Dedric Lawson has somehow become one of the most underrated players in college basketball. Barely making it into the second round of NBA mock drafts, Lawson currently leads the Big 12 conference in scoring and rebounding per game at 19.6 and 10.6 respectively. Why isn’t Lawson a household name yet?
Where’d He Come From?
Lawson began his college career at University of Memphis as a highly touted recruit where Lawson was ranked 26th overall by ESPN recruiting rankings. Lawson was approached by many schools including Arkansas, Baylor, Georgetown, LSU, and Tennessee; however, Lawson eventually chose Memphis. Lawson was selected to the Mcdonald’s All-American Game in 2015 and had a great showing.
In his freshman season at Memphis, Lawson averaged 15.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game on a 42.2/70.9/35 shooting split and tied the Memphis record for most double-doubles by a freshman. He was named the AAC Rookie of the Year and was named to the Second-Team All-AAC. As a sophomore, Lawson improved his game and was named to the First-Team All-AAC, averaging 19.2 points and 9.9 rebounds per game on a 52/74.1/27 shooting split. As you can see, Lawson improved his overall field goal percentage and his free throw percentage while his three point shot greatly faltered.
After failing to make the NCAA tournament his first two seasons at Memphis, Lawson made the decision to transfer to Kansas following the 2016-17 season. Lawson, under NCAA rules, was forced to sit out the entire 2017-18 season. Luckily for Kansas and for Lawson, he picked up right where he left off and is averaging 19.6 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game on a 54.4/77/34 shooting split. All but his three point percentage are career highs. Lawson also adds 2 assists, a block, and a steal per game. Keep in mind that he is putting up these numbers against much better talent. The question becomes why is he so low on NBA draft boards?
There are three concerns NBA teams have with Lawson. One, he is undersized to play the 4 or 5 in today’s NBA. Secondly, he is not a good enough jump shooter to space the floor. Lastly, he will be 22 when the next NBA season begins. A perfect comparison for Lawson is Paul Millsap. In Millsap’s final year at Louisiana Tech, he averaged 19.6 points and 13.3 rebounds per game on a 57.8/62.3/0 split. As you can see, Millsap made it to the NBA without any three point shot at all. Lawson does not have that luxury. Lawson is listed at 6’9” 230, while Millsap was listed at 6’8” 245. For Lawson to catch on with an NBA team, he will not only need to be an average three point shooter, but he will have to competently guard opposing power forwards and be an above average rebounder.
NBA teams like drafting teenagers that they can mold and fit into their systems. With the exception of Rui Hachimura, you will be hard pressed to find anything but freshmen and sophomores on NBA Mock Drafts in the first round. Lawson will likely get drafted in the second round, and whatever team takes a chance on him will likely be rewarded. Lawson has a chance to greatly improve his draft stock in the NCAA tournament. He left Memphis and sat out an entire year just for this opportunity. You can trust that he understands what’s on the line.