In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, in this edition, we break down the play of Kansas point guard Devon Dotson.
Long time Kansas head coach Bill Self has had a lot of NBA talent walk through the doors of Allen Fieldhouse over the years. But the normally slow to lavish praise Self had a lot to say about the second year guard Devon Dotson at the sudden conclusion of this past season.
I think Devon was the best point guard that we’ve had as a sophomore in college. [...] I don’t think anyone can say he’s not the best at his age that we’ve ever had. [...] That God-given speed and that natural ability to put both feet in the paint, I think will do wonders for him moving forward. But to say where he ranks, I don’t think it’s fair to say. I really don’t. Because it’s incomplete. I think if this year had ended in a way that we all hoped it could’ve, I think you could make a case that he’s the best we had.
Dotson was handed the reins of the Jayhawk offense from day one and never gave his coach a reason to doubt that decision. He parlayed a solid freshman season into a nationally recognized sophomore campaign that has propelled him toward the forefront of the point guard class this draft season.
Dotson averaged 16.0 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.0 assist per-36 minutes over his two year career at Kansas. He shot a triple slash of 53.7/33.2/80.8 percentages from two, three and the free throw line over his career. He even chipped in with 1.8 steals per 36 minutes, using those live ball turnovers to flip the court and create advantageous situations in transition.
Devon Dotson’s straight line speed is the most immediate attraction to his game. At just 6’2” and 185-pounds, he can accelerate like a sports car and race past the defense, especially in transition. Once in the lane, he is adept at laying the ball up with either hand, often floating in the air to the other side of the bucket to use the rim to ward off shot blockers.
Dotson set high speed and agility marks while attending the 2019 NBA Draft Combine. His 3-cone agility drill time was tied for first in that class at 3.04 seconds, his shuttle run of 2.80 seconds was second, and his lane agility drill time of 10.63 seconds was seventh. He even showcased his bounce with a max vertical of 38.5-inches — tied for 6th.
In the half court game, his advanced dribble drive attack can break down the defense going left or right. Dotson makes very smart decisions with the ball despite a high usage, logging just 2.5 turnovers per 36 minutes and a 1.6 AST/TO ratio. He has good vision to find the proper skip pass when defenses try to cheat on him when necessary and the touch to thread post entry passes when available.
Similarly, he’s a good pick-and-roll ball handler at 0.97 points per possession including passes. He uses this ability to blow by screen defenders — and even help defenders — for a kick out to shooters spotted up in the corner or wing.
Dotson is a gifted isolation player with a silky handle and tight moves in close space. It only takes a second of hesitation from his opponent for him to deploy his electric first step with a live dribble. His lightning quick crossover and change of direction can put defenders on skates and grasping at air once Dotson turns in a blur.
While he’s primarily a slasher, his quick foot speed and acceleration means that he can zip past even cautious pick-and-roll defenders who drop or go under the screen in their coverages.
By getting downhill and attacking the glass, Dotson draws fouls frequently with a solid career free throw rate — free throws as a ratio of field goals — of .458. His aggression is a major plus, as he often pushes the ball in transition and semi-transition and terrorizes unsettled defenses.
Dotson is always smart to race up the court straight to the paint, where’s he’s most effective. Once he’s gathered the defense around him the lane, alleys open up to swing the ball to an open player.
Despite often being the smallest guy on the court, Dotson clearly prides himself on tirelessly fighting on the defensive end. He’s a tough on-ball defender at the top of the key and for the most part stays in a balanced stance to cut off the lane from penetration. He has even flashed the ability to pick up his man full court and defend for 94 feet.
In addition to being a hard worker on defense, he grabbed over four rebounds per 36 minutes, a solid mark for a 6’3” guard amongst the trees. Furthermore, Dotson is a durable winning player, recording over 32.4 minutes per game. He missed just one career game due to a minor hip injury — a January 2020 tilt against Oklahoma — for a Kansas squad that won 54 games across two seasons.
The Jayhawks were on their way toward securing a No. 1 seed in the 2020 NCAA Tournament before its cancellation, a shame for a player of Dotson’s caliber who had a chance to become a household name. For his regular season accolades, however, he was voted a unanimous member of the All-Big 12 First Team in 2019-20.
Dotson has less than ideal physical measurables, to put it kindly. At the 2019 NBA Combine, he was measured to be 6’2” in shoes in height. His wingspan (6’3.25″) and standing reach (7’11.5”) are both indicators that he most likely won’t be a disruptor on the defensive end.
One big area of needed improvement is his iffy at best shooting from long distance. While his career three point mark of 33 percent isn’t terrible, he shot just 31 percent on 123 attempts from there as a sophomore and generally doesn’t look comfortable with his stroke from there.
Dotson just doesn’t get great lift on most of his longer jumpers and has a tendency to shoot with his feet close together. This seems to really affect his balance and power generation, especially as he gets tired toward the end of games.
Most glaringly, he’s a poor pull up shooter — at just 0.77 points per possession on 62 possessions — with neither a reliable step back or floater. He performs better at catching-and-shooting — a PPP of 1.02 — but his mediocre level of shooting hurts his ability to spread out a defense.
Teams will continue to help off of him when possible and go under screens, daring Dotson to make them pay. This reputation as a non-shooter will be tough to overcome in a league that increasingly values floor spacing — especially in lead guards.
Additionally, he’s not a great playmaker for others compared to other lead guards in this class, and is mostly just a scorer in isolation. His mark of 4 assists per 36 minutes is disappointing, as he’ll generally settle for a safer pass over a riskier one that can directly lead to an easy bucket.
Here, he probably should have found fellow draft hopeful Udoka Azubuike rolling to the basket off the ball screen with an overhead or wrap around pass, but the easy bounce to the baseline allows the defense to recover.
Physically, he’s not overly strong and can struggle defensively with bigger matchups. Teams will hunt with switches to put Dotson on wings who can handle the ball near the perimeter at the next level. It’s possible with some more strength in his base, and with a professional level of weights and conditioning he can offer some defensive resistance, but it will be an uphill battle to break even on that side going forward.
Possible fit with the Hawks
The biggest knock on Dotson is that he may top out as more of an instant offense guard off the bench than a true dual-threat point guard who scores efficiently and facilitates. But he’s a high effort and dogged defender — despite physical limitations — and a creator of havoc upon defenses with his penetration.
If he were to somehow slide to the No. 50 spot, he’s a definite look for the Hawks as a backup point guard to Trae Young. Certainly, he’ll never shoot from the fictional four-point line, but he can give a bench unit a scoring boost.
Still, he’s widely projected to go a good bit higher, possibly as high as mid-first round. It’s probable this speed demon will be selected somewhere in the first round and receive a guaranteed contract, as his dynamism will be valued in this era’s faster-paced environment.