(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)
Despite being rated a likely first round prospect with potential to rise into lottery status, Sam Dekker opted out of the draft for the second straight year last June. That seems like a puzzling decision on the surface but, born in May, he will still be a 20-year old junior all of next season, one with 1,914 minutes of college ball already under his belt. Showing up to the LeBron James Skills Academy with a six-foot-nine, 229-pound frame, Dekker seems in line for a great season and should join the pros more prepared than he felt the past two summers.
He has tremendous size for a wing, which translates best on his abilities to contain dribble penetration through contact, finish through contact and post up smaller players.
Dekker has shown decent lateral quickness to keep pace with smaller players without allowing much separation at the collegiate level. He is a great athlete who plays above the rim, not just help defending off the weak side but also capable of erasing shots guarding on the ball. Dekker ranked fourth in the Big Ten in total blocks among small forwards last season.
But while his size helped him overwhelm smaller opponents in isolation, it led to struggles navigating screens. Dekker showed difficulties going around the pick and then forcing the opponent out of the catch-and-shoot. Despite his six-foot-10 wingspan, he wasn’t much of a factor working the passing lanes to manufacture turnovers, stealing just 1.6% of opponents’ possessions while he was on the floor.
He posted strong numbers on the glass, ranking fifth in the Big Ten in defensive rebounds, grabbing 18% of opponents’ misses in conference play. Wisconsin didn’t play Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes together a lot, so part of it was circumstance; Dekker was pretty much always the team’s second biggest player on the court. But he also has the body type to box out true big men and is a high leaper.
He has decent speed off the bounce on straight line drives, mostly favoring going to his left. Dekker has flashed interesting instincts passing out of dribble penetration. His height provides him a high vantage point that is helpful in traffic. But he was not responsible for shot creation on the ball, in part because of the nature of Bo Ryan’s system but also because he’s limited working in isolation and out of the pick-and-roll. He struggles when forced to change directions and is a below average pull-up shooter, hitting just 23.1% of his shots from the mid-range area last season. His first step is nothing exceptional but quite effective when he attacked closeouts without hesitation, so though he didn’t dribble the ball consistently low on the move, his turnover rate was still very low (8.8%).
Where Dekker excelled the most was around the basket. He is a menace recognizing opportunities to cut to the hoop on the weak side and in the baseline. Dekker has soft hands to catch the ball on the move and plays above the rim on this end as well. He is great in transition, sprinting hard to fill the lanes on the break and make himself a target for lobs. Dekker also showed great instincts tracking Wisconsin’s misses on the glass, ranking 10th in the conference in offensive rebounds. According to hoop-math.com, 40% of his shots were at the rim and he finished them at a 70% clip. Due to all of this pressure he puts on the defense, Dekker averaged almost five free throw attempts per 40 minutes but shot 68.6% on them.
He’s been able to balance his superb interior scoring by being a legit threat from deep rage. He is a pretty good set shooter, with a smooth stroke and a quick enough trigger. 36% of his shots were from three-point range. Though he hit them only at a 32.6% clip, Dekker made 42 three-pointers, only eight fewer than on his freshman season, when he shot 39.1% from beyond the arc. Wisconsin averaged 117.3 points per 100 possessions with Dekker on the floor, the fifth best offensive rating among players in the conference.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.