From no-name to starter: Dedmon's 2013-14 season a true odyssey
MAY 01, 2014 11:19a ET
The Orlando Magic finished their season by starting a 7-footer out of USC who still has a lot to learn about the NBA at a young age.
And, no, it was not Nikola Vucevic.
The 23-year-old Vucevic, one of the league's most improved players a year ago, missed the Magic's final seven games because of a sore left Achilles tendon. So Dewayne Dedmon, who was not even on their roster at the All-Star break, received more of a look than he did earlier in the season from the Golden State Warriors and the Philadelphia 76ers combined.
Although older than Vucevic, Dedmon -- who will turn 25 in August -- is the personification of a diamond in the rough. He did not play organized basketball until his senior year of high school in Lancaster, California due to religious reasons and did not reach 7 feet until a 3-inch growth spurt after graduating. After transferring to USC from Antelope Valley Community College, he never averaged as much as eight points a game and went undrafted last summer.
He participated in the Orlando Summer League as a member of the Miami Heat squad and was signed by the Warriors, who had him in their training camp, three weeks into the regular season. But after the second of his two 10-day contracts with the 76ers expired in early February, Dedmon found himself back in the NBA D-League.
Four days after mutually agreeing to a contract buyout with Glen Davis, the Magic signed both Dedmon and Adonis Thomas to 10-day contracts. While neither played much in the following three weeks, it was Dedmon whom the Magic chose to keep for the remainder of the season March 17.
Dedmon showed on occasion that he could take and make a perimeter jump shot. But it was his ability to run the floor on offense and defense which endeared him to Magic coach Jacque Vaughn.
"He does a lot of things that go unnoticed on the stat sheet," Vaughn said after Dedmon's first start April 5 against the Minnesota Timberwolves. "For instance, when he goes after an offensive rebound, maybe two guys have to box him out and we get the possession from just his ability to have energy and effort."
Over his final five starts, Dedmon blocked two shots four times and played at least 20 minutes in every game. He was able to avoid foul trouble for the most part except for when he fouled out April 14 at Chicago.
Rookie centers who came into the NBA with far more buildup than Dedmon struggled mightily with foul trouble early in their careers. Dwight Howard fouled out three times after breaking in with the Magic in 2004-05, and Shaquille O'Neal set a franchise record at the time with eight in 1992-93. (Michael Doleac topped that by fouling out 10 times in 77 games during the 2000-01 season.)
"When I get a foul called, I'll ask a question, like what I did or something like that," Dedmon said, referring to the officials. "And they'll explain it to me."
WHAT HE DID RIGHT
His average of 2.7 blocked shots in 48 minutes was second on the Magic only to the 3.6 average of Kyle O'Quinn. While it's not easy to judge someone who averaged fewer than 15 minutes over 16 games, Dedmon has a soft shooting touch for a player of his height and could stick around for a while unless Joel Embiid of Kansas falls into the Magic's lap on draft night.
WHERE HE NEEDS TO IMPROVE
While you can't teach height, Dedmon needs to learn how to finish better at the rim and could probably stand to put on a few more pounds in an offseason conditioning program.
April 16 vs. Indiana. Dedmon pulled down 13 rebounds, topping his previous career high by three, and blocked two shots in 27 minutes against the Pacers. Eight of those rebounds came in the fourth quarter.
He's making the NBA minimum and is bound to get a shot in some team's training camp come the fall. Chances are good it will be with the Magic, but that was probably also the prevailing wisdom at this time last year with DeQuan Jones.