PJ Dozier could have an exciting comeback this year

This summer, the Minnesota Timberwolves recruited a handful of experienced veterans to help bolster the depth of their roster. Minnesota’s success last year allowed them to become a more attractive place for free agents to sign. As a result, they were able to add some very talented actors to the team. PJ Dozier is one of the veterans they signed, and he kind of slipped under the radar.

Dozier is a talented combo guard from South Carolina who grew up in a basketball family. PJ’s father, Perry, uncle Terry, and sister Asia played basketball at the University of South Carolina. Terry then played in the NBA for one season and several other international basketball leagues. With their help, PJ honed his skills at a young age. PJ got his start in competition playing intense one-on-one matches with Asia, who knew the commitment it took to become a successful athlete. By ESPN’s Dana O’Neil, Asia pushed PJ to work harder than anyone else in the family.

Perry coached PJ for much of his life. He sometimes stretched the truth about PJ’s age, saying he was two years older so PJ could compete in youth leagues and tournaments with older kids. O’Neil wrote that Perry did this so that “PJ would not only be challenged by the older, bigger boys, but also avoid being typecast and stuffed into the post from the first day he touched a ball. because he was so much bigger than the kids his age.”

All the hard work paid off. PJ is now a big guard in the NBA and played major minutes as a role player during the Denver Nuggets’ run to the Western Conference Finals in 2020. However, his road to success came with his just share of injury-related bumps.

Dozier tore her ACL and MCL at secondary school. He immediately underwent surgery on his MCL, but not his ACL because doctors cleared him to play on it and feared the surgery would stunt his growth. Dozier played through the pain for several years before getting it fixed before going to college. Playing despite injury is overly glorified in sports, as it can often be harmful to long-term health. Either way, this story revealed just how tough Dozier is and how much effort he put into achieving his dream no matter what obstacles stood in his way.

Last year, Dozier suffered another tragic ACL tear after establishing himself as an important part of the Nuggets’ rotation and likely getting a nice contract extension. As a result of those unfortunate injuries, PJ hasn’t had a chance to show the NBA what he can really do after developing his skills under the Nuggets’ talented coaching staff.

However, he is healthy again after reconstructive surgery and rest. If he can stay healthy, Dozier has the chance to wow Wolves fans and team bosses alike with a comforting return to a side with Championship aspirations. Just a few weeks under 26, PJ is still young. He’s about to enter the age range where NBA players have historically peaked. The best years of his career may still be ahead.

What is Dozier’s potential with Wolves?

While Dozier’s tally stats might not go off the page, his impact on the field was felt by his former Nuggets teammates, who praised his play. After the Nuggets’ loss to the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs last year, Nikola Jokic pointed out that the team missed the presence of Dozier in the field with Murray and Michael Porter Jr., who was unable to play due to injury. “People forget we lost PJ,” Jokic said. “PJ was injured. I think he played an important role in our basketball. The six foot guy, I don’t know, seven, eight, nine, ten, whatever. He is tall. He can handle the ball, keep several positions. He knows our system. I think we miss him.

Jokic’s quote aptly describes both Dozier’s versatility as a player and how important he was to the Nuggets. Teammates probably know more about each other’s games than anyone because they play together in practice. In this environment, role players can show off more of their skills in scrums than in a regular season game setting with rigid roles and rotations for players. The immense respect Dozier gets from Jokic suggests there’s more to Dozier’s game than what we’ve seen.

With Minnesota’s roster full of talent this year, Dozier can break through as he plays a role Wolves need. Listed at 6’6″, 205 pounds, PJ is tall for a combo guard and known for his good perimeter defense. His height gives him an advantage over smaller guards and can make him one of the best options on the bench for defensive assist, especially against other tall guards like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. It may even help him get opportunities to play up to 3 as a wing defender, as he has the length to match many players in that position. Dozier is also an elite off-ball defender, which DNVR Sports highlights in this breakdown of the film.

Dozier has also shown an ability to light up the scoreboard on offense when given the opportunity. In his first career start, Dozier scored a career-high 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting while delivering 3 assists and grabbing 7 rebounds.

While his three-point shooting percentage has hovered around 32% for his career, he has a great shot and has shown his ability to warm up. If that percentage increases a bit, he can be a serious threat as a 3 and D winger. Wolves also only have two ‘traditional’ point guards on the roster in D’Angelo Russel and Jordan McLaughlin. Therefore, Dozier’s ball handling skills can be extremely useful for the team, especially if either player is resting on a back-to-back or has to miss a few games.

PJ brings a versatility to the roster that could be hugely useful for Wolves throughout the season. He also has an incredibly high ceiling to keep improving due to his physical tools, intelligence, and age. Jamal Murray once called Dozier the funniest teammate he’s had, so we can expect him to bring smiles to the locker room. Given everything he’s been through, hopefully Dozier can come back strong from injury this season. Maybe he can use it as a springboard for a new contract and a long NBA career.

About Kimberly Alley

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