The Boston Celtics signed free agent shooting guard Andre Dawkins to a 10-day contract this week, which will likely be chalked up as a yawn-worthy story. It's understandable that stories on D-Leaguers aren't nearly as tantalizing as deflated balls or trade rumors, but what appears to be a minor move comes with some upside for the Celtics, and that is certainly worth discussing.
Dawkins is a sharpshooting systematic fit
Andre Dawkins is expected to spend the entire duration of his contract with Boston's D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, where he is a perfect fit for the system. Maine attempts 37.2 three-pointers per 100 possessions, the second highest amount in the D-League, which should allow for Dawkins to thrive.
That's because Dawkins has pure mechanics and unlimited range, with the ability to shoot efficiently from all areas behind the arc. The four-year Duke shooting guard was a lethal spot up shooter last season at 1.167 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports. He was just as excellent via hand offs and off screens, at 1.488 and 1.188 points per possession, respectively.
The 23-year-old isn't just one of those shooters that will fail to get his shot off in the NBA, since he has proven that he can drain threes with a hand on his face. At 6-foot-5, Dawkins utilizes "the hop" to get his shots off in a flash and was able to shoot an incredible 43-of-102 on contested jumpers with Duke last season, per Synergy Sports. His numbers were nearly as impressive when unguarded, at 11-of-28.
There's little doubt that Dawkins will excel as a shooter in Maine's system, especially after he averaged 22.9 points per game with a ridiculous 50.9 three-point percentage with Sioux Falls.
Though Boston has been taking three-pointers at a near league average rate, I do believe they envision themselves as a team that is capable of playing "Morey Ball." If Dawkins develops more facets of his game, his deadly three-pointer could be valuable off of Boston's bench.
Dawkins could be a one-trick pony
However, the major issue in reviewing Dawkins' play at Duke is that he was used exclusively as a shooter. Coach Mike Krzyzewski didn't utilize him at all in secondary pick-and-roll actions and he only rarely had to drive to the basket. So there are questions about what he brings to the table other than shooting.
Dawkins can obviously light it up from three, as discussed above, but his 8-for-29 mark from mid-range is bleeding red. This was concerning to me, but after watching film I can't help but think this was simply a usage issue with Sioux Falls. Dawkins often attempts heavily contested mid-range jumpers and he is failing to hit them.
Is poor shot selection a problem? Sure, but here's the thing: Dawkins likely won't reach the level of a player who will be taking those shots consistently in the NBA, so why should we worry about this when it's not going to be part of his game? Dawkins has proven he can shoot the lights out from three off the catch, off screens, and off dribble handoffs, and that is where he'll get 90 percent of his usage if he reaches the pros.
Dawkins projects as a specialist. Anything more than that is gravy.
On the other hand, I was surprised to see that Dawkins has developed a little bit more as a pick-and-roll ball handler than I had expected. He still fails to execute even the most simple pocket passes, but he has shown he has the skill to pull up over the screen and sink threes. I would hope that Maine makes it a point to use Dawkins in this play type more frequently, because it's an area that'll be crucial for his development.
There is no D in Dawkins
The problem with so many young players is that they think their shooting, scoring, or their athleticism alone will get them to the NBA. But that is not the reality of pro sports, unless your only goal is to make the laughably superficial SportsCenter Top 10.
Most of the so-called "one-dimensional" players like Kyle Korver (shooting), Bruce Bowen (defense), and Chris Andersen (rim protection) manage to offer "average" skills in at least one area on the other end of the floor (Korver: defense; Bowen: corner-three shooting; Anderson: pick-and-roll).
And that's precisely the concern with Andre Dawkins.
The sharpshooter has not proven that he can offer passable NBA-level defense; Dawkins has his shortcomings as an athlete, with subpar lateral quickness and only an 80.5-inch wingspan, and he doesn't make up for it in other ways.
Dawkins got shredded in college, allowing 0.919 points per possession, per Synergy Sports, and that lashing has continued in the D-League, where he has displayed inconsistent effort with shoddy off-ball defense, lazy closeouts, and a lack of will when fighting through screens.
Maybe a change of scenary will help
But if we consider Marcus Smart as a 10 on the defensive intensity scale, it's not like Andre Dawkins is a zero. Though I do have my concerns, he's not so terrible that I think he's hopeless, and I actually wonder if a change of scenery could make all the difference in the world.
Sioux Falls was good for Dawkins, but they rank second-to-last in defensive rating. Maine, on the other hand, is ranked fourth, at 102.3. Maine is also the best team in the D-League with a 17-6 record, and it's certainly possible that a new environment surrounded by positive go-getter teammates like Chris Babb and Tim Frazier will force Dawkins to exert more energy on the defensive end.
And this is what I'm most curious to watch as Andre Dawkins spends his time under the control of the Celtics over the next 10 days. We already know he can spot up and shoot the ball at a high level, but can he show the front office something other than that?
If Andre Dawkins does manage to exhibit signs of improvement, don't be too surprised if you see him signed to a contract for the rest of the season. His shooting could be valuable to the Boston Celtics sometime down the line, and in the present he'd be a key piece for he Maine Red Claws as they aspire to win their first NBADL championship.