In part one of this series, we took a look at Tre Jones, Cassius Winston and Jahmi’us Ramsey, and whether or not each of them could serve as a creator for the Sixers. Now, in part two, we’ll dive deep on some under-the-radar prospects that should be more than available to the Sixers with the 22nd, 34th and 36th picks.
Devon Dotson, Kansas
In terms of recent overall success, Dotson outclasses every other prospect in this series. His Kansas team finished No. 1 in the country with a 28-3 record, as he averaged 18.1 points per game and served as the Jayhawks’ offensive engine.
Dotson is lightning quick and can get to the paint at will. 50.4 percent of his 13 field goal attempts per game came at-rim, a startlingly high percentage for a 6-foot-2, 185-pound point guard. And not only did he get to the rim often, but he converted beautifully once there, shooting an absolutely ridiculous 64.8 percent on those attempts, per Hoop-Math.
He doesn’t have one specific go-to move to manufacture these scores near the hoop, but rather, Dotson excels at all of them. He uses quick-twitch movements and high levels of footwork and ball control to contort his body into difficult finishes.
That spin move by Dotson was so beautiful that it brought me back to the days of Shady McCoy, mixing up defenders with his sharp cuts and elusiveness. He gets the defender off-balance with a quick stutter-step crossover, then rotates his body so violently that the defender is caught completely off guard, finding himself on the complete wrong side of Dotson as he barrels toward the rim. Just take a look at this screenshot down below — Dotson’s feet are facing the opposite sideline as the Tech defender, giving him an easy lane for the layup.
One thing I noticed in my deep dive to Dotson’s game is how Kansas liked to get him running into the catch via handoffs. He already had a huge speed advantage over most college guards, but these DHO’s made it virtually impossible for his primary defender to catch up with him, allowing him to finish high off the glass with great touch in a relatively uncluttered key.
One might think Dotson would struggle when confronted by larger players at the basket due to his diminutive size, but again, Dotson finds a way. He gets some surprisingly good elevation for a smaller guard, and is smart enough to use it varyingly in different situations. In the first clip, he hangs vertically and powers through the straight-up challenge of the big, and in the second, he avoids the potential charge by using his hang time to glide laterally through the defender and around the center.
Everything about the film screams the same thing. Dotson is smart, Dotson is quick, and the combination of those two is a devastating downhill force that relentlessly puts pressure on the rim.
However, all that glitters is not gold. Dotson’s unbelievable rim-finishing is balanced by his poor perimeter shooting, both in terms of accuracy and the types of shots he can generate.
As you can see in the clip below, he has a very stiff form that he keeps to the right side of his head like a shot put, which doesn’t look comfortable or smooth as the ball leaves his hand.
Dotson shot a wretched 24.3 percent on all of his two-point jumpers, although only 5.9 percent of those shots were assisted, and 31.6 percent from 3, with 57.9 percent of those made 3s being assisted. In the highlights below, big men sag off of Dotson as he encroaches to or beyond the 3-point line, and he can’t make them pay for their drop coverage (unlike Cassius Winston, as we discussed in our last breakdown). In the third play below, he can’t translate his finishing elevation to his pull-up as Tre Jones stays attached and forces him to kick the ball out.
Devil’s advocate would say that Dotson’s game might not translate to the next level, as subpar shooting shorties are going out of style. However, I just have trouble thinking he will fail given what he did at the college level.
The shooting isn’t a lost cause, as he shot a more than acceptable 36.3 percent on 3s during his 2018-19 freshman season, and shot 83 percent on free throws this past year, per Sports Reference. When he manages to find some space in the mid-range with that quick burst, his form and rhythm improve, and you can see the potential for future shooting prowess.
And more importantly, I’m willing to believe in someone as smart and advanced in his ball skills as Dotson. He even busted out a Curry-signature — faking one way with the jab, while simultaneously throwing the ball in the opposite direction to scoot by his defender.
It’s hard to see how non-shooters can fit with the Sixers, but this is also the team that finished 24th in the league in at-rim attempts, per Cleaning the Glass. Having a jitterbug slasher like Dotson who makes a living on knifing through lax defenses is worth taking a shot at with one of those early second-round picks.
Grant Riller, Charleston
I wouldn’t blame you if you hadn’t heard of Riller up until now. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard has spent four years playing in one of the weakest conferences in all of Division-I, and his Charleston team only made the NCAA Tournament once in his time there (although they did have a winning record all four years). In fact, Charleston has been so under the radar that Hoop-Math does not have any available data on Riller or anybody else on his team.
However, Riller has long been a popular name within Draft Nerd Twitter. His handles and scoring moves are as good as anyone in this class, and he averaged 21.9 points per game each of the last two years. The Cougars’ primary offense always involved Riller, as they liked to either isolate him at the top of the key or set him high ball screens and let him cook from there.
He’s a violent downhill finisher, conjuring up memories of Ja Morant with the way he combines in-and-out and behind-the-back moves with blazing speed and change of pace to put pressure on the rim.
Per Sports Reference, Riller shot 55.4 percent on all of his two-point shots this past season, which is already pretty good when you realize that guys like Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris only shot 48.9 percent and 52.1 percent respectively from two-point land this past season. But that percentage is even a drop-off from Riller’s two previous seasons, where he shot an ungodly 62.1 percent on all shots inside the 3-point line. That figure ranks far above Norman Powell’s 58.9 percent from the 2019-20 season, which was the highest mark among all NBA guards.
Riller’s percentage drop is likely due to the departure of teammate Jarrell Brantley, who has been playing on a two-way contract with the Jazz for the majority of the season. Without Brantley, defenses were completely geared towards stopping Riller, and while the numbers dropped, Riller still produced more often than not. He’s already in tune with all the savvy, high-difficulty moves that NBA players regularly make, like this Jordan-esque fake spin into baseline turn (minus the thunderous dunk, however).
Moves like that one sometimes take years for the NBA’s best to master. Riller will have it on day one.
In terms of his shooting skill, Riller isn’t a defense-bending threat, but he’s certainly not a liability. He shot 36.4 percent on 3s last season, 35.6 percent for his career, and has displayed good touch in other areas, like the free throw line where he shot 82 percent. His shot is a bit of a line drive, and he generally doesn’t take outside looks unless the defense has backed up into the paint in order to prevent his drive, but Riller is more than capable of making them pay if they do so.
To me, Riller’s shot-creation weakness is not found in his shooting. Rather, it’s found in how he performs against longer and better athletes. Take, for example, his game against VCU, which wasn’t any great team, but had much more overall talent than any other team Charleston faced in the CAA. Even though Riller played well and finished with 26 points in that game, there were instances when the superior athletes of VCU made it hard for him to get to his spots. In the first clip below, he was forced to pass out of an open-lane opportunity, and he flat out commits a travel in the second one.
This is the key difference between him and Dotson. Dotson might get disrespected as a shooter in a way that Riller will not, but sometimes this doesn’t even matter for Dotson, as he can pretty much get to any spot he wants at any time due to his Sonic the Hedgehog speed. Riller is plenty fast, but he’s not on the same speed demon plane, and might struggle when encountering the quick twitch defenders that populate the perimeters in the NBA.
In terms of comparisons, I have to show you something from @youngwizzyDFS’s App that’s made its way through the Draft Twitter Labyrinth over the last few weeks. For some, it brought hardy laughs, for others an, “I told you so!”, and to many, it brought a drop of the jaw.
Yes, Riller and Harden had similar collegiate stats. And no, Riller will not one day become Harden, but that doesn’t make this a completely irrelevant statistical anomaly that we should just kick to the curb. I think it shows Riller’s high level of skill, as almost no player in the NBA has a mastery of all the in-and-outs of the game like Harden. Both of them take their natural talent to its full potential due to the way they manipulate footwork and defender’s reactions, and the result is great space-creation for themselves on a consistent basis. I was even able to find a couple of stepbacks in Riller’s game film, and even if he just goes 1-of-2 in these shots, what’s more important is just how much distance he creates from his defender.
(UPDATE: Wizzy has since updated his comparison app to include age, which for Riller, now concludes that he resembles Fred Jones more than Harden. A harrowing conclusion to be sure.)
There’s a reason Riller didn’t make the top-30 of my Big Board 1.0. The parts of his game outside of unassisted scoring are very poor in my opinion, but he excels in the shot-creating area, and it’s that area where the Sixers need help the most. Keep an eye on Riller whenever the draft finally rolls around.
Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois
By far the tallest of all the prospects in this series, Dosunmu stands at 6-foot-5, while weighing a surprisingly light 185 pounds. In terms of specifically replicating what Jimmy Butler brought to the 2018-19 Sixers, he might have the best chance of any of these prospects, simply due to his plus size. Of course, he’s not going to be as good as Butler, but we forget sometimes just how important it is to be tall in the NBA. (Editor’s Note: Elton Brand never forgot.) The days of 7-footers dominating everything may be long gone, but it’s still preferable to have a creator in the 6-foot-5 to 6-foot-9 range, rather than having him be barely taller than the average male.
If you thought Dotson’s at-rim finishing was surreal, then Dosunmu’s will practically blow your mind, as he converted a ridiculous 71.8 percent of his shots at the rim this past year, with 65.7 percent of those being unassisted makes that he created. He has a knack for using long strides to get his shoulder past the defender as he glides to the rim, and if smaller players are stuck on him, they stand little chance at stopping him from getting off layups.
While Dosunmu has never been considered a top-tier prospect worthy of a first-round pick, he became one of the darlings of college basketball fans this past year as he helped guide Illinois to what would have been their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013. Particularly, they appreciated his flair for the moment. Illinois head coach Brad Underwood repeatedly called on Dosunmu to deliver in the clutch, and time and time again, Dosunmu delivered. Probably his most notable moment was the Iso-game winner he hit over Zavier Simpson to down Michigan.
In that clip above, Dosunmu relies on guile, hesitation moves, and patience to score, rather than supreme quickness or varied combo-moves. He knows that he can’t pull off the same moves as shorter guards due to his proximity to the ground, but he turns that deficiency into a strength, not forcing something with which he knows he struggles.
However, the wisdom he has to not overextend himself with ball-handling and trips to the paint does not extend to his shot selection. He’s a historically efficient at-rim finisher, yet those shot types only made up 35.1 percent of his total shot profile. In contrast, a whopping 40.7 percent of his shots were two-point jumpers, which he only shot 39.7 percent on, and 24.2 percent were 3s, which he shot a ghastly 29.6 percent on.
If you look closely at those clips above, you’ll see that there are inherent problems in his form. He puts the ball directly in front of his face and eyes at his release point, and does not keep his right elbow properly tucked, while his awkward knee bend certainly can’t be improving his rhythm and flow.
So yeah, Dosunmu isn’t a good shooter right now and maybe never will be, but what I do buy in his game is his ability to create shot opportunities when called upon. That size and smooth handle is such a valuable weapon for being able to get a shot off when closely contested by the defense. And hey, that high volume of mid-rangers he took means that we do have a large collection of clips where he did manage to generate good rhythm and make opponents pay for backpedaling too hard against his drives.
There was even some promising off-the-dribble 3 creation Dosunmu displayed last season. He used his long reach to bring the ball all the way forward, putting his defender on his heels, before snatching him with a nasty cross and rising into a quick release for the mini-stepback 3.
However, it’s important to note that once again this plus in Dosunmu’s game is balanced by a perplexing negative. He can’t always get to the rim for his silky smooth finishes due to his slower, gregarious dribbling style, and sometimes he would not be able to separate enough after creating his first edge, resulting in a rejection, as he’s not an exceptional vertical leaper either.
Dosunmu was, and continues to be, a very hard prospect to evaluate. There are some rock-solid aspects of his game that will translate immediately to the next level, and others that are such great concerns that they might entirely outweigh the positives. Fortunately for us, we’ve still got one more triad of players to cover before it’s all put into context, and we determine which of them is truly the best on-ball creator the Sixers could acquire in this draft.