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Atlanta Hawks 2018-19 player preview: Tyler Dorsey

A big season for the former Oregon Duck in his NBA career.

NBA: Summer League-Atlanta Hawks at Indiana Pacers Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

In advance of the 2018-2019 NBA season, the Peachtree Hoops crew will preview each player on the current roster. The fourth edition breaks down the work of second-year guard Tyler Dorsey.

Having had to wait for his opportunity in his rookie season, Tyler Dorsey showed flashes of potential in what was an ultimately mixed rookie year for the former Oregon Duck. Dorsey enjoyed some solid scoring nights but was largely inefficient from the field as he shot 37.7% from the field but showed some promise from behind the arc as he shot 36% from deep.

During his exit interview, Dorsey reflected on his journey.

“I learned a lot since the beginning (of the season),” said Dorsey in April. “Started and learned a lot in the G-League and then the second half of this season I learned a lot from a lot of players that were here and the vets that were still here as well, I just learned a lot from them. Learning how to become a professional and getting ready to get better for next year.”

Before ‘next year’ came Summer League, where Dorsey was a returning member for the Hawks (having featured in 2017). Dorsey — albeit against (generally speaking) lesser competition — played well in Las Vegas as he averaged 19 points per game (and a surprising 11 rebounds per game).

Dorsey will need to continue to build upon his Summer League showing, because not only is there more competition at his general position this year (with the likes of Kevin Huerter, Justin Anderson, DeAndre’ Bembry, Kent Bazemore, Jeremy Lin, Trae Young and Taurean Prince all playing the 1, 2, 3 combinations that Dorsey split last season, though there’s no need for Dorsey to be playing point guard as he sometimes did last season) but Dorsey is also entering the second year of the two-year deal he signed after he was drafted, meaning he’ll be a restricted free agent next summer.

If Dorsey doesn’t play to the necessary standard that would warrant Hawks GM Travis Schlenk (who, it’s worth noting, drafted Dorsey) offering him an extension, Dorsey could be looking for a new NBA home...

So, what does Tyler Dorsey need to do/show this season to ensure not only his spot in the possible rotation but possibly his future with the Hawks, and indeed the NBA?

First and foremost — no matter where ‘home’ will be for Tyler Dorsey beyond next season — he needs to continue an upward trajectory with his shooting from behind the arc. Dorsey shot 36% from three last season on over three attempts per game and needs to do something similar — if not, improve — this year from behind the arc.

With plenty of playmaking potential on the team this year (Young, Lin, Bazemore for example), Dorsey is going to receive open shot opportunities and needs to be ready and able to knock these down consistently.

Last season, 27% of Dorsey’s shots were wide open three-pointers (which the NBA classifies as a shot taken 6+ feet from the nearest defender) in which Dorsey only converted 34% from behind the arc — that is something that will have to change this season. He has to knock down those wide open shots at a more consistent rate.

Odd, though, considering that Dorsey shot 44% on the threes that were considered ‘open’ (within 4-6 feet of the nearest defender) — maybe he was too open...

Another aspect of Dorsey’s game that needs improving is his ability to finish at the rim and in the paint.

Dorsey shot 51% at the rim (considerably below the league average of 63%) and 34.6% in the paint overall.

Dorsey has to make a step up in this department — he needs to improve on his overall strength and his touch at the rim (maybe develop a soft touch/floater). If Dorsey reaches a point where he can put the ball on the floor and be able to score more efficiently in the paint/at the rim, as well as shoot, that helps give Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce options when it comes to Dorsey.

It would also be beneficial for Dorsey to continue to improve his ball-handling skills.

Dorsey, on rare occasions, handled the ball for a possession or two during some games and if he’s able to improve in that department and be able to make some plays, that certainly wouldn’t hurt.

I can’t help but keep thinking of what Travis Schlenk said about Kevin Huerter, and applying what he said about Huerter to Dorsey.

“He can put the ball on the floor and create for others,” Schlenk said of Kevin Huerter via the Washington Post. “He can make shots, but also dribble and pass, which makes you harder to defend, and what we’re trying to build.”

Basically, the Hawks are looking for players who can do lots of different things on the offensive end which is fair — versatility is tough to guard. Right now, Dorsey doesn’t have a ton of versatility about him. So, if Dorsey is able to step up and do more for the Hawks on the court than just shoot from the perimeter, that certainly wouldn’t hurt his long-term prospects.

Defensively, we don’t have to say too much. Dorsey just has to improve in all areas — simple as that.

And we don’t have to say much about his defense because it’s Dorsey’s offense — and whether he can expand his offensive game, become more versatile offensively — that’s going to be his NBA calling-card, not defense (but improving his defense wouldn’t hurt).

And that’s what Dorsey needs to do this season — not only improve his shooting but develop offensive versatility.