Hawks' Offense, Youth Movement Has Dedmon Adjusting Role

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

Story by KL Chouinard
Twitter: @KLChouinard

Dewayne Dedmon is relentless in more ways than one. 

On the court, Dedmon chases after far-away defensive rebounds that he shouldn't reasonably expect to get (and he gets a bunch of them). When opponents try to score at the rim, Dedmon rises to contest them, often with multiple efforts on the same play. To borrow a term from head coach Mike Budenholzer, he is a high-motor player.

Dedmon also refuses to ease up off the court. Despite routinely being the funniest man in the room, Dedmon isn't about to let you off the hook after a joke. Once he has you laughing, another punchline is on its way before you've finished appreciating the first one. And he isn't afraid to poke fun at himself using a self-deprecating type of humor that puts everyone in the room at ease.

Teammate Kent Bazemore knows it well from the 2013-14 season when the then-youngsters were teammates in Golden State. 

"We make jokes at each other all the time about who is older," Bazemore said, "because we're the older guys on the team." 

Dedmon, who is exactly six weeks younger than Bazemore, should theoretically win those jests based on math.

Being older players, at least from a relative point of view, is new to both 28-year-olds. Dedmon, who didn't start playing organized basketball until he was 18 years old, says that he was still learning a lot last season from a veteran San Antonio squad. Now, his role has pivoted. 

"I feel like a lot of the guys look to me to let them know what to do in different situations," Dedmon said. 

When asked, Dedmon summed up his leadership style as a desire to set the right example.

"I'm going to be one of the hardest workers," he said. "Definitely, you lead by your actions."

A big action for Dedmon has been adding a new tool to his game: a three-point shot. Budenholzer wanted to run a 5-out offense this season with the floor spaced as much as possible, and Dedmon has proven versatile enough to make it work. 

Early in the offseason, Dedmon was working with Hawks coaches who wanted to see if he had that type of range. He did, because he started working on the shot in Orlando a couple of seasons ago. After some successful drill work, Budenholzer told him that he wanted Dedmon to shoot threes this season.

Dedmon had never made a three in 3270 career minutes prior to this season, and he had only attempted one. But he started making them in the preseason, and he has made 4 of 12 attempts in the regular season (33.3 percent) -- all from the corners. Dedmon's primary role is still to set screens for his ball-handling teammates, but the fact that he can drift out to the corner and create useful space is an important ability when he isn't involved on the ball.

The 5-out system is working. Dennis Schröder ranks among the league's most prolific drivers because there is space to do it.

"It's my first time in a 5-out offense," Dedmon said. "I like it. It's fun to play. It spaces the floor for our quick guards to get to the cup and make plays, so it's good."

He has added other things to the offense too. Teammate Mike Muscala said that Dedmon makes good reads off the pick-and-roll. Here is one example from a late-game situation where a three-point shot could have really helped the trailing Hawks.

 

The shot missed, but that was an eyes-in-the-back-of-his-head level pass from Dedmon. 

On the other hand, like just about every other player, there is room for improvement. For instance, Dedmon is a threat to shoot, pass or dribble when he the ball comes his way on pick-and-roll plays, but sometimes he gets caught between two choices and he turns the ball over. With time and with more familiarity with his passers, expect that part of his game to improve. 

Of course, Dedmon's primary skills fit more in line with that of the traditional big man. 

"Dewayne is a center, a guy who can cover ground and be good in pick-and-roll, and block shots and rebound," Budenholzer said.

But more than any other position on the court, the traditional role of center is changing hard and fast. There are more bigs shooting threes than ever before, and Dedmon, thanks to his determined offseason work, is ready to adapt.

"Coach wanted me to start doing it," he said, "so I'm going to accept the challenge and let it fly."