The San Antonio Spurs’ offseason made plenty of headlines. Pau Gasol signed with the squad, Tim Duncan retired after a 19-season career in the Alamo City, and Manu Ginobili decided to come back for one last rodeo with the Spurs. The team also lost Boris Diaw, David West and Boban Marjanovic, a trio that represented a large portion of its frontcourt depth.
One move that stayed below the radar, though, could end up making a massive positive impact for San Antonio.
The Spurs officially signed former Orlando Magic center Dewayne Dedmon to a two-year, $5.9 million contract on July 14, well below what market value dictated for someone of the 26-year-old center’s skill set.
Dedmon is one of a growing new breed of NBA centers: strong, athletic players who contribute offensively primarily through screen-setting and rim-running and then crashing the boards and protecting the rim on defense.
DeAndre Jordan, Steven Adams and Tristan Thompson are probably the most effective iterations of this archetype in the league today, but there are several other guys who attempt to fulfill this role and succeed to some extent. Two of those players, Bismack Biyombo and Ian Mahinmi, landed monster contracts this offseason that dwarfed what Dedmon was able to ink.
But are those guys that much better than Dedmon? Maybe not.
While Dedmon’s numbers are possibly skewed a little by more garbage-time minutes (and fewer minutes overall), he was very productive for the Magic last season. There’s a strong argument to be made that he deserved a contract much closer to that of Biyombo or Mahinmi.
More importantly, though, he gives the Spurs a type of player the team hasn’t had in awhile and badly needs.
San Antonio has employed a wide variety of post players in the past decade. Some of them have been supremely skilled (LaMarcus Aldridge and Boris Diaw, for example), others have been very smart (Fabricio Oberto and Antonio McDyess) and one has possessed both qualities in spades (Tim Duncan). But the quality of explosiveness has eluded nearly every rotation big man since Duncan left his prime.
Dedmon is the guy to buck that trend. Remember that crazy stat that surfaced a few years ago about the Spurs only completing one alley-oop during the 2012-13 campaign? Yeah, well Dedmon had four all by himself last season…in one game. The man can get up and hammer down some ferocious dunks.
When he plays next to the skilled Gasol or LaMarcus Aldridge in the frontcourt, he’ll gladly accept a role as the designated low-usage offensive post who sets screens, sprints to the rim, defends like crazy and cleans the glass with his 7’0″, 245-pound frame. Gasol especially could become a deadly high-low alley-oop partner with the former USC standout.
When he plays with fellow second unit members, he’ll provide rim protection and physicality that has been missing from recent Spurs benches. Dedmon ranked 11th in opponent field-goal percentage at the rim and fared well in many other categories of Nylon Calculus’ rim protection database.
Diaw, West and Splitter have all either lacked the size or mentality to impose their will around the cup. Marjanovic, had he stayed, would’ve had his ceiling capped by his immobility on defense. Dedmon’s quickness and leaping ability for a player his size make him an intriguing piece that Gregg Popovich could end up using as much as 20 minutes per game.
Dedmon isn’t a perfect player or fit in San Antonio’s system, obviously. He doesn’t stretch the floor at all, as he shot just 5-of-17 from 15 feet or further last season. His 5.6 fouls per 36 minutes would’ve been the worst mark on the Spurs in 2015-16, suggesting his defensive discipline needs to improve.
Those are areas in which the Spurs will try to help Dedmon improve, but the young center does have plenty of use to them even before those developments occur.
Popovich will have fun trying new things with his athletic seven-footer in 2016-17. The question is, will the Spurs be able to keep Dedmon around when he inevitably opts out of his steal of a contract next summer?