Dewayne Dedmon (!) to shoot threes as Hawks seek floor spacing

Hawks center Dewayne Dedmon plans to shoot 3-pointers. (AP Photo)

Dewayne Dedmon has attempted one 3-point shot in 3,270 minutes played in the NBA. According to Basketball Reference, 88 percent of his 681 career shots have been from 10 feet or less including 66 percent within three feet of the basket. Dedmon has developed into a very good pick-and-roll man but he has never been a jump shooter.

Dedmon and the Hawks want to change that. He’s the projected starter at center, and their new offensive approach involves the five man often roaming on the perimeter (especially the corners) so that the guards have more space to operate around the basket.  Obviously that approach won’t work as well if the center is no threat to make jump shots, and so Dedmon is working on extending his range.

What makes the Hawks think Dedmon can do it?

“You are always watching guys before games or (during) summers,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “You have friends around the league. You are trying to find out could he shoot it a little bit? Can he? I think we felt like between watching him and talking to a few people we could maybe push him and get him to expand his game and include shooting 3’s. So far we are pretty happy with it.”

Dedmon is 1-for-5 on 3-pointers during exhibition games. He said Hawks officials had him shoot some 3’s when he worked out for them prior to signing as a free agent. After joining the Hawks, Dedmon met with Budenholzer, who told him to keep shooting 3’s.

“It’s something coach wanted me to start doing so I’m going to accept the challenge and let them fly,” Dedmon said. “I’ve got to get some reps up and then in the game, be ready. Form is pretty solid. I’ve been working on my form ever since I was in Orlando (2013-14) so I feel like it’s at a comfortable place right now.”

Dewayne Dedmon shooting by distance (via Basketball Reference)

If Dedmon can become a consistent perimeter shooter it certainly would give the Hawks a more dynamic look offensively. Budenholzer said the regular-season starting lineup is still to be determined but he’s “leaning” toward using the same five as during exhibition games: Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, Ersan Ilyasova and Dedmon.

It’s possible that 3-point shooting could be a problem for that lineup. Over the past five seasons, the league average for 3-pointers made has ranged from 35 to 36 percent. Schroder’s career 3-point mark is 33.1 percent, Bazemore’s is 34.9 percent, Prince’s is 32.4 percent and Ilyasova’s is 36.6. Basically, that’s one above-average 3-point shooter, one average and two well below.

If the starting lineup holds, there would be more 3-point shooting on the bench. Marco Belinelli (37.7 percent career on 3-pointers), Luke Babbitt (41 percent) and Mike Muscala (38.5 percent) are established as proven 3-point shooters. As rookies, Malcom Delaney shot 3’s poorly and DeAndre Bembry missed 17 of 18 attempts. Quinn Cook has shot 42.3 percent on 3’s during his career but that’s on just 26 attempts, and Nicolas Brussino shot 30.5 percent as a rookie.

Of the tentative starting lineup, Budenholzer said that “collectively, they’ve got a chance to be pretty good” defensively. He said shooting wouldn’t necessarily be a weakness for that group.

“No, especially if Dewayne can shoot the ball,” he said. “Dennis is improving as a shooter. I think Baze and Taurean are going to have good years. I would say shooting in general, the better we shoot it … it’s probably true for all teams. It’s a make or miss league. If we shoot the ball well it’s going to be a huge positive.”

It clearly would be a bonus for the Hawks if Dedmon could become a legit 3-point shooter, both for their prospects of winning games or (more cynically) their chances of getting value for him in a trade. Dedmon said he’s never played in a “five out” offense.

“I like it,” he said. “It’s fun to play. It gives space to our quick guards to get to the cup and make plays. It’s good.”

He’s right, at least in theory. The best thing the Hawks have going for them is that Schroder can get into the lane pretty much when he wants and Bazemore is pretty good at it, too. But, again, if there aren’t legitimate 3-point shooters surrounding the guards then defenders can cheat off their man and clog the lane on those drives without fear of getting burned.

The way Schroder sees it, the new offensive approach is starting to pay dividends as the Hawks get used to it.

“The lane is wide open,” he said. “The guards can attack in transition offense. I kind of like it. I can be aggressive, try to look to score, drive the basketball and try to get open shots (for teammates).”

How is the spacing better now?

“Dwight Howard used to post up in the middle and so there was not enough space,” Schroder said. “So now the big man goes to the corner. It’s a good chance for the point guard to drive to the basket and get an open three (for others) or score the basketball. I can be aggressive, and that’ s what they want me to do.”

Now that Dedmon is shooting 3’s, will Schroder look for him in the corner?

“I (found) him already once in Cleveland,” Schroder said. “Coach wants everybody to shoot the ball. When he’s open, shoot the ball. Dewayne has been working on it the whole summer. So, shoot it when you are open.”

Splitter returns

Ex-Hawks center Tiago Splitter was at shootaround today. Tiago had hip surgery in 2016 and played in just eight games for the Sixers after the Hawks traded him in February.

“I think he’s thinking about that next step in his life, next chapter in his life,” Budenholzer said. “Coaching is one thing he is considering, I think. All facets of basketball whether it be front office or coaching. He’s spent some time (in camp) with the Golden State Warriors. He’s spent some time with the San Antonio Spurs.

“We’re very familar with him and him with us. He can come and spend as much time as he wants. He’s just a great person. Just trying to help us out, and he obviously can help us out and share his ideas with us.”

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