PJ Dozier: From Child Prodigy to Boston Celtics Guard
Boston Celtics sign PJ Dozier to a two-way contract.
On August 21st, 2018, the Boston Celtics announced that they had signed guard PJ Dozier to a two-way contract. The deal was disclosed weeks ago, but not made official until yesterday’s signing.
Dozier grew up in a basketball family. Perry and Terry Dozier, PJ’s father and uncle, respectively, led Baltimore’s Dunbar High School to a national championship (in case you’re curious, yes, PJ’s first name is Perry).
Both went onto playing at the University of South Carolina. Perry’s playing career was cut short by injury, but Terry had a successful career. He had a brief nine-game stint playing for the Charlotte Hornets in the 1989-1990 season. He then played international basketball for twelve years and won three defensive player of the year awards in the Australian NBL, per Aussie Hoopla.
Perry and Terry religiously trained PJ and his big sister, Asia. Asia would go onto a four-year collegiate career at South Carolina, where she helped the team to a 121-18 four-year record and won Gatorade Player of the Year honors en route to two state titles. PJ and Asia played “relentless” games of one-on-one in the family driveway as children.
“She (their mother) actually restricted us from playing one another for a while. The games would almost always end in tears, usually PJ’s. He’s accustomed to winning and he’s always had that ‘failure isn’t an option’ attitude, so I didn’t have to say much. The end result would be enough for the tears.” — Asia Dozier, ESPN, 2016.
Perry lied about his son’s age when entering him in leagues and tournaments so he could play with boys two years his senior, as detailed by ESPN in 2016. This way, he figured, PJ would sharpen his teeth against tougher competition and avoid being trained as a big man, when his natural position was guard. When PJ went on a tour of tournaments in the summer leading up to fifth grade, he played with kids his age for the first time. The Hoop Scoop ranked him as the best fifth grader in the nation, per pjdozier.net, a fan website that has been chronicling Dozier’s journey since the beginning. He was 10 years old.
“There might be expectations that are unreachable, or there are worries about getting injured or anything that could possibly take this game away. But he’s a very mature young man.”
— Perry Dozier Sr., March 2009, New York Times. PJ was in sixth grade.
He signed his first autograph when he was in fourth grade. He was projected as the top prospect for the class of 2015 when he was in sixth grade. He played for the junior NBA national team in an exhibition during All-Star weekend that year, and stayed in the same hotel as Oscar Robertson, Julius Erving, and Dominique Wilkins. They told him to stay humble through it all.
The accolades kept coming in his high school and college career. He earned a spot on the McDonald’s All-American Boys Game roster in his senior year of high school, even though he lost his junior year when he had his torn ACL surgically repaired. He had been playing on it for years. The 21st best recruit in his class, per ESPN, then followed his family legacy at South Carolina. He helped lead them to an improbable Final Four appearance in his sophomore season.
Coming into the 2017 draft, Dozier was recognized for having an elite set of physical tools. He checks in at 6’7 with shoes, 201 pounds, with a 6’11 wingspan. For comparison, Tyreke Evans checked in at 6’5, 221 pounds, with a 6’11.25 wingspan, which was at the time the longest wingspan for any point guard measured at the combine.
Chris Dortch of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook wrote that Dozier has high basketball IQ, attacks the rim, is a good passer, and is an aggressive defender. Jonathan Givony at DraftExpress wrote that Dozier moves with impressive fluidity and bounce, shows flashes of solid court vision, and is shifty getting to the rim. He is not an individual shot creator, can be turnover-prone, and his ball handling is a work in progress. He shot just 30 percent from deep in his final college season on 3.9 attempts per game, and his lack of a midrange shot and his 60 percent free throw shooting are not encouraging.
He projects as a disruptive defender. He averaged 2.3 steals per 40 minutes in his sophomore season, and was known for using his length to smother ball handlers. Givony wrote that he stayed engaged both on and off the ball (a rarer thing than a casual observer might appreciate, especially for a college kid).
He showed no athletic impairment from his high school injuries at the Combine. He demonstrated a 34 inch no-step vertical (97th percentile historically), a 39 inch max vertical (92nd percentile historically), and a 3.15 3/4 court sprint (91st percentile historically), all of which ranked in the top ten of the combine, per DraftExpress.
Dozier went undrafted and, after bouncing around a bit, signed a two-way contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, but played only two games with them. He played 43 games for their G-League affiliate, averaging 13 ppg on 46 percent shooting. He demonstrated an improved shot – 34% from deep and 65 percent from the line. He rebounded well and grabbed a few steals, but still had a poor assist to turnover ratio – 1.12.
As a two-way contract player, Dozier will be able to spend up to 45 days with the Boston Celtics next season. He will likely spend most of the year with the Maine Red Claws.
Dozier wore number 35 while with the Thunder in honor of his second cousin, Celtics great Reggie Lewis. Lewis played six seasons for the Boston Celtics from 1987-1993 before passing away suddenly at the age of 27. It is unclear whether Dozier will continue to wear Lewis’s number 35, which the Celtics retired in 1995.
There are three combo-guards coming off the bench in front of Dozier in the rotation: Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, Jabari Bird, and likely Brad Wanamaker. He’ll also be competing with Walt Lemon Jr., Boston’s other two-way contract point guard. Look for Dozier to make a couple of appearances on the Boston Celtics squad, while hopefully doing enough in Maine to become an interesting future option.
Also look for funny but predictable comments the first night Perry Dozier Sr., Perry Dozier Jr., Terry Dozier, and Terry Rozier are in the Garden together.