Hawks center Dewayne Dedmon taking, making outside shots

It’s more than just dunks for Hawks center Dewayne Dedmon. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

In his first three seasons as an established NBA player, Dewayne Dedmon rarely took shots from more than a few feet from the basket. But soon after the Hawks signed Dedmon, coach Mike Budenholzer was asking his new center to shoot corner three-pointers as part of the “five-out” offense.

The results could have been ugly. Budenholzer said the two “semi-joked” about how many missed shots the coach would accept.

“I am not going to put a number on it,” Budenholzer said he told Dedmon. “I want you to be prepared to space and shoot corner threes and just know I have a lot of confidence in you and it’s important to us and us being successful. Most players are kind of excited about trying it and working on it and growing.”

No surprise that Dedmon embraced the chance to shoot more outside shots. Perhaps more unexpected is that Dedmon already is making those shots at a good clip.

In 11 games Dedmon has made 5 of 13 three-points shots, with all of those attempts from the corners. Dedmon also shot well from the mid-range while taking more of those shots in 274 minutes played this season than he did over 1,330 minutes in 2016-17 with the Spurs.

“I feel pretty comfortable doing it,” Dedmon said. “The coaches have faith in me so I’m just going to keep doing it.”

Dewayne Dedmon shooting by distance (via NBA.com)

Dedmon’s extended range has been an intriguing development for a player who almost never attempted shots far from the basket until now. Dedmon was 2-for-6 on shots outside the paint in 2014-15, 9-for-27 in 2015-16 and 8-for-21 last season (his lone three-point attempt was a heave at the buzzer in 2014-15).  Last season 131 of Dedmon’s 161 field goals (82 percent) dunks or layups and he had 68 dunks and layups among 99 field goals in 2015-16.

This season Dedmon already has attempted 43 field goals from 10 feet or longer, more than he did over all of last season or 2015-16, with an effective field-goal percentage of 54.7 on those shots.

Early this season opponents pretty much let Dedmon to take as many long jumpers as he wanted, and who could blame them? There was little proof he could make them. But Dedmon said he’s noticed a change recently, especially during the game against the Celtics on Monday.

“I feel like there were some contested shots,” Dedmon said. “They are definitely coming out to it.”

If that keeps happening, it theoretically should help the Hawks become a better offensive team by creating space for Dennis Schroder and others to drive to the basket. Making outside shots also should help Dedmon’s effectiveness as a pick-and-roll man.

Dedmon established himself as one of the most efficient roll men in the NBA over the previous three seasons (two with Orlando, one with San Antonio). He’s struggled in that area so far with the Hawks: 0.97 points per possession in 35 possessions used as the roll man, according to Synergy Sports. That puts Dedmon in the 30th percentile of the league on that play type.

My observation is that Dedmon has hesitated when he catches passes rolling to the basket, which leads leading to him getting wrong-footed and allowing time for defenders to recover and challenge him. But Dedmon has seemed to be smoother on those actions over the past few games.

“Pick-and-roll has always been my go-to, my strong suit,” Dedmon said. “We are definitely getting a better feel for it as a team now and it’s working out for us.”

In the meantime, Dedmon’s overall offensive efficiency has been very good (1.01 PPP and 68th percentile, according to Synergy) and he’s producing 13.8 points per 36 minutes. Some of that is because of Dedmon’s strong work on the offensive boards (13 points on 11 put-back possessions used) but a lot of it is because he’s been a good spot-up shooter (18 points on 17 possessions used).

That’s a small sample size so things could change. But if Dedmon does start missing jumpers Budenholzer intends to keep encouraging him to shoot, especially on corner threes.

“He’s spending a lot of time working on it,” Budenholzer said. “He and I talked about it, when something is new, you may have a little bit of a rocky start. But this is something we believe in and we are going to keep pushing the envelope. If he gets to 200 straight misses we might stop. I feel like he’s started really well but he may hit a rough patch. I think we want to continue to push the envelope.”

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