Just a few short days after relaying to the public that they were going to be active in the free agent market after the trade deadline, Daryl Morey and the Sixers have added a backup center. Dewayne Dedmon, who played 30 games for the Miami Heat this season before being traded to and subsequently waived by the San Antonio Spurs a few days ago, is signing a rest-of-season deal with the Sixers, according to multiple reports. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was first to the news.
Basketball Reference lists Dedmon, 33 years old, at seven feet tall. So, he profiles as a more traditional center. With both Montrezl Harrell and Paul Reed listed shorter than 6-foot-10, Dedmon ostensibly serves as the option for when Doc Rivers wants to stay truly big behind Joel Embiid.
But, unlike Harrell and Reed, Dedmon is at least capable of cashing in on shots outside of 10 feet. That isn’t to say, however, that he’s a reliable perimeter shooter. Rather, he’s demonstrated some ability to stick outside jumpers. That means the Sixers now have some degree of optionality behind Embiid.
Reed, of course, gives the Sixers a jolt of athleticism that they generally lack on the roster. Even if he’s foul prone and often makes mistakes (I would argue more game experience might help that!), Reed’s lateral quickness, length, and springy legs help him cover up for his and others’ mistakes on defense. That lateral quickness, by the way, makes Reed the Sixers’ only backup center who can switch on the perimeter and guard in space.
Harrell, on the other hand, vacillates between being serviceable and unplayable in the regular reason. Offensively, though, he can make some decent passes out of the high post and catch the ball as he moves toward the rim. That, alone, is why he’s a good fit next to James Harden or Tyrese Maxey if the strategy is to bump up the offense with the second unit. But, his lack of lateral quickness makes him an impossible trust come playoff time.
In comes Dedmon, whose jumper makes him different than both. He can pop out of the pick-and-roll, improving the spacing for the likes of Harden and Maxey as they drive to the basket.
That isn’t to say he’s a good three-point shooter, though. Dedmon has made less than 30 percent of his three-point attempts this season, launching just 1.2 per game with Miami. Dedmon shoots 33.5 percent from deep for his career. The way to describe him is “capable” as a shooter, and that’s more than Harrell and Reed have proven to be.
Opposing defenses aren’t going to guard him like he’s a good shooter. They might even treat him mostly like a non-shooter. But, defenses will position themselves differently. The opposing big will lift a bit higher in the base alignment instead of dropping all the way back to the rim like he would if Harrell or Reed was in the game. As such, that will open up driving lanes for the Sixers’ two most explosive ball-handlers. It won’t be a huge defensive adjustment, but Dedmon being on the court might cause an interior defender to take one or two step towards the perimeter. That might be enough.
The defensive problems are still very real. He lacks the agility and lateral quickness to guard in space, which is what you would prefer in the modern NBA. So, Philadelphia will likely sit in drop coverage in their man-to-man defense when Dedmon is on the floor. The problem is, Dedmon isn’t exactly a heroic rim protector.
Opponents shoot 66.9 percent at the rim when Dedmon is on the floor this season. That’s exactly the 50th percentile for NBA bigs this season. But, that opponent efficiency is actually an improvement upon what opponents are doing with Harrell on the court this season and what they did when DeAndre Jordan was on the court last season.
I don’t believe most Dedmon lineups are going to hold down the fort on defense, even if there’s a chance he does a better job of protecting the basket than have other past-prime backups the Sixers have had. But, that’s a pretty low bar. I do think there’s a chance that Dedmon’s ability to stick a three every once in a while might have a domino effect that helps the Sixers’ team offense in the non-Embiid minutes. He might not play well, individually. But, Dedmon’s main offensive skill as a backup big is a stark contrast to what the Sixers had had behind Embiid. And that might be enough to make the offense better in the non-Embiid minutes.
There’s a lot of time between now and the end of the regular season to figure out whether or not Dedmon is a viable option to relieve Embiid. That’s also another way of saying that Rivers has a lot of time to determine whether or not he has to prepare Reed more for the postseason.
The Sixers might not be able to stop anyone from scoring in Dedmon’s minutes. But, they might be able to keep pace with or outscore the opposition when Embiid is recharging.