Magic's Dedmon a work in progress with a defensive mindset
During a stretch in January and February where the Orlando Magic gave up more than 100 points in 14 consecutive games, Dewayne Dedmon played a total of 61 minutes.
That statistic would seem confounding in that Dedmon, more than anyone else on the Magic, is defensive-minded to the point where anything he contributes on offense is an added bonus. What made it even more baffling was that the 7-footer played practically the entire second half of a game Jan. 26 at Memphis in which the Magic held the Grizzlies to 36 points over the final two quarters.
But before their next game, coach Jacque Vaughn all but scoffed at the notion of putting Dedmon in the starting lineup. A week later, Vaughn was fired. A month after that, James Borrego decided to do what his predecessor did not.
Beginning with a loss to the Phoenix Suns on March 4, Dedmon started in 15 of the Magic's final 21 games, primarily at power forward. He averaged 5.0 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots with a defensive rating of 105.
Dedmon is far from the only player whose season can be accurately looked at in terms of what he did under Vaughn and under Borrego. Before the All-Star break, which fell a week after the Magic's coaching change, he played in 37 of 56 games and averaged 3.2 points and 3.9 rebounds in 11.5 minutes. From Feb. 20 on, those averages went up to 4.4 points and 6.8 rebounds in 19.1 minutes.
That 6.8-rebound figure, if projected over a full season, would have ranked him second on the team to Nikola Vucevic. As it was, Dedmon's average of 5.0 rebounds in 59 games was behind only Vucevic (10.9) and Tobias Harris (6.3), and both of them played an average of more than 34 minutes a game.
While Dedmon did not play in Borrego's debut, that turned out to be the last of his 17 DNP-CDs of the season. The only four games he missed the rest of the way came when an injury to his left ankle sidelined him toward the end of March.
The 10 points and 10 rebounds he had against the Grizzlies represented the first double-double in the career of a player who went undrafted out of USC in 2013. He grabbed 10 or more rebounds six times, including 11 in the Magic's 105-103 victory April 8 at Chicago.
WHAT HE DID RIGHT
Dedmon averaged an offensive rebound for every 7.2 minutes played and was one of only two Magic players -- Vucevic being the other -- to block at least 50 shots. The 59 games in which he played represented almost twice as many as he had a year ago with the Magic, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Golden State Warriors.
WHERE HE NEEDS TO IMPROVE
He had the worst turnover percentage of anyone on the Magic, either committing an offensive foul or giving the ball away an average of 21.1 times per 100 plays. Dedmon also made only 53.1 percent of his free-throw attempts and averaged a personal foul every six minutes.
March 8 vs. Boston. Dedmon had 11 points, 16 rebounds and two blocked shots in his second consecutive start at center for Vucevic, who was out with a sore left ankle, and was the main reason why the Magic finished with a lopsided 52-26 advantage in points in the paint. "He's a maniac out there running around," teammate Maurice Harkless said afterward. "He's getting offensive rebounds. He's getting blocks, steals. It's fun to play with guys like that."
He'll turn 26 on Aug. 12. Dedmon is coming off a one-year contract in which he was the Magic's lowest-paid player with a salary of $820,000. Whoever coaches them next season will need a defense-first big man, and unless the Magic can somehow land DeAndre Jordan or Roy Hibbert as an unrestricted free agent this summer, Dedmon is likely to be that person.