Story by KL ChouinardTwitter: @KLChouinard
When the Hawks hired Lloyd Pierce to be their head coach, Pierce in turn texted Dewayne Dedmon an old photo. The 2014 image showed Pierce, then an assistant coach for the 76ers, playing defense on Dedmon. A rookie at the time, Dedmon spent 20 days with Philadelphia on a pair of 10-day contracts.
“He was guarding me in the post. He was just talking all kinds of s*** about it,” Dedmon said with a laugh. “He was like, 'Yeah, I was locking you up!' “
Surely Dedmon still got his fair share of baskets that day. On the other hand, if the 2014 version Pierce saw video of the 2019 version of his pupil, he might not recognize him. Gone is the player who finished the first two seasons of his career with 14 assists and 72 turnovers. Equally absent is the player who bumped away in the low post while taking over 90 percent of his shot attempts from within a free throw’s distance of the rim.
Dewayne Dedmon has replaced that older version of himself with a elegant, multi-skilled basketball player.
Dedmon expanded his shooting range to the three-point line last season, and he has improved his accuracy this season (71 of 188 threes, 37.8 percent). He is on pace to finish the season with more assists than turnovers for a second consecutive season. He has even bumped his free-throw percentage over 80 percent; at times this season he has been the Hawk picked to shoot technical free throws for the Hawks.
The 29-year-old’s refined skills are perhaps best demonstrated in the three-man dance that the Hawks run when they set a double screen to initiate their offense. Of course, basketball has been and will always be a five-man game. And the core engine of what the Hawks churn out on offense is the Trae Young-John Collins pick and roll. More and more lately, though, the Hawks have put two shooting wings in the corners while letting Trae Young weave his way around a double screen from Dedmon and Collins up top.
“That's a play. I can't tell you what it's called,” Dedmon quipped, acting like James Bond guarding the Queen’s secrets. (Dedmon remains a humor enthusiast.)
The typical setup involves Young moving parallel to the baseline from behind the three-point line while Dedmon and Collins set picks. Most times, Collins rolls to the rim while Dedmon pops out to the three-point line and keeps the defense honest using the threat of his three-point shot. If any opponent tries to send two defenders to Young, Dedmon is there to can a jumper.