwork for a possible long-term NBA career has been laid out. Odds are the Magic don't acquire another big man in the Draft. It's up to Dedmon to enhance his tools and to maximize and match his athleticism. Barring something odd occurring, we'll see Dewayne at Summer League in July.

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