We last looked at Marcus Dove back in October, when we had an opportunity to analyze the entirety of his junior season. Two things were very apparent about the senior at that point: he was one of the best overall defensive players in the country, and he was a non-existent offensive factor. With a little more than half of his senior campaign under his belt, not much has changed defensively, Dove is still a force; but we have begun to see some decent progress on the offensive side of the ball.
The biggest change in Doves play this year has been his level of aggressiveness with the basketball. Previously he was resigned to screen for teammates and to serve as a safety valve if the offense became stagnant, as a result, Dove attempted just over three shots a game and he was very predictable with the ball. The senior has become much more of a scoring threat this year, though, thanks to the work he put in in the offseason, and his increased inclination to attack with the ball. Dove has more than doubled his scoring average from 4.7 a year ago to 10.4 this season, and while his shooting percentage has dropped from 58% to 45%, this is directly related to the senior now taking over eight shots per game.
Perhaps the biggest knock against Dove throughout his career has been his poor ball-handling skills. While he shows great quickness for a player his size, he rarely can beat defenders off the dribble due to the lack of comfort he has handling the basketball. Once in a while, he will be able to take a slower frontcourt player to the basket, but only if he has a straight line to the hoop. Dove certainly hasnt shown a drastic improvement in his dribbling skills this season (his turnovers have actually increased slightly), but he has added a spin move to his arsenal when attacking the basket that allows him to get closer to the rim while on the move. In the past, he was often forced to pull up and elevate over defenders for very difficult, off balance shots, but now through hard work Dove has added this spin move and a jump hook which he finishes with a fair amount of consistency. With his length and pretty good leaping ability, this is a tough move for most defenders to stop either because of a size or quickness mismatch for Dove.
Dove has also improved his touch around the basket. He seems to have spent a decent amount of time in the off-season working on his mid-range game, and while he hasnt shown a lot of ability to pull up and shoot off the dribble, Dove is now able to elevate and finish the occasional runner in the lane when he cant get his spin move off. He is also showing an improvement in his body control when he gets into the lane. While in the past, Dove would merely throw up an awkward shot when heavily contested by defenders, from time to time now he shows the ability to maneuver around opponents to get a better shot off.
While there have been some gradual and subtle improvements to Doves game, there is still a tremendous amount to be desired from an NBA scouts standpoint. Dove is not a perimeter shooting threat, while his percentage has improved this year, he still lacks ideal mechanics. His release is long and slow, and as a result his release point isnt consistent. This also means he needs a fair amount of room to get his shot off, and since he is solely a catch and shoot player beyond the arc, he doesnt get a lot of looks. Dove also still needs to improve his ability to create shot opportunities for himself. He still isnt a threat to pull up off the dribble, and when he does put the ball on the floor it almost a guarantee he is driving right to the basket. Dove has a pretty good back to the basket game for a player primarily out on the perimeter, but at this point his only real move is his jump hook, which he hasnt even perfected yet. At the next level where he often might have the opportunity to take smaller players into the paint with his back to the hoop, Dove will need to further develop this part of his game to be an inside and outside threat.
Defensively, Dove is still a standout. He is able to guard both small forwards and power forwards, proving to be effective against both kinds of players. His length combined with his quickness and aggressiveness makes him a headache for perimeter players; his great anticipation and quick hands have also led to more than two steals per game for Dove. Where he has made some improvements on the defensive side of the ball have been with his physical abilities. At just 215, Dove is fairly thin, and while he hasnt bulked up much since last season, it is apparent that he has gotten stronger. Bigger post players in the past have been able to back him down with a fair amount of ease, forcing Dove to rely on his timing to alter or block shots. From what weve seen this season, though, he is able to hold his ground a little better against stronger players. While bigger bodies (like Blake Griffin on Monday night) will still be able to push Dove around, he is making it harder on opponents than in seasons past.
The increased offensive output this season can only help Dove. He was already considered an intriguing prospect simply because of his athletic frame and strong defensive abilities. At the next level, he will likely be asked to guard small forwards and hybrid power forwards (ala Travis Outlaw, Tyrus Thomas, Shawn Marion), a task he should be able to handle. While he by no means at this point shows the ability to be a consistent scoring option in the NBA, the strides he is making this season are certainly encouraging. Adding a consistent spot-up jumper from the corner (think Bruce Bowen) might be all that it takes now to keep him in the league for years to come. While Oklahoma States play so far will likely keep Dove from showcasing his abilities in the NCAA Tournament, he will get the opportunity to do so at events like the Portsmouth Invitational and the NBA Pre-Draft camp in May.