Why Branden Dawson could help the Clippers long-term


If any team is right for Branden Dawson, it’s the one nicknamed ‘Lob City.’

Before the Los Angeles Clippers acquired Dawson by obtaining the 56th pick from the New Orleans Pelicans in June’s NBA Draft, the former Michigan State forward’s chances of being selected were unknown to most – including him. Some reporters listed him somewhere in the second round, while others predicted that all teams would pass and he would go undrafted.

Must Read: MSU Recruiting: Remaining 2016 basketball targets

Generally, comparing draft prospects’ skills with team needs is saved for players expected to be picked in the first round. So leading up to the draft, any analysis regarding Dawson lasted fewer than a couple sentences with a reporter repeating that he’s athletic and can rebound, sure, but he struggles shooting outside and is too short to play a post position.

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  • This player-team match with the Clippers may prompt some to reconsider Dawson’s NBA potential from a different viewpoint – because it makes sense. Dawson’s strengths align with what the Clippers lacked last season, and Dawson’s current weaknesses are aspects in which the team doesn’t have voids to fill.

    Last season’s Clippers could’ve used a rebounding defender like Dawson who can rule the glass, stay with his man, make steals and challenge shots. Dawson’s active passing was a less-mentioned skill at Michigan State, and his strong outlet passes can lead to Clipper fast breaks.

    The Clippers scored the second-most points of NBA teams last season behind only the Warriors. So while points and assists are typically considered first while evaluating a player’s offensive worth, Dawson’s primary offensive roles will be setting hard screens and snatching boards.

    Apr 4, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard/forward Branden Dawson (22) and guard Travis Trice (20) hug in the second half of the 2015 NCAA Men

    Head coach Doc Rivers may as well tell Dawson that his offensive responsibilities in ‘Lob City’ are to dunk Chris Paul’s lob passes and when his teammates ever do miss, treat those misses as lob passes too.

    Another supposed limitation of Dawson is his size — a criticism that takes one to two highlights to crush. While Dawson’s height is 6-foot-7, his wingspan is 6-foot-11 and he out-leaps anyone with his astounding vertical and strength. He led the Big Ten in rebounds last season; and keep in mind he out-rebounded his 6-foot-10 teammate Adreian Payne the season before.

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    Dawson may not have peaked yet. Izzo persistently carped on Dawson for subpar effort. At times the forward made the game look easy, and his natural athleticism made the former McDonald’s All-American excel without exerting full effort and work ethic, something he can’t get away with in the NBA.

    If someone watched Dawson only during the 2014 postseason, they would expect him to now be a lottery pick. He hasn’t put together three consecutive such performances since then, but he’s certainly worth the risk of a 56th pick. A couple frontcourt players who peaked in the pros are former 47th pick Paul Millsap, former 48th pick Marc Gasol and undrafted Ben Wallace. Another former second round pick who played for a major collegiate team in less of a highlighted role was Carlos Boozer at Duke.

    Dawson is accustomed to playing the defender/rebounder role while his teammates play in the spotlight as star scorers, doing so his entire career at Michigan State. Don’t expect Dawson to respond negatively to criticism from Chris Paul or any other team member or coach after now becoming used to ridicule.

    Branden doesn’t need to be a certain height or embody anyone else to excel as his own player, a lesson one can learn from another former second round Spartan who signed an $82 million contract with Golden State last week.

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