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Grading Damyean Dotson’s Summer League campaign

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The second-round pick impressed with his shooting and rebounding.

NCAA Basketball: Tulsa at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Damyean Dotson, the 44th pick in the 2017 draft, was without a doubt the best player in a Knicks uniform throughout Summer League. Dotson was pegged as a player with shooting potential coming into Summer League, but throughout the five-game stretch, Dotson was basically a walking flame-thrower. Below are his stats from the five games, where he shot 48% from downtown on five attempts per game.

Something I loved about the five-game sequence for Dotson was that he found a way to be effective in every game. His worst game was probably vs. Orlando, which also happened to be the day after July 4th. Maybe he had a little bit of late-night fun on the 4th, but Dotson still had a nice, complete game with two steals, three boards, four assists and eight points. In game one, Dotson pulled down eight rebounds. In game three, Dotson didn’t miss from 3. In the final game, Dotson filled the stat sheet with 20 points, nine boards, and shot 73% from the field. I also noticed that Dotson averaged only one foul per game, leading me to believe that he has room to dig in even more on defense and use his 6’6” 205-pound frame to his advantage. Dotson did seem to enjoy pressuring the ball at times, and with a 6’9” wingspan and decent speed, it looks like a skill that could be NBA-ready.

Far and away the most impressive quality to Dotson’s Summer League was his shooting. First, we’ll take a look at catch-and-shoot opportunities for Dotson. Talk about a weapon that’s useful in the NBA, Dotson gets his shot off incredibly fast and whether it’s a corner 3, a mid-range shot off a curl screen, or a 30-footer, Dotson looked comfortable and shot with the same mechanics from every spot on the floor.

Dotson wasn’t a one-dimensional shooter, though. While some NBA marksmen can slip a bit into a comfort zone of spotting up while their play-makers attract attention, Dotson took several shots off-the-dribble, and his accuracy remained impressive. This should really help Dotson going forward. Adding a legitimate driving threat to his game would further his effectiveness, but Dotson showed he’s more than capable of putting the ball on the floor and pulling up at a moment’s notice.

Finishing at the rim is not Dotson’s biggest strength, and rounding out that part of his offensive arsenal could honestly give Dotson semi-elite scoring potential. While Dotson did show off some bounce with this garbage time dunk, he still opts for pull-up jumpers more than not, and that’s okay considering his ability to do so. Dotson shot 48% from 3, as noted earlier, and shot that same percentage from the field overall.

Dotson seemed more than comfortable handling the ball, and at times was even used as the primary ball-handler for several consecutive possessions while Chasson Randle slid to the shooting guard slot. Dotson averaged 2.6 assists and 1.6 turnovers in the five games, but I suspect he would have significantly increased the assist numbers if not for every single Marshall Plumlee (gonna miss you, bud) and Nigel Hayes shot getting blocked at the rim. Knicks fans should be very encouraged by how well Dotson found shooters when attacking the basket. If that weren’t enough to be excited about, Dotson also looked extremely adept at playing the two-man game, making the correct play in pick-and-roll about eight or nine times out of ten.

That’s not to say Dotson didn’t have his struggles. Dotson got sloppy with the ball here and there. Turnovers, defensive confusion, and several other things of that nature have to be taken with a grain of salt when observing summer league, which is essentially glorified pick-up basketball. These players have only a few days together before summer league games start, so it’s important to understand that many things happen on the fly. Still, you want to see guys take care of the basketball, as turnovers are generally a death sentence in the NBA.

The most concerning thing I saw from Dotson was his proclivity to leave shooters open by over-helping in the paint. I have a theory that most wing defenders struggle with this early on due to the added 3-point distance of the NBA game. For instance, when guarding against a player in the deep, weak-side corner, a defender generally slides over into help position, then runs back to their man in that deep corner as the ball gets closer, or as his man receives the ball. Recovering from the paint to the 3-point line is a full three feet further in the NBA than in college, so you can understand that players get comfortable helping off to a certain point on the floor and expect to close out with three steps, where now the added distance of the NBA court becomes four steps. All reasoning aside, this is a crucial concept that has to be fixed. The Knicks were notorious for giving up open threes last season, and if there’s something you can’t live with at this level, it’s open threes.

It can be easy for the stats to fool you, as the Knicks were 7th in 3-point percentage allowed, but this is a padded statistic. The Knicks got blown out a lot last year. Once the 4th quarters came around, teams were more conservative in their shot selection and the second units for both teams were in (the opposing 2nd unit generally didn’t shoot as well and the Knicks’ 2nd unit generally defended pretty well, especially around the perimeter). If you adjust the stats to only include the 1st half of games, the Knicks become 25th in 3-point percentage allowed.

Dotson over-helped a lot, which left shooters open at times. It also showcased Dotson’s anticipation and hustle; both huge positives for the incoming rookie. Some minor tweaks to his help and a slight shortening of his leash would make Dotson extremely solid on the defensive end. When the ball didn’t swing back to Dotson’s man, he was mostly effective in disrupting drives or paint points as a result of his help.

There is a learning curve, and I expect the rookie to have some lapses throughout the year. I see some minor things that need correction. Dotson turns his head more than I would like, and this indicates that he’s just not positioned well enough to see the floor without blind spots. Clearly with potential as a defender, Dotson just has to learn the ropes of the NBA. Keeping Dotson disciplined and engaged will be imperative to his success on that side of the ball.

In general, Dotson seemed the most composed of all his teammates. Rarely did he take ill-advised shots and he played with a pace that was both NBA comparable and under control. I really liked this after-timeout play where Dotson showed his slashing ability, then patiently faked his way into an open layup. This will be a good weapon for Hornacek going forward with ATO’s given Dotson’s threat as a shooter.

For a kid who hasn’t played an NBA game yet, I was incredibly impressed with Dotson throughout Summer League, and I have to imagine the Knicks were as well. Offensively, Dotson comes off of screens ready to shoot and has the same replicable mechanics every time, tendencies I see from all-star scorers. Dotson showed that he’s comfortable making decisions with the ball and orchestrating the offense in small doses. Defensively, he’s physically capable of being above-average, but needs solid defensive principles instilled by a coaching staff. If Dotson can remain alert and aware of his surroundings while on the floor, I think he will be fine.

Grade : A-