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What PJ Dozier’s departure means for South Carolina

Now down their best two guards, the Gamecocks face big questions heading to next season

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-South Carolina vs Gonzaga Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Per Woj bomb early Monday morning, South Carolina Gamecocks guard PJ Dozier officially announced he will enter the NBA Draft by hiring an agent.

This will undoubtedly disappoint Gamecock fans considering the kind of tournament run Dozier had and what all is returning in the guard department next season. Dozier played a solid five games where he averaged 15.6 points a game while adding good perimeter defense.

There’s no question Dozier would have been the front man for whatever South Carolina was going to do next season on offense. With Sindarius Thornwell, Justin McKie and Duane Notice all out the door for graduation and the three returning 2018 seniors combining for 19 points and 150 minutes — Dozier was going to carry a heavy load.

Dozier was a consensus five-star prospect coming out of Spring Valley High School, making him the highest caliber prospect South Carolina had signed in the modern age of recruiting rankings. He’d be a regular starter from day one and would go on to average 10.4 points per game in two seasons with South Carolina.

Dozier certainly has the size NBA teams want in their guards at a lanky six-foot-six to go along with good ball handling skills. The biggest strength of his game was his defense, which according to the Woj article mentioned earlier is something he should be able to NBA teams immediately.

However his shooting percentages have dragged down his total stock as a prospect. This past season Dozier posted .597/.407/.298 shooting splits, albeit all were pretty dramatic improvements from his freshman splits of .544/.381/.213.

In terms of offense, NBA perimeter players essentially need to be good at two things: get to the tin with high efficiency or shoot the three-ball at a solid clip. As of right now Dozier hasn’t proven he can do either consistently. Dozier does have the ability to slash and get to the hoop — if you watched the NCAA Tournament he did it with relative ease — and has the size to get up and around defenders to get the ball to the rack.

However, if he gets fouled Dozier is a liability at the free throw line. His free throw percentages are Andre Drummond/Dwight Howard levels of bad, and for a guard that could really come back to bite him at the next level. And while it’s possible he could develop into a good shooter, his college numbers from beyond the arc aren’t promising.

Even after saying all of that, Dozier will be dearly missed at South Carolina once the 2017-18 season kicks off. With all three of their top perimeter players gone, the Gamecocks are really going to have to dig to find good contributors to compliment the inside game of Chris Silva, Maik Kostar and Sedee Keita.

As this moment South Carolina does not have anyone on the roster who can replace the size and defensive abilities Dozier brought on the perimeter. It’s one of the reasons South Carolina was such a defensive stalwart. Dozier and Thornwell could essentially lock down the opposing team’s best two defenders, forcing opponents to go with their third or fourth options.

Not only will South Carolina miss one of those lock down defenders, they’ll miss two with no one in sight to replace the defensive rigor brought by the future NBA Draft prospects. One would assume Rakym Felder will be able to make up for the offense lost, but at five-foot-ten there’s only so much he’ll be able to do defensively.

Behind Felder in minutes played last season are Hassani Gravett, Temarcus Blanton, Kory Holden and Evan Hinson. Gravett was an offensive liability who had decent defensive chops and played in nearly every game last season. Unless his offense takes a dramatic leap, Gravett will be stuck in his role as pesky role player for the foreseeable future.

Holden averaged around 17 points a game during his sophomore year at Delaware and can potentially be the driving force that makes up for what Thornwell left behind offensively. Though his defensive metrics are a bit troubling if you look here, Holden at the very least will provide depth to what will be a brand new backcourt.

Blanton came off the bench in 21 games and at six-foot-five could be the most likely candidate to be the Dozier replacement. Blanton shot decent numbers in incredibly limited minutes, but in a full time role could be the best candidate to start alongside Felder in the backcourt.

Hinson was best known last season for coming off the bench to score four quick points against Alabama in the SEC Tournament to the surprise of many fans on Twitter.

While it’s funny to think back to that game and how obscure Hinson was on the roster, he does present an intriguing option for next season. Hinson doubles as a tight end on the football team, but at six-foot-four and 225 pounds he could be a serious handful for defenders this upcoming season.

And then there’s David Beatty. Beatty is the consensus four-star guard from the Philadelphia based prep powerhouse Imhotep Institute and has been signed with the Gamecocks since December. Beatty is a combo guard who has the potential to be a contributor from day one with decent size at six-foot-three.

Tommy Corchiani and Christian Schmitt are two other guard candidates who could come in and get playing time in the backcourt. The only thing certain is Frank Martin has his work cut out for him in figuring out his lineups next season.

Dozier will be missed at South Carolina and will always be remembered for being a major contributor during the 2017 Final Four run. And while fans are surely frustrated for Dozier’s departure, just know if you’re in his shoes ask yourself this question:

Do you pass up potential millions of dollars to come back to take classes and not be paid for it?