Steady Dozier Plays with Tempo, Knocks Down Treys in Game 3

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer |

LAS VEGAS - At Summer League everyone gets a shot to be a playmaker, and for the Thunder that has meant a variety of lead ball-handlers, and a mix of roles for players throughout the week. With the style the Thunder organization wants to play – up tempo, free flowing and with players who can dribble, pass and finish at each position, Summer League is the perfect opportunity to test out the style and give young players opportunities to shine.

One such standout has been PJ Dozier, who saw just three minutes of mop up time for the Thunder last season as a two-way player in the NBA’s new system that allows players to compete for the parent club and the G-League team all year long. Despite the limited time in the NBA, Dozier gained a wealth of experience with the Thunder’s G-League affiliate, the OKC Blue.

In the 2017-18 season Dozier started in 38 of his 43 games for the Blue, scoring 12.9 points per game on 46.5 percent shooting, including 34.0 percent from behind the arc. He also contributed 5.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals per contest, displaying an all-around game for a do-it-all guard.

“PJ is a really stable player,” said OKC Blue and Thunder Summer League Head Coach Mark Daigneault. “He’s really smart. He’s a team guy. He’s always going to play for the team. You never need to remind him of that. He’s a two-way player. He plays offense and defense.”

“I have always kind of hung my hat on trying to be able to do everything on the court,” Dozier explained. “Whatever I can do to help my team win, that’s what I’m going to try to get better at and try to improve on.”

Watch: Dozier Steps Up vs. Raptors

During Summer League, Daigneault and company have been utilizing Dozier in more of a ball-handling role, in an attempt to expand his skills as a playmaker. Dozier’s steadiness as a lead guard is something the Thunder likes, but his size at that position is what is most intriguing. Listed at a full 6-foot-6, 205 pounds, Dozier has the height and length to be an intriguing prospect to bolster the backcourt.

This offseason, one of the organization’s focuses with Dozier has been on the defensive end, in an effort to help him utilize his frame even more effectively. From footwork to positioning to physicality, the Thunder is encouraging Dozier to be more aggressive on defense, forcing the action rather than letting the offense dictate the flow.

“We have conversations about it all the time, the certain things they see in my game, especially on the defensive end,” Dozier explained. “That’s kind of where I am right now, trying to take those steps and trying to become a lock down defender, especially at the next level.”

During Monday’s 92-82 win over the Toronto Raptors, Dozier got the engines revved early for the Thunder, attacking beautifully in transition twice to get all the way to rim and finish with coolness and touch. He also added a catch-and-shoot three-pointer and a three-pointer off the dribble on his way to a cool 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting in the first half alone.

In the second half, Dozier got the Thunder into offense and focused in on the defensive end by drawing an offensive foul on a tough box out. The University of South Carolina product finished the game with 6 rebounds and 3 assists in 20 minutes to go with 17 total points. That balanced but productive performance is the product of a continually evolving mindset – one that the Thunder and Blue helped cultivate over the course of a year.

“Control the game, get us into offense and get my teammates involved. That’s what it’s all about,” Dozier said.

Summer League Highlights: Thunder 92, Raptors 82