Dawson was a key piece for the Michigan State Spartans this past season, helping lead his the team to a surprise Final Four appearance in his home state of Indiana. This capped off a very strong collegiate career for the graduating senior, as he averaged 11.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG and 1.7 BPG in his final season. As we shift towards the NBA draft, Dawson is an interesting option for numerous teams at the small forward position. But with Dawson, what do you get?
The most intriguing skill that Dawson presents is his rebounding ability. This past year he led the Big Ten in rebounds per game, pulling down 9.1 per game, 0.9 more than Naismith and Wooden Award winner Frank Kaminsky. Much of this skill comes due to his box out skills and above average athleticism. Dawson runs the court extremely well, as evidenced by some of his highlights below, and fights very hard on the glass on both sides of the ball. At 225 lbs, he is all muscle, thus giving him the ability to body up men of a much larger size. However, this then points to one of his biggest weaknesses: his size.
At 6-6, Dawson is very undersized for a big man. In a league where height matters so much, this might pose a major issue when battling down low. Normally, NBA prospects in that range of stature have a stronger ability to shoot the basketball. Such an example would be fellow Spartan and recently crowned NBA champion Draymond Green. While a guy like Green is a similarly built 6-7, 230lbs, he has better range on his jumpshot than Dawson. Green also is a fairly solid three-point shooter while Dawson never attempted a single three during his college career.
Another weakness for Dawson is his free throw shooting. This past season, he shot an embarrassing 49.0% from the charity stripe, one of the worst percentages in the Big Ten conference. There are few guys in the NBA that can provide enough upside to counteract this weakness, a prime example being the Los Angeles Clippers' DeAndre Jordan. However, Jordan is five inches taller and forty pounds heavier than his incoming counterpart.
A final plus for Dawson however is his experience at performing well against difficult competition. While he is not a dangerous offensive weapon, he does have the strength and poise to make a physical difference when battling on the glass against bigger guys. A run deep into March and the beginning of April undoubtably raised Dawson's draft stock, and Izzo has a fairly good track record with his players in the NBA including Green, Zach Randolph, Jason Richardson and Shannon Brown. This could be an intangible that teams look at when closing out the draft board.
Dawson is far from a first round pick and I project has second round potential. There are too many weaknesses in his game to expect much hype around the man, even if his high level of athleticism is appealing.