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2019 NBA Draft scouting report: Dedric Lawson

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Kansas vs Northeastern Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 70 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.

This installment breaks down Kansas forward Dedric Lawson.

Dedric Lawson was incredibly productive for the Kansas Jayhawks this season, operating as the best player on a top-20 team. Given only that information, one might assume that Lawson would be a projected lottery pick, simply because the top player at a “Blue Blood” program usually receives the benefit of the doubt, particularly after averaging 19.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. However, the 21-year-old power forward isn’t seen in that light by many, making him a thoroughly intriguing prospect to evaluate.

As noted above, Lawson’s numbers were tremendous during his one season at Kansas, averaging a double-double with 58 percent true shooting and a PER of 28.5. Prior to his arrival in Lawrence, the 6’9 power forward was also productive during a two-year stint at Memphis, averaging 17.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game as the centerpiece of the Tigers.

Still, Lawson encounters translation questions when projecting him to the NBA. He isn’t a tremendous athlete, at least by professional standards, and that seems to limit his defensive potential. Considering the archetype of the “traditional” power forward is on life support, that could spell trouble for Lawson, particularly if his long-distance shooting does not stabilize as a legitimate weapon.

This season at Kansas, Lawson converted 35 of 89 three-point attempts (39 percent) and that provided encouragement. A deeper look, though, reveals that much of that damage came during an 18-game hot streak to end the season (48 percent) and, in short, scouts are skeptical of that kind of elite-level mark for the previously unreliable floor spacer.

As an offensive prospect, shooting is probably Lawson’s swing skill but he does bring a lot more to the table. Finishing in traffic wasn’t always a strength for the college veteran, but there were signs of improvement in that area this season, and he displays a tremendous motor, leading to productive activity and all kinds of quality shot generation.

On the glass, Lawson has always been a terror and that, of course, helps. There is an argument that his rebounding could slow against NBA-level athletes but, at the very least, that isn’t a weakness and it provides some level of floor.

Other than his long-distance shooting, defense is the biggest question for Lawson, who does have quality tools. He has a reported wingspan of 7’3 on his 6’9 frame and, if true, that would be a strong trait. At the college level, Lawson wasn’t an elite rim protector by any means but, as a full-time power forward in the NBA, he might have the ability to play up as a weak-side supporting defender.

Based largely on his production, advanced statistical models absolutely love Lawson, including a top-10 mark in the entire draft using Kevin Pelton’s WARP model. Realistically, Lawson isn’t that kind of prospect, particularly when he will turn 22 years old before the start of his first NBA season, but the Hawks do have three second round draft picks to utilize.

At first blush, Lawson isn’t an ideal fit with the Hawks, as the organization values perimeter shooting and overall skill projection at a high level. However, Lawson’s body of work is tremendously impressive and there is something to be said for the safety that provides when taking a look at second round prospects.

Can he consistently take and make NBA threes? Can he defend at a reasonable level? If the answer to both of those questions becomes “yes” for Dedric Lawson, an NBA team will probably get a steal in the second round. If not, he could slide into the abyss of previously potent college power forwards without a true role to fall back on in the NBA.

Such is the nature of a second round pick.