Sam Dekker Looking to Make a Leap in His Second Season


Written by Dan Fatigato (@DNF_on_NBA) on 28 July 2016

Sam Dekker had a rookie campaign to forget, one that was over before it ever got started.

After being selected 18th overall, he injured his back severely enough to require surgery last November, and thus was only able to play in three games in 2015-16. He didn't score a single point. This was just one year removed from exploits like this at Wisconsin that had Aaron Rodgers himself raising the roof:

It's a shame on a number of levels, but for starters, Dekker would have had ample opportunity to show what he can do on Houston's wing-starved roster. The team took a massive amount of threes, but ranked just 19th in the league in 3-point efficiency. Guys like Corey Brewer and Michael Beasley could run a bricklaying company given their resume from beyond the arc last season.

The 6-foot-9 small forward saw seven games of D-League action, playing for the Rockets-affiliated Rio Grande Valley Vipers, where he scored 11.9 points per game, but shot just 24 percent from three. Lingering effects from his back surgery may have contributed to his uncharacteristic lack of efficiency. Encouragingly, however, Dekker bounced back recently at Summer League in Las Vegas.

Now second-year players, especially former first-round picks, tend to dominate in Summer League. Still, it was nice to see Dekker show out a little bit, posting 14.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game on 54 percent shooting from the field and showed the ability to knock down corner three. On multiple occasions he finished in traffic with panache. He also had an eye for finding open teammates on drives, rather than developing tunnel vision:

These are all positive developments for a guy that hasn't seen much action on an NBA floor to date. There's reason to think the timing may work out in Dekker's favor, this time around. The Rockets are being reimagined under offensive wizard Mike D'Antoni. A premium will be placed on shooters for Houston this season, as the plan is to move the ball rapidly on offense and create open looks. Star guard James Harden figures to shoulder less of a burden in a more imaginative offensive system and the additions of Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon will serve to open up the court for everybody. In this scenario Dekker can find a role coming off the bench to knock down wide open corner threes and operate as a secondary ball handler and playmaker. D'Antoni's arrival, along with a roster designed to spread the floor, could be the shot in the arm the Wisconsin product needs.

In order to earn that role in the rotation, Dekker will need to improve his perimeter defense, especially when he's matched up one-on-one with a ball handler. At times he looks lost in that setting, where his lack of lateral quickness can be exploited. Perhaps Dekker doesn't fit the mold of a standard 3-and-D specialist quite yet, though his length is an asset that can be groomed to make him a more effective defender. He'll also probably never be a game-changer offensively against the top competition. But D'Antoni's offense has made useful players out of similarly limited talent. 

Dekker gets a do-over on a wasted rookie season. There's a good chance he looks a lot better with new coaching and more opportunity. Just as long as he doesnt bring back these leg-warmers.

Source: Bleacher Report
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