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Intrigued By a Certain Second Round Tiger

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Of any number of 2008 draftees worth taking a look at, one seems to have caught my fancy on another lazy summer morning of the NBA's seemingly interminable off-season.

With former Memphis Tiger Joey Dorsey guaranteeing this weekend that he will officially be a member of the Houston Rockets come the start of training camp, label me curious not about the verity of Dorsey's assertion but about what the future holds for the young man's NBA career.

This seems like both the sort of player that could be a valuable asset or a major liability in this league, and I've got no clue which way the chips will fall on this one.

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Down the stretch of this past collegiate hoops season, it seemed Dorsey's flaws were the part of his game that got the attention as his Memphis Tigers delved deeper into their quest for a national title.  The flaws are no doubt big ones.  The guy isn't merely a bad foul shooter; he's downright putrid, checking in below 40 percent for his senior season.  For that reason alone, he is quite a liability to have on the court late in close games.  Further, Dorsey's basketball IQ has been called into question with some regularity in the past, and he isn't the world's best decision-maker on the court.

But the 6-foot-9, 265 pounder also offers quite a bit in an NBA filled with more than its share of the shooting-obsessed.  This guy is as much of a workhorse as anybody around.  He is an absolute bull inside who loves to rebound and play defense, nabbing 9.5 boards in just 25.2 minutes per game in 2007-08.  Dorsey doesn't seem concerned about his touches or his points, plays hard every time out and never seems to run out of energy.  Even if his footwork isn't always right or his head doesn't seem to be in the right place, his heart is.  The guy plays aggressive basketball and seems to want to win more than he wants to be the star.  That's a valuable trait, particularly in today's NBA.

Despite being possibly a step slow at the four and a couple of inches shy at center, Dorsey could truly prove himself a valuable piece for the Rockets thanks to his rebounding and defensive prowess.  This team was second in defensive efficiency last season, and he should only be able to make it better in that department.  Dorsey can spell Yao Ming and Dikembe Mutombo in the middle when need be and can also take minutes at the four for Chuck Hayes or Luis Scola.  As good as Houston's two stud perimeter defenders are (Shane Battier and Ron Artest), they will only have more freedom on the outside when they know that they have a player with Dorsey's strength and desire behind them.

Dorsey also intrigues me because of the vivid memories I have of him in the interview room on the night he was drafted 33rd overall by the Blazers.  While talking the talk certainly comes in second in significance to walking the walk, Dorsey left an impression with his tremendous confidence that clearly didn't stride into the realm of annoyance and cockiness.  The guy all but swore to dedicate himself to the gym for the summer and to keep making himself better as an all-around basketball player.  When I asked him about finding his niche at this level, his answer came in two words without hesitation: "Defensive stopper."   He sounded purely gleeful about the chance to be in the NBA and to play with old pal Greg Oden - specifically to play defense alongside Oden in Portland.  Though Dorsey was traded shortly thereafter and thus won't get the chance to play with the big man from Ohio State, it's hard to imagine the sentiment about that end of the floor doesn't still stand.

There are plenty of guys who have promised to commit to improving in this league.  If Joey Dorsey really does find a way to remove the flaws that make him a danger to his own team on the floor at crunch time, he has the physical ability to become a terror off the bench in this league.  Monitoring the young Tiger's development in the Assocation seems well worth the time.