When the Kings waived Chima Moneke last week, it was clear a roster move was imminent.
Commenting on the roster move, head coach Mike Brown said the extra spot would give the team the opportunity to “take a look at this guy or that guy.”
Well, it did not take too long after for the Kings to sign guard and former Denver Nugget PJ Dozier to a 10-day contract with the intent to evaluate what he can provide from the group.
Dozier is a long 6’6″ guard with a 6’11” wingspan that is regarded for his defensive talent, which comes as little surprise given the defensive struggles that have plagued this team for the better part of the last month. What’s more, assistant coach Jordi Fernandez was with him in Denver and is familiar with his game.
While the primary issue for Sacramento on that end of the floor centers around paint protection (the Kings were allowing over 60 paint points per game in the 10 contests before Monday’s victory), Dozier—rather than a traditional rim protector—can still potentially give the Kings a needed hand as they try to restore the efficacy of their “five guys on a string” defense.
So after making his Sacramento debut in garbage time on Monday without much to show for it, people are wondering who exactly is PJ Dozier?
Coming out of South Carolina after two years, Dozier went undrafted in 2017. That summer he participated on the Lakers’ Summer League team, signed with the Mavericks before being waived, and wound up on a two-way deal with the Thunder, spending most of his time in the G League.
For his second professional season, he signed a two-way deal with Boston, making the All-G League team, which is essentially the equivalent of being a G League all-star. In 46 games that season for the Maine Celtics, Dozier averaged 21.1 points on 45.6% from the field and 31.1% from deep with 6.6 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 1.2 steals per contest.
Plus, Dozier was able to don the retired #35 for the Celtics to honor his late cousin Reggie Lewis, whom the jersey number was retired in honor of.
However, that following summer, Boston refused to extend him.
After participating on Philadelphia’s Summer League team, the Denver Nuggets inked him to a two-deal. Though he began the 2019-20 season in the G League, the second half of the year had him up in the NBA. A real opportunity in the rotation arose because Jamal Murray hurt his ankle in mid January 2020. Filling in for him, Dozier immediately impressed, even becoming a shot in the arm for his head coach in the playoffs.
He was so impressive, in fact, that Denver converted his two-way deal to a multi-year NBA contract, after which he appeared in 50 games for the Nuggets during the 2020-21 campaign.
In those 50 appearances, Dozier averaged 7.7 points on 41.7% from the field and 31.5% from deep with 3.6 boards and 1.8 steals in 21.8 minutes per game.
But again, it was mainly about what he brought on the other side of the ball. According to one Nuggets analyst, of all players that logged at least 10 appearances and at least 20 minutes per game, Dozier 4th in the league defensively with a stellar 102.5 rating.
It’s no wonder that when he went down with a groin injury in May 2021, the Nuggets defense began to struggle, making a playoff push impossible. As that same analyst wrote, “Dozier’s defense would have been a welcomed sight against Devin Booker, Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Chris Paul.”
But nevertheless Denver had a defensive talent that seemed to be blooming.
That is until PJ Dozier tore his ACL 18 games into the 2021-22 season. Sidelined for the remainder of it, Denver included him in a three-team trade where he was sent Boston before again being traded to Orlando, where he was subsequently waived.
After being cleared for basketball activities this summer, he joined Minnesota’s training camp on an Exhibit 10 contract and played for their G League Iowa Wolves before taking the pen to the 10-day deal offered by Sacramento.
Once shoot around ended on Monday ahead of the Magic game, the 6’6″ guard was asked about what expectations or goals he has for these next 10 days.
“Just come in and play my role,” Dozier explained. “Do what I know I can do at a very high level, which is defend multiple positions, knock down shots when I’m open, and whatever it’s going to take to help this team get wins.”
On the idea of plugging right in, he cited his familiarity with the system due to his connection with Fernandez, who he referred to as “my guy.”
Defensively, Dozier should be a useful commodity (look at KZ Okpala). It really just depends how well and how smoothly he fits in.
Offensively is where questions remain.
But as Dozier himself said, he knows one of his main roles is to hit the open shots, and he actually does that quite well. As Will Z. Stats pointed out after the news of his 10-day deal, Dozier converted 43.8% of his wide open three’s last season.
He’s not only capable of hitting the open looks that fall his way, but James Ham asked him a great question that pertains to how he could fit in Sacramento’s offense. Ham wondered whether Dozier’s experience playing with Nikola Jokic will overlap when it comes to playing with Domantas Sabonis.
Dozier characterized the prior experience with a passing big as something that will help “a lot,” noting his excitement to play with another talented big.
Even if it is a 10-day deal, PJ Dozier will have the chance to show something.