Throughout the entire 2014-15 regular season, Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker was seemingly lost in the shuffle among the rest of the top college forwards. Despite being one of the key pieces behind a top-notch Badgers program, Dekker wasn’t able to do enough to eclipse the likes of Stanley Johnson or Justise Winslow. However, Dekker’s under-the-radar reputation vanished once he reached the NCAA Tournament.
Starting with a 20 point (8-15 from the field, 4-8 from beyond the arc) performance against Coastal Carolina, Dekker eclipsed Frank Kaminsky as the team’s go-to offensive weapon. That statement is further backed up by him scoring 23 points (10-15 from the field) on UNC, 27 points (8-11 from the field, 5-6 from the perimeter) against Arizona, and 16 points (6-9 from the field, 2-3 from the perimeter) in an upset win over the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats.
Although Winslow and the Blue Devils were able to stop his offensive assault, Dekker was still able to use that Tournament success to raise his stock as a potential lottery pick.
During that NCAA Tournament run, much of Dekker’s offensive onslaught came from his ability to cut to the paint seemingly at whim, as he’s able to work towards the rim through on or off-ball cuts. As an off-ball weapon, Dekker does a great job of being able to pick his spots to roll towards the basket.
For a 6’9 forward, Dekker has a solid first-step which allowed him to work his way past a lot of college forwards. Once he works his way past the initial opponent, he has a good amount of ball-handling moves in his arsenal, which include an excellent side-step and a spin, which you can see below.
Perhaps one of Dekker’s biggest improvements would be how he’s able to handle himself from inside the paint. Between his sophomore and junior seasons, Dekker added a noticeable amount of muscle to his lanky frame, which has allowed him to battle inside the paint. Dekker’s been able to utilize that added muscle to become a better post-up threat, or being able to finish through contact.
That added strength has allowed Dekker to be effective from around the rim. According to Hoop-Math, Dekker shot 75% from around the rim, which even eclipsed fellow Badger stud Frank Kaminsky.
While a lot of Dekker’s damage during the NCAA Tournament came from the perimeter, he has never been a consistent shooting threat. During his junior season, Dekker shot 33% from beyond the arc. In comparison to the other lottery-bound forwards (Johnson, Winslow and Oubre), Dekker was in the back of the pack in regards to their work from beyond the arc.
With that in mind, Dekker still has a shot to be a viable perimeter threat in the NBA. The 6’9” forward has a quick and smooth shooting stroke, which finishes with a high release point. It’s definitely going to be intriguing to see whether he’ll be able to utilize those fundamentals and the momentum from the tournament into the NBA.
As an athletic 6’9 forward, Dekker has potential to be a versatile defender. As evidenced by his work against Arizona forward Stanley Johnson, Dekker does a great job of using his frame to stick with athletic wings that try to work their way to the rim. As a disciple of Bo Ryan, Dekker has solid defensive discipline, as he rarely gets caught ball-watching. Likewise, Dekker’s filled out frame could allow him to defend against some NBA power forwards.
While there’s a lot to like about Sam Dekker’s game, he definitely doesn’t have the same kind of upside as some of his fellow draft-eligible forwards. However, in the case for the Utah Jazz, they may be looking for a prospect that can come in and make an immediate impact, which is something that Sam Dekker could probably do better than somebody like Kelly Oubre.
Dekker’s knack as an off-ball threat could allow him to be a good addition to Utah’s pass-happy offense, as the Jazz are filled with solid facilitators that could work it to him on cuts. Also, that open nature could help Dekker’s progression as a perimeter shooter, as working alongside Favors, Hayward or Exum could give him some open perimeter looks.
From a defensive perspective, Dekker’s versatility could allow him to be that “swiss army knife” for the team’s rotation. As he continues building on muscle mass, Dekker should be able to guard both guards and forwards, which could make him into an extremely effective weapon over the course of the long 82 game season.