A quick glance at Dewayne Dedmon’s individual numbers make him seem like a typical backup NBA center.
Dedmon entered Saturday night’s matchup against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center averaging 5.3 points and 4.9 rebounds in 14.2 minutes per game this season for the Miami Heat.
But a deeper look at the numbers reveal that Dedmon’s impact is larger than what it seems at the surface as starting center Bam Adebayo’s backup. Dedmon, 32, owns a team-best plus/minus of plus-99 and the Heat has outscored teams by 17.8 points per 100 possessions when he has been on the court this season.
“He has been so vital to our team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He’s a big big, as Pat [Riley] likes to say, and he makes his presence felt. Defensively, he’s one of our best communicators, if not our best communicator. He’s big at the rim. He protects the rim. He gives us a different kind of feel at that center position than Bam. And he has a great knack for the ball — offensive rebounding, sliding into open spots, making himself available so he can finish in the paint. And he has a good touch for a big. We couldn’t be happier with the minutes and productivity he’s giving from that position.”
Dedmon took over as the Heat’s backup center shortly after he signed in April last season and provided much-needed quality minutes when Adebeyo went to the bench then, too. Those minutes had been a negative before he was signed late last season, but the Heat outscored opponents by 17.1 points with Dedmon on the court last regular season.
Dedmon, who has started 197 regular-season games during his nine-year NBA career, is enjoying his role as Adebayo’s backup.
“It’s just fun basketball, man,” said Dedmon, who signed a one-year minimum contract as a free agent this past offseason to return to the Heat. “Just come in, give it my all no matter how many minutes I’m going to play. Whether its 10, 15, 20, just play as hard as I can. So just having fun with it.”
What’s Dedmon’s primary goal with the Heat?
“Get as many rebounds as possible,” he said. “It’s just something that I’ve always kind of hung my hat on since I was young in the league. I used to talk to my trainer and my agent and stuff, and we used to talk about how elite rebounders average like one rebound every three minutes. So I try to do more than that, if I can. That’s what my focus is.”
Creating second-chance opportunities for the Heat and limiting second-chance opportunities for opponents are two ways Dedmon has managed to make a positive impact during his minutes off the bench.
Dedmon has statistically been the Heat’s best rebounder since he arrived in Miami. He posted a team-high rebounding percentage (the percentage of available rebounds a player grabs when he’s on the court) of 21 percent last season and also holds the team’s top offensive (11.2 percent), defensive (22.5 percent) and overall rebounding percentage (17.2 percent) this season.
“I think a huge strong suit of Dewayne is you just know what you’re going to get,” Heat forward Duncan Robinson said. “He’s going to communicate, he’s going to be vocal, he’s going to be physical, he’s going to set screens, he’s going to be unselfish, he’s going to rebound, he’s going to put pressure on the other team to box out and then also to protect the rim. He’s super consistent and he has definitely, in many games, given us a boost particularly just creating second chances and protecting the rim and that paint.”
The Heat has posted an eye-opening offensive rating of 120.5 points scored per 100 possessions while Dedmon has been on the court this season. Miami has scored only 104.8 points per 100 possessions while Dedmon has been on the bench.
Dedmon isn’t asked to score much, but his screening along with his rebounding help fuel the Heat’s offense. It also helps that most of his minutes come alongside the NBA’s leading bench scorer, as 231 of Dedmon’s 270 minutes this season have come with Tyler Herro.
“It’s very important, especially when you got Tyler Herro coming off the bench with you,” Dedmon said of screening. “Like I tell him, I’m setting the screens for you to get open so you can get the shot. That’s what you do. You score. You’re a scorer. So any time I can get him open to get to his moves or whatever he needs, it’s a successful play for me.”
Successful is also one way to describe Dedmon’s minutes with the Heat.
“I’m just trying not to have a lapse,” Dedmon said. “When Bam comes out, making sure our energy is still up, still be able to get that rim protection. So just trying to come in and play hard and back him up.”
DePaul hosted Max Strus Night during its home win over Northern Kentucky on Friday. Strus was honored in the first half and signed autographs for fans at halftime.
“It was humbling, it was gratifying to hear my name be called like that again, people yelling Strus,” Strus said to Bally Sports Sun while at the event. “It just means so much to me. I’ve met a lot of these fans personally and I care deeply about them because they’re loyal fans and they were here all the time to support me. So it’s nice to see them come for the team and they’re here for me and they keep continuing to support me throughout my journey.”
With the Heat in Chicago for Saturday’s game against the Bulls, Strus’ Heat teammates and coaches were at Wintrust Arena to support him Friday. Strus spent two seasons at DePaul (2017-19) after transferring from Lewis University following his sophomore season.
“People always ask about the Heat culture and the family, today is a true example of what it really is,” Strus said. “To have that support from them and for all these guys to be here today just for this little day of mine, I couldn’t ask for anything more from them.”
▪ Markieff Morris (whiplash), Marcus Garrett (G League) and Victor Oladipo (right knee injury recovery) remain out for the Heat on Saturday against the Bulls. Garrett was sent back to the Heat’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, as part of his two-way contract.