They Smell Like the Future: Dexter Pittman

Posted by Rob Mahoney on June 21, 2010 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

Photo by Andrew Synowiez/US Presswire.

Texas senior
6’11.5”, 303 lbs (Combine measurements)
22 years old
Center
Projection: Second rounder/undrafted

Dexter Pittman is one of the few second round prospects that was able to dominate his opposition physically in college and may actually be able to do the same in the pros. Standing at about seven feet tall and a whopping 300+ lbs., Pittman was and is a giant. Yet even that strength acts as something of a curse; though Pittman can bully his way into position down low, his weight puts a huge limitation on both his minutes and effectiveness.

Conditioning was the one consistent theme during Pittman’s four years at Texas. He arrived in Austin as a mini cruise liner and is leaving as a smallish yacht, but Dexter still has a long way to go before his body is NBA ready. In the meantime, a team could have a center that can score a few easy buckets in the post, but if any team expects Pittman to play more than a few minutes at a time, they’ll be in for a big surprise. Dex had trouble keeping up with the pace of the college game, particularly late in the season. That doesn’t bode well for his ability to stay involved in the far faster NBA (with a far longer season, to boot), and barring a substantial weight change, Pittman will finish his NBA career the same way he started his collegiate one: as a prospect with indisputable physical gifts and solid basketball skills but denied relevance by the reading on the scale.

It’s not that Dexter’s post moves are all that great, but his physique is imposing enough to clear out all kinds of space. Pittman could be the next to inherit the Baby Shaq throne, but such a moniker would come without a number of asterisks. Dex lacks O’Neal’s sophistication or explosion, which partially explains the teensy difference between being a No. 1 pick/four-time champ/hall-of-famer and a guy who may not even be drafted. He also lacks the mobility to ever be the defensive force Shaq was earlier in his career, even if Pittman’s block rate during his senior season was impressive. Ultimately, we’re left with an empty equivalent, with quasi-O’Neal size but little of what made Shaq into one of the greats.

Elite scoring? Nuh-uh. Pittman can be great offensively in spots, but even at his best he’s doing fairly rudimentary post work with 300+ lbs. behind it. The rebounding? Sub-par, honestly. Dexter was a great collegiate offensive rebounder, but his defensive rebounding is a bit Eddy Curry-esque. There are flaws in Pittman’s game that go beyond his weight issues, and most of them will never be resolved.

Should Pittman continue to shed pounds (his collegiate weight drop is relatively well-documented), he could become an effective NBA player. It’s tough to say exactly what Pittman’s role would be in a league that continues to shift toward speed and versatility over size and specialization, but I find it hard to believe that centers of Pittman’s ilk have completely gone the way of the dinosaur. Even if Dexter lives out his career as a situational counter to the Dwight Howards and Yao Mings of the world, he’ll have served his purpose. Of course to do that, he’ll need to be able to play more than a few possessions at a time, which is going to require some body work.

The biggest obstacle in Pittman’s career will be his ability to stay on the court. If he can lower his body fat to a reasonable level, work on his defense, and continue to refine his low-post game, he could have a long and fruitful NBA career. If not, someone will pay him to play basketball somewhere, even if it’s just to beat up on opposing centers in Russia or the D-League.

2009-2010 Traditional Per Game and Per 40 Minute Stats:

PTSREBASTTOBLKFG%3FG%
Per Game10.45.90.51.81.9.654.000
Per 4021.912.31.03.73.9------

2009-2010 Per Possession Stats (Offense):

TS%eFG%ORB%TO%AST%FTRUSG%
63.865.416.520.45.063.024.5

2009-2010 Per Possession Stats (Defense):

STL%BLK%DRB%
1.08.915.3

Other People:

Jonathan Givony, Draft Express: “Dexter Pittman is quite a unique physical specimen in his own right, measuring 6-9 ½ without shoes, with a 7-6 wingspan. He also has the biggest hands in this draft (a new stat) at 10.5 inches. The fact that Pittman tips the scale at over 300 pounds and measuring nearly 21% body fat (fourth highest in history after Chris Marcus, Oliver Miller and James Lang) tells us that he still has a long ways to go with his conditioning. But if he’s willing to commit himself, he could carve out a long and lucrative professional career.”

Ben Polk, A Wolf Among Wolves: “Pittman has a soft voice and a charming, agreeable demeanor. When asked about the trait he would most like to impress upon potential coaches and GM’s he offered, “my hungriness,” which sounds really, really hungry. On the grueling whirlwind of cross-country workouts–Miami on Saturday, Minneapolis on Sunday, Oklahoma City on Monday–he quipped that he was on “a nationwide tour like Michael Jackson”…On the court, though, that soft voice turned into a bellow as he battered and bruised his fellow pro hopefuls. Like Whiteside, Pittman didn’t seem particularly comfortable more than ten feet from the basket, but when he got any closer than that he had a pretty easy time bullying his way to the rim, smiling and yelling all the way.”

Chad Ford, ESPN.com: “Dexter Pittman has always been a favorite of GMs. He has a ton of talent, soft hands and good athleticism. The question has always been his conditioning. In New Jersey, he drew repeated praise for how hard he worked. I get the sense that GMs want to find a way to take this guy. If they get him in the right conditioning program, he could be a monster down the road.”

Supplementary Materials:

Stats courtesy of Draft Express and Stat Sheet.