MSU's Dawson is ready for transition to pros

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Chicago — After playing both forward positions at Michigan State in four seasons, Branden Dawson is making another shift.

Measured at 6-foot-51/2 without shoes at the NBA combine Thursday, Dawson is more of a fit at the small forward position than power forward. But his skill-set, without a reliable 3-point shot, will need more work if he is looking to make a successful transition.

"A lot of coaches and GMs were concerned about my position, moving from the 4 to the 3," Dawson said. "I've played the 3 my freshman and sophomore season and we had to make the adjustment."

With his upper-body strength and physique, Dawson could play in the post in college, and dominated against some bigger players in the Big Ten because of his power. In the NBA, that will be a rarity.

"I've been working on things like my ball-handling, decision making and shooting," Dawson said. "I just want to show people that the 3 for me is not something that I've never played. I can use that (strength) to my advantage. I can rebound and get out running the floor and doing things I can do."

In a five-on-five scrimmage, Dawson shot 3-for-11 and finished with six points. He played both forward positions and, at times, looked uncomfortable having to create his own shot.

"It's difficult with the plays and sets we run that we have to learn in a short time," he said. "They told us a lot of people would be out of position but I didn't let that affect me; I went out there and played. You have to be a team guy and fit in and not try to take every shot and play together."

Meeting the players

Pistons general manager Jeff Bower was helping evaluate players a little further than what the college and international scouts have done.

He was impressed by the prospects he met and interviewed — which by player accounts, included Arizona wing Stanley Johnson, Wisconsin forwards Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker and Texas big man Myles Turner.

"Quality, quality young men off the court who were really impressive with the accomplishments as basketball players and their maturity and the way they handled themselves in the meetings," Bower said.

Bower said the Pistons, who have the No. 8 pick, will begin additional workouts next week after the final draft order is established. The draft lottery is Tuesday.

"Once the lottery gets locked into place, a lot of the agents will start to zero in and look at where you're going to pick and what's realistic for their clients," he said.

Surprise questions

The combine is known for unusual questions team officials ask prospects, checking to see if they can think on their feet and problem-solve without having to paper and pen handy.

"They asked me if I have $1.10 and you have to buy a baseball and a baseball bat," Arizona's Rondae Hollis-Jefferson said. "The bat costs $1 more than the ball; how much does the ball cost?"

The answer is that the ball costs 5 cents and the bat costs $1.05.

In an interview setting, though, that response doesn't come as easily.

"I didn't say anything," Hollis-Jefferson said. "I said, 'Bring it back ... what happened?' "