Dexter Dennis is visiting Indiana on April 18th and the impact that Dennis could have on the Hoosiers has been widely debated.
Jerod Morris wrote a piece in our community a few days ago. As Jerod notes in that piece, he and I had texted about Dennis and I’m in the camp that really likes what he can bring to IU.
But as Jerod also notes, Dennis is not without flaws. At the end of the day, your numbers are your numbers, but I do think film adds context to some numbers, so let’s dive in.
Dennis Around the Rim
Many have noted that Dexter Dennis was an inefficient offensive player and his 2-point percentage (particularly around the rim) was pretty bad. There’s absolutely no denying that.
Let’s dive into the film of every shot around the rim that Dennis took in 2021-22.
Dennis was 43% around the rim. Like I said, your numbers are your numbers. With that said, ten of these 30 attempts came off of offensive rebounds. In each of Dennis’ four seasons at Wichita State, he was top 25 in the conference in offensive rebounding percentage.
Off the Bounce
In the videos above, you’ll also see that several of Dennis’ misses that come off of the dribble were challenged shots at the rim. While it’s not good that he misses these, I think there’s something worth pointing out.
In each of these screengrabs on a missed shot at the rim, Dennis had broken somebody down off of the dribble, gotten into the paint, and drew multiple defenders. These are the exact type of plays that Indiana lacked.
While I understand the notion that Indiana needs ‘shooters’, that’s a pretty broad term. They had a guy in Parker Stewart last season that was 40% from beyond the arc. However, Stewart couldn’t create his own shot and others on the roster lacked the playmaking ability to create shots for him. Dennis has that ability.
Now, Dennis’ assist rate has never been anything to write home about. Part of that is from his shot selection – which I think can be coached. In situations where he draws two defenders, he should be kicking out, but he has shown the ability to create for others.
Part of his low assist rate can be attributed to his teammates not converting, as well. On his kickouts, his teammates converted just 0.57 points per possession last season, which was in the 9th percentile.
From what I’ve seen on film, I think it can be drilled in the offseason with Dennis on getting to the rim and being more of a distributor if he’s drawing two. With his playmaking ability, I really like that aspect that he can bring to the Indiana offense.
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There’s no denying that Dennis’ outside shooting has regressed each season he’s played. The numbers show that his freshman season he was 40% from deep, sophomore 34%, junior 34%, and his senior year he was just 30%.
When looking at Dexter Dennis’ three-point shooting in-conference, he was 40% in 2019, 39% in 2020, 33% in 2021, and 33% in 2022. A 33% clip still would have been the fourth-best percentage for the Hoosiers this past season.
But I wanted to look deeper at what could be causing this shooting regression over a large sample size of data.
The first thing I wanted to look at were the mechanics on Dennis’ shot. Was something completely different mechanically his senior season vs. his freshman year?
In the above video, the first clip is from his freshman season and the second is from this past season. As you can tell, his shot hasn’t changed much mechanically to cause such a dip.
As I looked deeper on Synergy, I found where a large portion of Dennis’ large dip came from his senior season at Wichita. On jumpshots, Synergy has two categories of ‘Guarded’ and ‘Unguarded.’
In his freshman season, Dennis was 26/69 on guarded jumpshots, which is almost 38%. In his senior season on those same shots, Dennis was 6/42 for 14%. That’s quite the dip and speaks more about shot selection to me than the ability to make shots. Dennis was much better hitting contested jumpers his freshman season, but the numbers from last year show that he’d be better suited to put the ball on the deck and make a play in many situations where he’s closely guarded and considering a jumpshot.
Now don’t get me wrong, shot selection is certainly part of being a player, but I think it’s something that can be taught in an offseason moreso than changing mechanics.
Dennis the Menace
I couldn’t pass up that sub-headline. Ha!
Dexter Dennis is a menace on the defensive end and can guard positions 1 through 4. He is 6’5 but has a 6’8 wingspan and uses both to his advantage defensively. In his last season with Wichita State, he was named the AAC Defensive Player of the Year.
Statistically, sometimes it’s hard to account for how good a player is on the defensive end. Dennis put up 24 blocks and 23 steals in his defensive player of the year campaign, but it was his lockdown, on-the-ball defense that helped win him the award.
In the video below, although it’s from last season, you can see Dennis guarding the future #1 pick in the draft, Cade Cunningham. Dennis held Cunningham to 10 points on 4-11 shooting, his second-lowest scoring output of last season.
His combination of size, length, and lateral quickness make opposing offensive players have off-nights more than not.
Dennis the Person
I remember seeing this story about Dennis from this past season that I thought was worth sharing. From everything I can tell, he seems like an awesome kid.
So why do I think Dennis is a positive addition to Indiana?
I think his playmaking ability will help open up others. Players that are able to make the defense shift & move on the offensive end help their teammates. Think about how when IU went more pick-and-roll heavy toward the end of the year and XJ was putting pressure on defenses and then making reads on when he should score or dump to TJD.
Now think about those videos above with Dennis driving and the opposing big man leaving TJD (if he comes back). That’s lob city.
I also think Dennis can be a formidable spot-up shooter. First of all, he’s proven at the college level that he can be. But second of all, he has great mechanics and knocks his free throws down at a great clip. Free throw shooting can often be a good indicator on if somebody can be a capable shooter.
And finally, Indiana’s bread and butter last season was its defense, and Coach Woodson really didn’t even have the type of guys that he wants to implement his true defensive ‘system.’ In Woody’s ideal world, he wants guys with length that can guard multiple positions. Check and check for Dennis.
Now I don’t want you to decode this and think that I am saying Dennis is turning IU from a first-round exit team to a final four team or anything of that sort. But what I am saying is that I think Dennis would be a positive addition in many ways to Indiana’s 2022-23 roster.
Enjoy this breakdown and want more like it? Join the IU Film Room in the Assembly Call Community. In the community, I provide game breakdowns, play breakdowns, player breakdowns (like this one), opponent scouting reports, and more! You also get to be part of an amazing community of other IU fans and discuss Indiana basketball on a deeper level.
Try it out here!