It’s no secret that the Sacramento Kings are probing the free agent market for a center. Per Shams Charania’s latest piece for the Athletic, he notes that league sources have indicated the Kings have made center their free agent priority.
The name we’ve heard spread around is Nikola Vucevic, a highly talented center that would likely require the max. But should the Kings strike out or rather decide that paying a max contract to a center isn’t worth it in today’s NBA, there are still a few players out there that would fill that need for the Kings, perhaps none better than Dewayne Dedmon. Dedmon, who will turn 30 in August, will be an unrestricted free agent coming off a two-year, $14 million contract with the Atlanta Hawks.
The skill set possessed by Dedmon would help the Kings on both ends of the floor. Sacramento would benefit with a center that can provide offense outside of the paint, set good screens, rebound(!) and be fully engaged on playing defense. Dedmon isn’t perfect in all of these things but as a player you hope to sign for two-to-three seasons, he fits the bill.
This past season, he played 64 games and averaged 10.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.1 blocks 49 percent on field goals, 38 percent from three and 81.4 percent from the charity stripe. The Hawks were also the fastest team in the league in terms of pace, so Dedmon is already accustomed to the type of fast-paced offense the Kings are likely to run.
I spoke with Brad Rowland of SB Nation’s Peachtree Hoops and one of the reason’s he says the Hawks would be interested in re-signing him is because “he’s a great fit with what ATL does offensively because of his shooting and they value him.”
Dedmon also should be a good fit next to Marvin Bagley III, who in all likelihood will see a greatly increased role next season after coming off the bench as a rookie. Assuming Bagley will be a 4, he loves to work in the paint primarily even though he can step out and shoot as well. Dedmon is a 5 who has no trouble playing outside of the paint which is an underrated skill, especially with the lack of offense generated by Kings’ centers this past season. Both Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos lacked a mid-range game and often passed to cutters or back out to guards when having the ball outside of the paint. With Dedmon, there’s more value to his game and he doesn’t have to resort to a pass because he’s not vulnerable. He can knock down jumpers like this three from Trae Young.
I can totally see plays happening where De’Aaron Fox takes the space in front of the center like Trae Young does here to allow Dedmon to leak back for a three and he easily scores. Young actually dished out 97 assists to Dedmon throughout the past season and 43 of those came from beyond the arc.
Keeping in mind that Dedmon is a 38 percent shooter from deep and adding that to the starting mix of De’Aaron Fox’s 37 percent, Buddy Hield’s 42.7, Harrison Barnes’ 40.8 percent after joining Sacramento and Marvin Bagley’s 41% in the months of March and April (he vastly improved) and the Kings become lethal from three.
One of the reasons I loved Willie’s fit was because he could keep up the pace with his fellow teammates, which wasn’t a surprise because he used to play wide receiver back in high school. Dedmon can play with pace and demonstrates it here, leaking out behind Otto Porter Jr. and finishing the lay-up.
Additionally, Dedmon finished lay-ups better than Willie did. Dedmon was 73-130, good for 56.2 percent compared to 146-296, 49.3 percent for Willie. Dedmon doesn’t need to operate around the rim to make baskets which is why he’s attempted far fewer shots at the rim compared to Willie who needed to be as close to the basket as possible to score, which isn’t a knock on his game but rather two different play styles.
Rim protection will be a key trait in any center the Kings pursue. Despite being 7-feet and incredibly athletic, Willie averaged only 0.6 blocks a game and had blocked just 2.0 percent of shots. Dedmon isn’t a premier rim protector but is definitely an improvement, as he just averaged 1.1 blocks a game this past season (career high) and blocked 3.8 percent of shots.
Cauley-Stein’s quickness and lateral movement allowed him to defend guards out on the perimeter better than most centers and Dedmon owns similar skills, just not as quick. However, he’s capable of guarding guards and has constructed blocks similar to this one on Kyrie.
He also doesn’t give up on plays and especially in this situation, he gave it his all to prevent Joe Ingles from scoring despite the Jazz getting an easy bucket regardless. He also had a chasedown block on Irving this season.
In terms of rebounding, Dedmon goes for any in his range even if teammates are in the area. I loved how he was able to tip this offensive rebound to himself and finish with four Warriors surrounding him. Rebounding was one of Sacramento’s most glaring weaknesses last season, and Dedmon will help. Dedmon has a career average defensive rebounding rate of 26.9% and an offensive rebounding rate of 9.6%. Of top centers set to be free agents this summer, only Vucevic and DeMarcus Cousins boast a higher rebounding rate.
Dedmon also should be a good addition to the locker room. Brad Rowland of Peachtree Hoops also said that Dedmon is “a loud guy in the locker room but well liked from what I understand. Not shy about speaking his mind but not in a bad way at all.”
Dedmon is bound to be paid this summer as a center like him carries high value around the league, especially as floor spacing is more crucial than ever. The Hawks are said to have interest in bringing back Dedmon on a short-term deal or something similar to his previous contract, but if the Kings can utilize their cap space and lure him over, the Kings have a solid option in a stop gap center who fits the play style, brings unique threats on offense and will allow the youngsters to grow.