Remember the first month of the season? In retrospect, it feels like multiple alternate dimensions converged on the Cleveland Cavaliers. They started the year 3–0, got eaten alive by a mega-mutant injury bug, heavily featured Andre Drummond, and yet by some miracle(s) still managed to finish January around .500.
One of those miracles is named Damyean Dotson. With Collin Sexton and Darius Garland playing tag-team against the injury report and original backup plan Matthew Dellavedova out with a concussion, Dotson Flex Sealed the backcourt to help keep the Cavs above water. Dotson’s January numbers (just under 10 points and 3 assists per game) aren’t especially sparkly, but there was a two-week stretch (January 9–24) during which he consistently scored in double figures and played north of 30 minutes per night—and the Cavs were winning, to boot.
In theory, Dotson is exactly what the Cavs need. They need size and depth in the backcourt; Dotson is 6’5” and can soak up minutes at either guard spot. They need someone outside of SexLand with some off-the-dribble juice; Dotson can squeeze out just enough to keep the offense from starving. That’s a great value at $2 million per year.
Dotson’s first season in Cleveland wasn’t quite as smooth as his theoretical fit, though. That’s largely because his stroke abandoned him. Dotson was never exactly a Hawkeye-level marksman, but during his stint with the New York Knicks, you could usually count on Dotson to be a league-average three-point shooter. Last season, his field goal percentage from deep (28.9) was almost six full points below his career average (34.6). What’s more, a good chunk of the threes Dotson did make were assisted (90(!!!) percent(!!!), per Cleaning the Glass)—typically, bench spark plugs create shots for themselves and others, not the other way around.
That’s bleak! But if you look hard enough, there are still reasons to believe Dotson could be a contributor moving forward. Despite his shot disappearing, Dotson shot extremely well at the basket (85th percentile) and from midrange (75th percentile)—and unlike his threes, most of his interior buckets were self-created (71st percentile. And as the Cavs’ roster improves, whether from within or from the outside, so too should Dotson’s shot diet.
Still, it’s hard to feel like the Cavs have a spot for him moving forward. Really, it didn’t really seem like they had one for him last season. After January—which is roughly when the Cavaliers started getting healthy again—Dotson’s playing time was cut nearly in half. He reached double-figure scoring fewer times in the four months following that January stretch as he did during it. It’s telling that his most prominent showings occurred when the roster was either ravaged by injuries or trying to avoid any end-of-season catastrophes. The Cavs’ dearth of guards means Dotson could still see some minutes next season. But ideally, they’ll have better options off the bench by the time training camp tips off.