One thing you can say about Phoenix Summer League invite Zabian Dowdell: he has waited his turn. Dowdell played four years at Virginia Tech, and averaged 17.4 points during his senior year. Dowdell hoped to get picked in the 2007 NBA Draft, but he ended up going undrafted.
Instead of pouting and letting himself fade away, Dowdell went to Europe and devoted himself to improving his game: Dowdell said that the night he didn’t get drafted, he knew right away that he would make it to the NBA another way, and didn’t waste any time in trying to get there. Over the course of his first three seasons in Europe, Dowdell raised his scoring average from 9.4 to 11.2 to 19.5 points per game. After one more year spent with the D-League’s Tulsa 66ers and Spain’s Unicaja Malago, Dowdell was invited back to the Vegas by the Phoenix Suns, ready to prove that he’s finally ready to test his skills at the NBA level.
On Friday afternoon, Dowdell took a big step towards making an NBA roster next season. Even though the Suns lost to the Rockets’ squad, it was apparent that Dowdell was in complete control whenever he had the ball in his hands. He was patient in the half-court, and got the Suns into their offense smoothly.
When the Rockets backed off of Dowdell, he calmly pulled up and drained a smooth lefty jumper — after the game, Dowdell explained that he feels “insulted” whenever teams back off of him on the perimeter, and on Saturday he made the Rockets pay for their disrespect. When Dowdell had room to work in the open court, he used a smooth change-of-pace dribble to get by his man and get into the lane for a basket to dish off to a teammate.
What’s impressive about Dowdell isn’t his ability to make spectacular plays, but the fact he almost never takes a better play off the table. If the right play is to take a pull-up, he takes a pull-up. If the right play is to drive, he drives. If the shot isn’t there, he knows to get the ball to a teammate or re-set the offense. When contrasting Dowdell’s play with the out-of-control drives and quick-trigger jumpers that most Summer League guards seem to favor, Dowdell looks like a man among boys.
With Steve Nash another year older and Leandro Barbosa possibly on the trading block in Phoenix, the Suns could use another guard on their bench who can be counted on to give the Suns good minutes and keep the second unit under control. On Saturday, Dowdell showed that he can be that player. If Dowdell keeps this up for the rest of his Summer League stay, his long wait to make an NBA roster may finally come to an end.