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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Benton Smith: Dedric Lawson becoming more complete player for Jayhawks

Baylor guard King McClure (3) is fouled by Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) as he attempts a shot against Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson)

Baylor guard King McClure (3) is fouled by Kansas guard Marcus Garrett (0) as he attempts a shot against Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Jerry Larson)

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Waco, Texas — In the midst of his ongoing evolution to become the total basketball player that Kansas needs him to be, Dedric Lawson made some headway in a bit of uncharted territory Saturday afternoon at the Ferrell Center.

A redshirt junior, Lawson has proven time and again that he can score from most spots on the floor, drive and spin his way to easy baskets, and attack the glass as well as any big man in the Big 12.

And even though the Jayhawks’ 6-foot-9 forward didn’t exhibit his skill set in its totality against Baylor, he grew as a player by showing he’s willing to do more defensively.

Stopping post players or drivers in the paint never has been a strength of Lawson’s. Yet, during much of KU’s 73-68 victory at BU, the most talented offensive player in a KU uniform demonstrated he’s far from a lost cause on the opposite end of the floor.

When the Bears entered the paint and tried to attack Lawson, he didn’t backpedal or put forth some guise of a contest. The big man positioned himself to bother would-be BU scorers and often took his under-the-rim protection to another level by getting his hands on the ball.

By the end of the Jayhawks’ first road victory of the season, Lawson had a season-high five blocks and career-best five steals to go with his 17 points and three rebounds.

“I’m always trying to improve on the defensive end,” Lawson said afterward. “I didn’t know I had five blocks and five steals. I guess I was kind of active.”

Freshman point guard Devon Dotson noticed the defensive gains from Lawson, as well.

“Yeah, he was great. You know, he really battled down there and made hustle plays and it showed today,” Dotson said.

Baylor (9-6 overall, 1-2 Big 12) only shot 14 of 44 on 2-pointers and turned the ball over 14 times, in part, because of Lawson’s improved approach as a defender. His hands routinely found their way in the path of Bears shots and passes, and if they hadn’t, the Bears would have done far more damage than they inflicted while outscoring KU 32-24 inside.

“I just tried to come in with high hands, be active,” Lawson said. “When they went up, try to go up strong with two hands — that’s the rule inside the paint; jump up vertical, things like that. Just try to get some type of rim protection, seeing as how Udoka’s out. That’s something that we need.”

Lawson’s not going to be the physical presence 7-footer Udoka Azubuike was, nor athletic enough to turn into a shot blocker. And he’s no fool, either. Lawson knows he has a long way to go, and he took it upon himself during the postgame press conference to change the subject from his defensive progress to KU’s inability to keep Baylor off the offensive glass.

“They got 26 offensive rebounds,” Lawson pointed out after the Bears missed 25 of their 75 field goal attempts versus Kansas. “You get 20 of those and that cuts down the game right there — maybe instead of (KU leading by 23 late in the second half), it’s a 30-point lead. That can change the outcome of a game.”

As one would anticipate, KU coach Bill Self wasn’t extolling Lawson’s defense or overall liveliness on that end of the court after the win. Asked whether Lawson was more involved as a defender, Self pointed to one area where the junior didn’t deliver.

“I thought he was more active because he got five steals and five blocked shots. They were just wall-up blocks. I thought that was good, but that’s the worst he’s rebounded the ball all year long,” Self pointed out of his star player’s season-low three boards. “So, I’ll say yes to your question. OK, he was more active in some ways. But certainly not rebounding the ball.”

Typically, when KU (14-2, 3-1) gets stops on defense, Lawson is the most likely Jayhawk to conclude it with a rebound (averaging 7.7 defensive boards a game).

That didn’t mean Baylor’s 26 extra chances (resulting in 14 points) were all about Lawson coming up short where he often thrives.

“I think it’s on everybody,” Self said of KU’s failures on the defensive glass, which allowed the Bears to dominate in rebounding margin, 49-30. “I think we were just soft. We were soft on the glass. We did some other things pretty well, but that was an area ... You know, rebounding’s such a misleading stat sometimes. Like, you could get beat on the glass, but if you have 10 more steals than your opponent, it’s misleading because there’s 10 less possessions they get a chance to get a defensive rebound. A team that misses a ton of free throws, the second end of free throws you get credit for a defensive rebound, and that’s not really saying much. So rebounding stats can be skewed, but that wasn’t skewed tonight. That was a beat down.”

Part of what makes Lawson great is that he doesn’t get complacent. He knew he had to become a better defender, so he put forth more effort and came through with a Landen Lucas impression that he needs to keep perfecting. Simply being in position, walling up and extending his hands high above his head can go a long way, as Lawson discovered at Baylor.

He’s adding to his game the deeper KU gets into its season, and the more Lawson picks up, the easier it will become for him to put all the pieces together.

Lawson has it in him to do it all: carry KU’s offense, control the glass and play smart, effective defense. The next step in his development will be fulfilling those responsibilities in unison.

Comments

Steve Zimmerman 5 days, 23 hours ago

Wow, didn't realize he's got 5 blocks and steals! Let's hope he'll achieve a triple double one day!

Barry Weiss 5 days, 22 hours ago

out rebounded 49 to 30 one would think we would lose. but our 50% shooting to their 33% made up for it.

Steve Zimmerman 5 days, 21 hours ago

hehehe.. pretty soon, Benton will run out of noun describing the phenom SmoothD:

beginning, becoming, what's next? he's no doubt our MVP! it's all good, i love hanging out at kusports.com, dawg..

Mike Riches 5 days, 10 hours ago

At one point during the game FF said that it's possible that all Kansas players except Vick could be back next year. Do we really believe that Dedric has a chance of returning?

Aaron Paisley 5 days, 8 hours ago

Yes, Dedric will be back. He's not an NBA caliber player and his pro future is overseas because of his lack of athleticism. He'll be back next year.

Other than Vick, the ones who have the highest chance of not being back are Silvio, Doke, Grimes, and Moore. Personally, I think Silvio is done in college and will pursue a pro career after this season because his eligibility issue won't be resolved before next season starts. Doke needs to go to get his pro future started because another injury season ending injury and he'll be untouchable as a pro player, even overseas. Grimes could end up being a Selby type and be so deadset on being OAD that he leaves no matter what, but he doesn't seem to have that personality type so I think he'll be back. Charlie Moore just doesn't fit with this group. He's a square peg trying to fit into a round hole and I wouldn't be shocked if he looks elsewhere to finish out his career somewhere he's a better fit.

Mallory Briggans 5 days, 8 hours ago

Aaron.... Dedric is a preseason all-American what is your definition of athleticism .Hes long can shoot inside and has 3 point range he is a double double machine at times . He is smooth...does he have hops ...no...….Larry Bird would not be considered athlethic but he could shoot and was a crafty player Lawson reminds me of George Gervin ...Robert Horry in many ways......Chiek Diallo was drafted in the second round with limited playing time while a Jayhawk …...To say Lawson isn't good enough is a stretch ….He will get drafted .. Grimes has underperformed and if he is smart he will stay 1 more year. As far as Charlie why would he leave he knows and understands his role ,plus is is getting playing time totally opposite of Sam Cunliffe who was smart to leave..As far as DOK he is in no-mans land . He has been hurt 3 years in a row which has impacted his growth and development ..although he has size he not a big that can shoot away from the basket which the NBA has become. I wouldn't be upset if DOK came back for his senior year but I don't see that happening .Quiet as kept If DOK does leave we don't look very good next season in our Frontcourt ...I don't see McCormack as being that force in the middle ….and we lost out on Kofi Cockburn who commited to Illinois last week.

Shannon Gustafson 4 days, 21 hours ago

You asked what's the definition of athleticism and then listed a bunch of things that aren't athleticism (height, shooting ability, range, double doubles, smooth).

He tried to get drafted 2 years ago after having a nearly identical season to this one while at Memphis (but 2 years younger). He went to the draft combine, tested athletically as one of the least athletic NBA hopefuls ever, was the slowest in the sprint, slowest in agility, had by far the shortest vertical leap, etc. Niang from ISU was always considered a non-athlete but he was better than Lawson in every test. The NBA told him then that he wouldn't get drafted because of his athletic deficiencies.

Would he get drafted? Probably so, mid to late in the 2nd round without a guaranteed contract.

Diallo is a complete opposite case. He was drafted based on potential as he was young/raw but a great athlete. They already know Lawson's potential as he's been the same player since 2016 in terms of stats and he's not going to ever be an explosive athlete in terms of speed, agility, or jumping ability.

Is Lawson an amazing college basketball player? Absolutely. Does he fit the mold of what NBA teams are looking for in the draft? No. He's older than they like, he's near his peak, and he's not athletic. He's not even a very good stretch 4 in the NBA as he's a career 29% 3 pt shooter and isn't quick enough to guard and NBA 4. He may leave for the draft but if he does, it won't be because he's a lottery pick, nor will it be because he's given a big contract. Big money for him will be overseas.

Barry Weiss 5 days, 7 hours ago

I agree Mallory. Much like Frank Mason did not have the preferred NBA size, his stats still demanded respect and got him into the NBA. I think Dedric is in that mold. A double, double 20/10 machine like him can find a spot in the NBA. I also agree Dok will need to come back and prove he can shoot free throws. I don't think a NBA team will risk a Hack-a-Dok unless they just want him for some minutes earlier in games. I think he tries that (coming back to improve his game in college) before go the Europe route. Grimes and Dotson also need more seasoning.

Shannon Gustafson 4 days, 21 hours ago

Getting drafted vs contributing in the NBA are two different things, as is getting drafted in the 1st round with a guaranteed contract vs 2nd round and cross your fingers and hope you make the roster.

He's an amazing college player and would likely get drafted mid to late 2nd round but that's not a huge accomplishment relative to his goals. Lets not forget we had an amazing player a few years ago who went undrafted (Perry) and we had 4 amazing players the last 2 years (Mason, Graham, Svi, Newman) and 1 of them went undrafted and the other 3 were all 2nd round guys. Being great in college isn't all it takes to be a high draft pick, especially when you're not a teenager anymore, or a freak athlete, or have crazy length.

Aaron Paisley 5 days ago

Lawson is Perry Ellis. He's a below the rim player with an old man's game. It's effective at the college level, but doesn't translate to the NBA. He might get some Summer League invites, but his pro career is overseas.

Shannon Gustafson 4 days, 21 hours ago

Their games are similar for sure.

What makes them not great NBA prospects are different though. Perry was a pretty good athlete but was just too short and had short arms and small hands. He was a 4 stuck in a 3's body. Lawson has decent size and arm length but is a horrendous athlete in terms of running/jumping/changing direction. He's an old school 5 stuck in a 4's body with a 35 year old white guy's athleticism.

Mallory Briggans 4 days, 21 hours ago

Aaron the draft is June 20TH ……..Dedric Lawson is on the NABC PLAYER OF THE YEAR WATCH LIST …….LUTE OLSON AWARD LIST...…..NAISMITH AWARD LIST …...Chances are he will be ALL BIG 12 FIRST TEAM. THE KARL MALONE …….The JOHN R WOODEN AWARD not that he will win any of those awards the fact that hes on them says a lot...He is not Zion Williamson by any stretch but I wouldn't say he is Perry Ellis either. If Lonzo Ball can play in the NBA then Lawson surely can.

Shannon Gustafson 4 days, 21 hours ago

Mason was consensus player of the year and he's barely playing in the NBA. Same for Graham and Svi and Selden and BMac and TRob. Even Josh Jackson is struggling. Oubre is the only one who really nailed down a role in the NBA and gets good minutes that wasn't a top 5 pick (and he wasn't a very good college player relative to the others named above). Even Wiggins has been a disappointment in the NBA. The Morris twins and Embiid are the only other KU guys who are living up to expectations (or exceeding them). College awards don't mean much for NBA success. NBA teams don't care about college accolades. Lawson is an amazing college player but he's already been down this road once before and the NBA told him he's not athletic enough to be guaranteed a contract.

Aaron Paisley 4 days, 21 hours ago

Mallory, there's lots of players that make the various POY mid season watch lists that never got drafted or even sniffed an NBA roster.

Not every elite college basketball player has a game and skill set that translates well to the NBA. The NBA and college basketball are two very different games because of the differences in the rules.

This doesn't mean he's a bad college player, it just means his skill set and abilities aren't what the NBA is looking for. There's nobody on this team that will be on an NBA roster next season.

Mallory Briggans 4 days, 20 hours ago

Everyone has made valid points about Lawson. None of us are scouts coaches GMs or owners that's the great thing nobody knows... unless you are a cant miss player ….Honestly its not what we think that matters I don't think anyone of us will be disappointed if he does make it to the NBA …...right now I just want him to be the best Jayhawk he can be because he is a Jayhawk right now.

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