Center Dewayne Dedmon joined the Hawks as a free agent last summer with the expectation that he would take on a bigger role after spending four seasons mostly as a lesser role player. That’s how it played out.
Dedmon posted career-highs in starts (46) and usage percentage (17.0). Both numbers likely would have been higher if not for a leg injury Dedmon suffered in November. He came off the bench for 16 games after his return from injury.
Dedmon had a solid season in his new role. His career-high 14.4 points per 36 minutes came on 1.2 points per shot attempt, an efficiency that Cleaning the Glass ranked in the 73rd percentile among bigs. That was a decline in efficiency from Dedmon’s previous two seasons, but still was very good considering his higher usage.
Dedmon also posted a career-high assist percentage (9.2), a sign that he operated well with the ball in his hands more often. Dedmon’s turnover percentage (16.3) was high — he sometimes struggled to catch the ball cleanly when receiving it on the move — but it was nearly three points lower than last season.
In my Dedmon season preview , I noted that while he was a very efficient pick-and-roll big, Dedmon “hasn’t shown much scoring ability away from the basket and really hasn’t tried.” That changed this season. After attempting only one 3-pointer in his previous 224 career games, Dedmon made 35.5 percent of 141 tries this season, including 28 of 70 corner 3’s (40 percent).
Dedmon’s shift away from the basket offensively, which was part of coach Mike Budenholzer’s design, increased his versatility but decreased his scoring efficiency. (It also substantially decreased his production on offensive rebounds, but he ranked in the 84th percentile for defensive rebounding percentage; Dedmon has been in the 74th percentile or better in each of his four seasons as a rotation player.)
Per CTG, 33 percent of Dedmon’s field-goal attempts were within four feet of the basket after at least 61 percent of his attempts were at the rim over his previous four seasons. Dedmon took a high volume of long 2-pointers with good accuracy but his free-throw attempt rate plummeted from 35.9 to 18.0. But Dedmon still was an efficient offensive player considering his increased volume, and he finished well around the basket (96th percentile in points per possession on non-post ups, per Synergy Sports).
Defensively, Dedmon’s shot-blocking production declined substantially. He ranked in the 54th percentile among bigs in block percentage this season, according to CTG, after he placed in the 82nd percentile in each of his previous four seasons.
However, CTG lineup data shows that the Hawks were much better at protecting the rim when Dedmon was on the court alongside John Collins. Opponents had a hard time getting clean looks around the basket with the quick-jumping duo of Dedmon and Collins working in tandem. The rim protection suffered when either player was on the bench.
Dedmon took a chance when he declined a $3 million option with the Spurs last summer and chose free agency. It paid off when he signed a two-year, $12.3 million deal with the Hawks that includes a player option. Dedmon earned another $900,000 in incentives this season and his 2018-19 option now is worth about $7.2 million.
Soon after the season ended, Dedmon was noncommittal about exercising his option. Dedmon will turn 29 in August (albeit with just 4.812 minutes played), so my guess it that he will opt out for a chance to sign what could be the only long-term contract of his career.
The free-agent market is expected to be tight this summer, but Dedmon probably can expect to find a pretty good market for his services. Dedmon’s suitors will have to evaluate whether his 3-point shooting is sustainable, which increases his value substantially, and if his decline in shot-blocking production is a one-off that can be attributed to circumstances.