After his sophomore season at the University of South Carolina, where he helped push the team to a run to the FInal Four and averaging 13.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game on 41% from the field during the regular season, PJ Dozier declared for the 2017 NBA Draft. Despite his March Madness heroics, Dozier spent that mid-June night disappointed as he went through that night going undrafted.
The disappointment continued after that draft as Dozier only played a grand total of 10 minutes at that year’s Vegas Summer League with the Los Angeles Lakers. Considering that he helped push an underdog Gamecocks squad to a Final Four just four months prior, that lack of play was obviously disappointing. Shortly after that discouraging Summer League, Dozier got a bit of good news as the Mavericks signed him to a training camp deal on July 28th.
Despite just being a training camp invitee, Dozier got some significant playing time with the Mavericks during preseason. In 19 minutes per game, he averaged 5.7 points and 2.3 rebounds per game on 33% from the field in three preseason games. That struggle combined with the Mavericks already having an established crop of guards led to Dozier being one of the team’s last training camp cuts. Although they originally planned on adding him to the Texas Legends as an affiliate player, the Thunder signed Dozier to a two-way deal on October 17th.
Due to the restrictions of the two-way deal, the 6’6 wing spent the majority of his rookie season in the G League with the OKC Blue. With that team, Dozier had a solid 2017-18 season as he averaged 12.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals on 46% from the field and 34% from beyond the arc on 3.7 attempts per game. That G league performance is the only real way we can judge the all-around play from his rookie season as he only played 3 minutes with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Although Dozier was definitely solid with the OKC Blue, the Thunder still decided to not offer him a qualifying offer during the summer which allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent. While he had to wait more than a month after free agency started, the South Carolina alum was signed to a two-way deal by the Boston Celtics on August 20th.
While he’s technically in the same position that he was during the prior season, Dozier has looked like a different player with the Maine Red Claws than with the OKC Blue. That fact is evident by how he’s averaging 21.3 points, 7 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.3 steals on 46% from the field and 32% from beyond the arc on 5.3 attempts per game. With Maine, he’s currently averaging a career-high in points, rebounds and assists per game.
Among the categories where he’s made strides, Dozier’s progression as a passer is definitely the most glaring. While he showed flashes of having solid passing skills during his time at South Carolina and with the OKC Blue, those traits have taken a huge spotlight since he’s joined the Red Claws. His potential as a lead distributor was seen from the start of the season as he averaged 5.6 assists per game in November. During that month, he had some big facilitating games as he had 9 assists in a November 4th game against the Blue Coats and 11 assists on November 29th against the Windy City Bulls.
While those two games were two examples of his potential as a distributor, his role within that role would grow significantly after the Celtics released point guard Walt Lemon from his two-way deal. Immediately after Lemon left the team, Maine immediately transitioned Dozier from playing SG/SF to being the team’s starting point guard. That transition immediately vaulted Dozier into being one of the league’s better facilitators as he’s averaging a very nice 6.9 assists per game with a 1.9 Ast/TO ratio since he made his first start at point guard on December 31st.
Aside from those base stats, Dozier’s solid work as a distributor is evident when you watch him actually play as he’s solid in every different aspect of being a facilitator: drive-and-dish, transition, working pick-and-roll with the screener and simply being unselfish and finding dishing it off to open shooters while standing on the perimeter.
Among all of those different ways to facilitate, he does the most damage in the drive-and-dish due to regularly using off-ball screens or hesitation dribbles to get around perimeter defenders. Once he has that open passing lane, the Celtics two-way player can do damage while moving by tossing alley-oop lobs to bigs or passes to players on the perimeter.
While most facilitators that are skilled in this aspect throws simple chest passes to teammates stationed on the three-point line, Dozier is different in that he likes to combine those traditional feeds with throwing wicked bounce passes to shooters that are positioned on either the corner or wing.
An example is seen in the clip below as he utilizes a John Bohannon screen to drive to the paint where he then throws a no-look bounce pass to Trey Davis, who’s working on the right corner. Despite Dozier being off-balance when that pass was thrown, he threw it with enough force and accuracy to land it right in the hands of Davis who hit the open 3.
Aside from drive-and-dish, another way that he can create magic as a facilitator is by working in the pick-and-roll. Over the past few weeks, UTEP alum John Bohannon has been Dozier’s main partner which makes sense as the 6’11, 220 pound Red Claw is a big and mobile target that has soft hands, can run to the rim and go for alley-oops.
Dozier has done a nice job of helping Bohannon utilize those abilities by being able to attract the defense’s attention through driving to the rim before throwing up smooth lobs to the cutting big. Alongside that method, Dozier can also remain on the perimeter and throw precise passes to the veteran after they drive to the paint.
By progressing as a facilitator and transitioning into his current role as a 6’6 point guard, Dozier has improved his status as a player for 2018-19 and beyond. Before this year, he was regarded as an athletic wing with a strong frame that can play solid defense, drive to the paint and make the occasional highlight slam. While those traits are still in his arsenal, and have helped him average 21 points per game, his progression as a distributor has allowed him to become one of the best point guards in the G League.
Alongside with helping him become an elite minor league guard, his growth as a passer should give him more opportunities in the NBA that go beyond a two-way deal. Aside from an inconsistent perimeter jumper, Dozier has both the frame and skills that NBA teams currently look for as he’s an athletic 6’6 point guard with a 6’11 wingspan that can play solid defense and also drive to the paint. His development during this season combined with howhe won’t turn 23 until October should mean that Dozier has more time to grow as a player over the next few seasons.
Those factors should allow PJ Dozier to be a player that any NBA squad, whether or not they’re the Boston Celtics, should look at during the upcoming summer.