Note: This piece is the continuation of an ongoing series where Ridiculous Upside examines some undrafted 2017 prospects that fans need to keep an eye on. The first four segments of this series was on former Weber State guard Jeremy Senglin, Badgers alum Bronson Koenig, former Utah State forward Jalen Moore and former Michigan guard Derrick Walton Jr. So without further adu, here’s our piece on William and Mary alum Daniel Dixon
Back in mid August, the NBA G League held their annual Player Invitational in Chicago, Illinois where more than fifty prospects competed in front of a slew of NBA and G League scouts. At that event, scouts were able to see a cornucopia of different kinds of players that ranged from unknown Division-II talent to some well-known college graduates such as Jordan Mathews, Trevor Thompson, Rodney Purvis and Isaac Hamilton.
Although the initial attention may have been on that quartet, the perspective quickly changed once those prospects actually started to play in the event’s scrimmages. From the jump, it became apparent that prospects from mid-major or even Division-II schools could successfully compete against elite competition. A solid example of this was how former Division-II guard Jaylen Morris put up 12 points on 6-9 shooting against a team that consisted of Purvis and former Syracuse guard John Gillion.
Coinciding with Morris, another lesser-known talent that shined in Chicago was former William and Mary guard Daniel Dixon. While not as unknown as Morris, he definitely entered that competition with a chip on his shoulder. His additional focus was due to him standing as an undrafted prospect that didn’t even play in NBA Summer League. That was despite the fact that Dixon arguably stood as the best scorer in the CAA (Colonial Athletic Association) as a senior where he put up 19.2 points on 48% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc. Dixon had talent, but he just needed to show the basketball world.
He definitely did that during the G League Player Invitational as he put up nice numbers as a secondary scoring option. During his two scrimmages, Dixon averaged 10 points and 4 boards on 47% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. Are those numbers earth-shattering? Of course not. But it showed that he could stack up nice against talented high-major prospects.
Luckily for Dixon, the good news didn’t stop at a solid performance in Chicago. Just five days after that Player Invitational, Sportando reporter Nicola Lupo tweeted that the Celtics reached an agreement with Dixon.
At that point, the signing represented the team basically finalizing their training camp roster as Dixon would be the team’s 20th player under contract, the preseason limit for NBA teams. However, that status quickly changed when the Celtics made the biggest trade of the offseason with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In that deal, they sent Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic, Jae Crowder and the Brooklyn Nets 2018 1st round pick to the Cavs for Kyrie Irving. This huge trade pushed the team to have 18 players on standard contracts, if you factor in two-way players Kadeem Allen and Jabari Bird, with 14 of them being fully guaranteed. Despite there technically being one additional roster spot on the Celtics, it doesn’t change the trajectory for Dixon. Unless he just shocks the Celtics organization during training camp, he seems destined to move to the Maine Red Claws to play in the G League once the Celtics finalized their roster for the regular season.
As a member of the Red Claws, he’ll be a vital part of what backcourt in the entire G League. Coinciding with Dixon, the Red Claws will also feature former Syracuse guard Andrew White, Pitt alum L.J. Peak, Kadeem Allen and Jabari Bird, who will be with the team under two-way deals. In a similar way to his time in Chicago, the former William and Mary guard will try to prove his worth against a crop of guards that shined for high-major schools. Does Dixon have the skills to overtake those players? Let’s take a look.
When it comes to looking at Dixon, the first thing that you would have to look at is his work as a scorer. That status is a direct effect from him shining during his senior season at William and Mary where he put up 19.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists on 48% from the field and 38% from beyond the arc on 6.4 perimeter shots per game. Those great averages pushed him to maintain an extremely impressive 63% True Shooting Percentage, which actually placed him 19th among the 560 shooting guards that played Division I basketball last season. That’s pretty damn good.
Dixon’s incredible efficiency was largely due to standing as standing as a multi-dimensional weapon that can be depended upon to contribute for a variety of different ways. As a member of William & Mary, Dixon shined as an on-ball driver, mid-range shooter, perimeter weapon or even the occasional offensive rebound. That level of versatility has pushed him to the point where he stands as more of a “swiss army knife” rather than a player that just mainly contributes with one particular skill.
Although he definitely stood as a well-rounded player, a good amount of his offensive production came from the perimeter. To be precise, 49% of Dixon’s shots were from beyond the arc, according to Hoop-Math. That reliance definitely makes sense as Dixon was a pretty efficient perimeter shooter during his entire college career as he maintained a solid 39% perimeter shooting percentage. Even more impressive than that solid average is how Dixon is effective whether he’s working off-the-dribble or through catch-and-shoot.
He actually stands as one of the lone shooters that really doesn’t seem to have a preference between those two ways of shooting from beyond the arc. In regards to catch-and-shoot, he seems to have mastered that art as he utilizes a little hop to quickly get in position. That solid technique allows him to release the shot just milliseconds after receiving the pass, which really prevents opposing defenders from getting a hand in his face. Meanwhile, Dixon definitely shows some promise as an off-the-dribble shooter due to how he can create separation with a little step-back dribble. An example of that move is evident in the play below.
Transitioning over to inside the perimeter, Dixon stands as a pretty solid mid-range threat. Rather than breaking down his opponents with wicked handles like his teammate Kyrie Irving, he likes to deploy a more cerebral strategy. Dixon is extremely crafty when it comes to trying to trick the opposition as he can utilize little head or pump fakes. If that doesn’t work, Dixon can quickly work around an off-ball screen like your prototypical guard. No matter what method he shows, Dixon’s able to quickly get in position and launch up a jumper. Dixon was successful on this attempts as he shot 44% on mid-range jumpers according to Hoop-Math.
Another way that Dixon can deploy his handles is as an on-ball drive. As we’ve said multiple times, his handles will never be compared to current teammate Kyrie Irving, it was still good enough to allow him to drive past most defenders.Honestly, most of his drives was headlined by him just flying past the opposition as Dixon has ridiculous acceleration for a 6’6 guard. Once that initial victory is secured, he mainly likes to drive to the right end of the rim where he does a nice job of finishing, whether Dixon is open or pushing his 210 pound frame into an opposing big. If that doesn’t work out, he can also throw up a pretty floater.
The final part of Dixon’s offensive arsenal would be his work as a facilitator, which is probably the most iffy aspect of his offensive arsenal. When you watch him work, Dixon seems like a pretty solid distributor as he’s comfortable with working in the pick-and-roll. It’s easily apparent that he’s confident with working with the screener as he shows patience and seems to know the right time before he can work in the little bounce pass.
That exact thing can be said when he decides to work as a drive and dish facilitator as Dixon regularly does a nice job of recognizing where his teammates are on the court, even when he’s driving towards the paint. Despite his clear skills, Dixon’s distributing isn’t really apparent when you look at stats. As a senior, Dixon averaged only 2.5 assists per game while maintaining a mediocre 1.12 Ast/TO ratio. Although that may be explained by him working as a scorer that rarely got asked to facilitate, its still a minor concern.
As an undrafted prospect that didn’t get a Summer League opportunity, it might seem like Dixon might be an overlooked piece on the future Red Claws roster. With a backcourt featuring a bunch of well-known young prospects that shined for the best schools in college hoops, it would seem like Dixon could be pushed aside in Maine’s rotation. But that would be a mistake.
Is Dixon a prospect with flaws? Yes. He can definitely be overconfident in his perimeter jumper and he’s never been that efficient of a facilitator. Despite that, he still stands as that backcourt presence that can just light it up from the floor like he’s Kenny “The Jet” Smith in old school NBA Jam. In addition to his ability to score in bunches, Dixon maintains the kind of scoring efficiency that rarely any guard can give you. Although he might be unknown now, I think there’s a chance that basketball fans will get to know the name of Daniel Dixon in the near future.