NBA

Sam Dekker’s Journey Back to the NBA Starts by Playing Overseas

Dekker fits the perfect mold for a player in the modern NBA. However, he does not show the results. So, how can he get back into the NBA?

Photo courtesy of Mark J. Terrill/AP

Per Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia, Dekker is heading to Russia to play for Lokomotiv Kuban. Dekker, 25, was the 18th-overall pick back in the 2015 NBA draft by the Houston Rockets. He appeared in 80 regular-season games for the Rockets from 2015-2017. In those two seasons, Dekker averaged 6.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.0 assists in 17.8 minutes played per game. Dekker then would play for the Los Angeles Clippers, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Washington Wizards from 2017-2019. For those three franchises, Dekker averaged 4.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 0.7 assists in 13.9 minutes played per game.

Dekker is the perfect mold for a player in the modern NBA as he sits at 6-feet-9-inches, 230-pounds, and has a 7-foot wingspan. With his wingspan, it allows Dekker to guard positions one through four. Dekker’s height allows teams to play him at the five when they go small. However, Dekker spends most of his time bouncing between the forward positions. For example, Dekker played in 619 minutes for the Wizards in the 2018-2019 season. Out of those 619 minutes, 15 percent, or 92.9 minutes, were spent at small forward, 77 percent or 476.6 minutes were spent at power forward and 7 percent or 43.3 minutes were spent at center.

While Dekker does fit the perfect mold for a player in the modern NBA, he does not show the results. For example, Cleveland had an offensive plus/minus of -1.0 per 100 possessions and a defensive plus/minus -0.4 per 100 possessions with Dekker on the court in the 2018-2019 season. Washington had an offensive plus/minus of -1.6 per 100 possessions and a defensive plus/minus -0.9 per 100 possessions with Dekker on the court in the 2018-2019 season.

In the era of the three-ball, teams have an emphasis on it in their offense. If you play positions one through three, you have to take a decent amount of three-pointers and you have to make them efficiently. Most teams either have a starting stretch four or a stretch five. If they are lucky, they have both a stretch four and stretch five. There is a reason why Nemanja Bjelica is heading into his 5th season in the NBA and reason why Dekker is not heading into his 5th season and instead overseas. Luckily for Dekker, he is young, and he has time to develop.

Dekker should be targeting Bjelica type of projection. That may seem weird, but it is the truth. Can you shoot the three-ball? If you can then you are going to be in the NBA, and you are going to be in it for a long time. Now, Bjelica is 31-years old and he played in Europe for eight seasons and got to hone his game there.

In the 2018-2019, per 100 possessions, Bjelica attempted 6.7 3-pointers and nailing 2.7 of them for a .401 3-point field goal percentage. While Dekker attempted 3.8 3-pointers and hitting 1.2 of them for a .306 3-point field goal percentage per 100 possessions in the 2018-2019 season.

The Sacramento Kings had an offensive plus/minus of +0.8 per 100 possessions and a defensive plus/minus of +1.2 per 100 possessions with Bjelica on the court in the 2018-2019 season. Compare that to Dekker’s 2018-2019 season. Overall, Cleveland and Washington had an offensive plus/minus of -1.5 per 100 possessions and a defensive plus/minus of -0.8 per 100 possessions with Dekker on the court.

Bjelica does offer up better defense than Dekker. Bjelica had a defensive rating of 110, combined with the Kings defensive plus/minus of +1.2 per 100 possessions with he was on the court in the 2018-2019 season. While Dekker had a defensive rating of 114 combined with his defensive plus/minus of -0.8 per 100 possessions, when on the court for Cleveland and Washington.

Some other players Dekker should be targeting to model his game is Davis Bertans, Lauri Markkanen, and Darius Miller. Bertans attempted 10.1 3-pointers and nailing 4.3 of them for a .429 3-point field goal percentage per 100 possessions in the 2018-2019 season. The San Antonio Spurs had an offensive plus/minus of +1.6 per 100 possessions and a defensive plus/minus of -0.4 per 100 possessions with Bertans on the court in the 2018-2019 season. As you can see, it is Bertans’ offense that is keeping him in the league, not his defense.

For Markkanen, he attempted 9.6 3-pointers and nailing 3.5 of them for a .361 3-point field goal percentage per 100 possessions in the 2018-2019 season. The Chicago Bulls had an offensive plus/minus of -0.3 per 100 possessions and a defensive plus/minus of -1.6 per 100 possessions with on the court in the 2018-2019 season. Even though Markkanen has a worse defensive plus/minus than Dekker, it is the fact that he is building block for as a stretch four or five. Markkanen is almost pulling in a positive offensive plus/minus while shooting under a .400 3-point field goal percentage.

Darius Miller has been a solid role player his whole career. In fact, he was in the league for three seasons before leaving to play in Germany for two. Miller is now heading into his third season since coming back. That could be credited for his time over Germany that he got hone his game. From 2012-2015, Miller attempted 4.9 3-pointers, nailing 1.7 of them for a .351 3-point field goal percentage. Then from 2017-2019, Miller attempted 9.2 3-pointers and nailing 3.6 of them for a .388 3-point field goal percentage. Miller almost doubled his attempts and makes for 3-pointers in that timespan.

Dekker has the tools; he just has to sharpen his skill. Once that happens, Dekker will be back in the NBA.

All stats per basketball reference.

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