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 examines Kansas guard Devon Dotson.
After one season at Kansas, Devon Dotson declared for the 2019 NBA draft while keeping the option of returning to the Jayhawks open. His intent is to participate in the combine, gather feedback from NBA teams, and make a decision whether to stay in the draft.
Coming out of high school, Dotson was nationally ranked as a top-tier point guard in his recruiting class. Originally from Chicago, he moved to Charlotte while in middle school and finished his high school career there before heading back to the Midwest to play college basketball. As a freshman at Kansas, he averaged 12.3 points and 3.6 assists per game on a team that went 26-10, earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tourney, but lost to No. 5 seed Auburn in the second round.
Dotson is likely one of the players who has the least amount of clarity around where he may land in the 2019 NBA draft should he choose to keep himself declared. At 6’2 and 185 pounds, his size draws the first question mark as an NBA prospect. There are smaller players who thrive in today’s NBA game but those players have proven to be the exception as opposed to the rule.
When Dotson’s size is compounded with a second question mark around his ability to shoot the ball, his status as a prospect becomes even murkier. He shot 36% from the three-point line as a freshman, a mark that is roughly average, though his volume was not all that robust. He attempted 2.5 shots per game from behind the arc and made more than one three pointer in just five of the 36 games he played. Dotson doesn’t profile as a poor shooter per se, but doubts as to how reliable he projects as an NBA shooter are valid, particularly when considering upside.
The strength of Dotson’s offensive game lies in his ability to explosively attack off the dribble. With the ball in his hands, he is at his best when he plays aggressively at a fast pace. His comfort in the up tempo style of play is the trait that best matches him with today’s NBA game, where tempo is a priority.
Dotson pushes the ball and can get to open space. He can beat defenders off the dribble, at least at the college level. His ball handling is stronger than it is skilled and more aggressive than it is smooth. At times, he can sped up to an overwhelming degree. He can try to do too much resulting in error-prone basketball.
The 19-year-old guard can create shots for his teammates but has not set himself apart as a initiator and creator on offense. Like many of his own scoring opportunities, the opportunities he creates for his teammates are the result of beating someone off the dribble, When he draws a help defender he can find the open teammate, but there is not much nuance in his passing game. He has not necessarily distinguished himself as a point guard that can play with vision and thread the needle in tight passing lanes.
Dotson patterns his offensive game after another Chicago-area native, Derrick Rose. He even wears the No. 1 in his honor. Like Rose, Dotson is most dangerous when attacking the basket with a live dribble. He does have the ability to finish at the rim against defenders.
While Dotson and Rose are relatively the same height (Rose measured 6’2.5 at the 2008 NBA combine), there are stark differences in their physical profile. Entering the league, Rose was more solidly built than Dotson is today. More importantly, Rose measured a wingspan of 6’8 at the 2008 combine (with highly explosive athleticism to boot) while Dotson will likely measure just 6’2 or 6’3.
Perhaps it is the lack of length that will give NBA teams the greatest pause in pulling the trigger to draft Dotson. His shortcoming in this area will be a challenge when he starts trying to finish at the rim versus NBA defenders. It will create challenges for him defensively as well.
Dotson does not profile as a plus defender, both in the present or the future. He simply lacks the size and length to handle many NBA guards. His strength on the defensive end of the court is similar to that on offense. He is explosive, and he plays hard and fearlessly.
Perhaps Dotson’s best trait is that he really competes. He plays aggressively and with confidence. His style of play is likely to be more appreciated by NBA coaches than his profile will be appreciated by NBA scouts. Dotson plays physically, regardless of his size. He did tally more rebounds than assists in college in spite of his stature.
The reality is that Dotson has intangibles and limited aspects of his game that coaches and teammates would respect, but currently there are question marks and shortcomings that make his stock as an NBA prospect tenuous.
Today, the youngster likely profiles better as a secondary ball handler and scorer than a point guard, along the lines of Cory Joseph and Patty Mills. Yet, both of those players also entered the league with more length relative to their height than Dotson. Further, Mills had to distinguish himself as an NBA shooter before he could find rotational minutes.
Dotson may be best served by returning to the college game and making every effort to lift his skill level in the areas of shooting and ball handling to match his ability to play fast and aggressively. If he instead chooses to stay in this draft, it is questionable as to when, or whether, he will hear his name called.
The Hawks certainly have room for a small guard on their roster as the backup point guard role is anything but locked down. If Dotson somehow exceeds all expectations at the combine and draws serious interest as a prospect this summer, he could at least be a superficial fit in terms of roster needs. His willingness to play hard and fast would also likely be a match with what Hawks’ coach Lloyd Pierce expects from his players.
Still, the prospect of Dotson becoming a strong blip on the NBA radar this summer is perhaps a bit of a long shot. Further, the potential of landing with the Hawks in this summer may be even less likely, though there are a number of ways it could happen.