There's a very real argument to be made that Jordan Dickerson was Penn State's most important player not named D.J. Newbill in 2015. Playing in his first full season after becoming eligible in December 2013, the SMU transfer hasn't always had the easiest time at Penn State. The athletic seven-footer Nittany Lion fans had clamored for since the days of Calvin Booth*, Dickerson is what he is at this point: a defensive game-changer whose every field goal is a bonus. He certainly has the athleticism to do more on offense, but seeing as this summer will be his last offseason and former "big man coach" Brian Daly resigning, it's hard to envision Jordan suddenly developing a real back-to-the-basket game.
But for all the crap Pat Chambers and his coaching staff gets for their inability to develop big men (perhaps rightfully so), it's worth mentioning that Dickerson was one of the few players on a team that went 4-14 in the Big Ten who got objectively better over the course of conference play.
*Unless you count Ottzilla as an athletic seven-footer. I, uh, don't.
So yeah, Jordan is what he is at this point - a defensive menace around the rim and an afterthought on offense. But there was absolutely value in his minutes last season. It's no coincidence that Penn State climbed up defensive efficiency charts in conference play while Dickerson continued to improve. More on that below.
via Shot Analytics
Behold, the least necessary shot chart ever. Aww, look at that poor three-point miss up there all by himself.
Hey little buddy, you doin' okay?
If somebody can find the shot that dot represents on video (came against Marshall, apparently) please post it in the comments so we can all enjoy a hearty laugh at the office. Thanks.
Examining the categories in which he improved - specifically the increase in block percentage and the decrease in fouls per 40 minutes - it's probably fair to say that his basketball instincts became more fully formed as the season progressed. Six and a half fouls per 40 minutes is still not great, but when he's blocking shots at that rate - Dickerson's season average of 10% was good for 30th nationally, and 10.6% was second in the B1G - you can live with the fouls, especially considering he'll never play close to 40 minutes in a game. His season high was 28 minutes in the overtime loss against Iowa.
Still, most coaches would prefer to have a better rebounder at the five, and Dickerson hasn't shown that he's entirely dependable on the glass. It's possible that having Ross Travis around diminished J-Dick's numbers, but I don't think that's a likely explanation. The better explanation is that he's a below-average glass cleaner. Which could mean plenty of minutes for a Brandon Taylor-Mike Watkins-Dickerson frontcourt, assuming the freshman is the type of player we think he is.
vs. George Washington - 24 min, 4 pts (2-2 FG), 6 reb, 6 blk, 0 TOs, 2 fouls
Dickerson blew the game open with his six swats, including one that is likely the subject of GW freshman Yuta Wantanabe's nightmares. It remains the best example of the galvanizing effect Dickerson can have on Penn State when he's completely tuned in.
There's no real reason the Nittany Lions should take a big step back on defense in 2015-16. There's senior leadership to be found in the frontcourt and the addition of two athletic pests in Watkins and Josh Reaves should only enhance the team's defensive effectiveness, at least on paper. That's especially true if Dickerson can stay out of foul trouble and block shots with even more consistency.
Final Grade: B
Dickerson became a defensive weapon in 2015 and helped Penn State become one of the better defensive units in the Big Ten. Still, his offensive limitations will prevent him from ever reaching the NBA potential that any extra large man who can jump very high inherently possesses. So, again, he is what he is, and that's okay. Sounds like a rock solid B to me.