Rewind to early March 2012 when Branden Dawson was a very good freshman on a team ranked #5 in the country. Although he hadn't didn't have an outside shot, many thought that could be developed in the offseason and he would have a good sophomore year allowing him to leave for the NBA after two years. Then disaster struck when he tore his ACL on March 4th against Ohio State ending his season and prohibiting him from developing over the summer between his freshman and sophomore year which if often when players make the biggest jump. His sophomore and junior seasons ending up being similar to his freshman year where he made his offense from offensive putbacks and finishing in transition. His senior year, however, he started to show signs of a somewhat effective post game on a regular basis and was at least showing good form on his jumpshot. The issue for him is that measuring in at 6' 6.75" in shoes he's undersized for the power position but he seemingly lacks the ball-handling skills and consistency on his jumper to be an effective small forward.
After being invited to the Draft Combine in Chicago, Dawson participated in both the athletic drills and the 5-on-5 scrimmages. Despite having decent measurables including a higher than expected height in shoes and 6-11 wingspan, he frankly wasn't particularly impressive in the athletic testing. Many thought he would excel in the vertical jumps test but he was mostly unremarkable posting a 28.5 inch no-step vertical and a 34.5 inch max vertical. He was also struggled with the lateral movement tests as he was the slowest in the lane agility drill and the second slowest in the shuttle run. Athleticism was something he was expected to be able to hang his hat on but he was somewhat disappointing in that regard. What I do think will help is that scouts will see he plays much bigger and is more explosive on film and he should be able to impress in individuals workouts where game-time athleticism is all that matters.
As for the 5-on-5 scrimmages I was able to watch the first scrimmage but unable to watch most of the second.
|Branden Dawson 5-on-5 Scrimmage Stats|
During the first he struggled with length (he was blocked 4 times) and he had issues shooting from outside effective. He attempted shots that weren't typical of his game at MSU including a couple Carmelo-esque jab-step to pullup jumpers that missed. The second game was another entirely. Because I missed most of it and because ESPN2 did a pretty poor job of showing the scrimmage and instead showed the talking heads for some reason when I was able to watch it, I'll allow Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress to tell you how he did.
Branden Dawson, 6-6, SF/PF, Michigan State
17 points, 5 rebounds, 0 assists, 2 turnovers, 7-12 2P, 0-0 3P, 3-4 FT, 24 minutes
After a relatively quiet first game, shooting just 3-11 from the field, Branden Dawson had a much stronger outing in his team's final game, leading them in scoring with 17 points despite seeing just 24 minutes of action. Dawson did not have a great showing in the shooting drills in the morning, sporting a fairly slow and mechanical looking jumper with somewhat of a hitch at the end of his release, but he nevertheless made a number of mid-range jumpers off the dribble in rhythm in the game, looking fairly confident and aggressive in doing so. He also showed some ball-handling ability in the open floor, another element of his game that we didn't see too much of in his time at Michigan State.
Dawson also used his tremendous athleticism to finish above the rim repeatedly, and defended a variety of different positions, grabbing some strong rebounds as we've grown accustomed to seeing from him.
Dawson's lack of size (he measured 6-5 ½ without shoes) is a bit of a tough sell at the power forward spot, but his 6-11 wingspan, chiseled 230 pound frame, and outstanding athleticism does give him a fighting chance when he's playing the way he did today. Teams do like his pedigree after playing under Tom Izzo for four years, and even if he doesn't hear his name called on draft night, he'll certainly continue to get looks from NBA teams, especially if he can find a way to become at least a passable corner 3-point shooter.
He obviously played much better and showed that he can finish well around the basket.
Finally, the last part of the combine was the shooting drills which was not expected to be Dawson strong suit. It honestly went much better than I (and likely others) thought it would. Here are his stats from the stationary shoot drills (h/t to DuckingDelvon):
NBA 3P (13-25 overall):
- Right Corner: 3/5
- Right Wing: 2/5
- Top of the key: 2/5
- Left Wing: 4/5
- Left Corner: 2/5
College 3P (10/25 overall)
- Right Corner: 1/5
- Right Wing: 2/5
- Top of the key: 2/5
- Left Wing: 3/5
- Left Corner: 2/5
While these stats should be taken with a grain of salt as his was both unguarded and spot-up shooting, it does show a lot of improvement from his college career where Spartan fans wouldn't want Dawson shooting from outside.
Here are his shooting off the dribble stats:
College 3P (12-24 overall):
- Right Wing: 5/8
- Top of the Key: 3/8
- Left Wing: 4/8
Again take this with a grain of salt for the aforementioned reason of being unguarded in an empty gym but this is promising in that he does appear to be comfortable shooting 3's since leaving MSU.
While the NBA combine is a big event for the fans, individual workouts are significantly bigger for NBA scouts and executives when looking at draft prospects. They can get a much closer look at them and see what those players can bring to their team. What Dawson needs to focus on for his NBA career in those workouts is showing he can be an energy guy who will be able to defend and rebound well for his position and also be a threat to hit an outside shot so that the defenses can't sag off him (AKA a 3-and-D guy). He'll get workouts from his teams and whether or not he's drafted he'll likely have his shot to get a contract and make a team in the summer league.