Getting To Know Sam Dekker

As the Cleveland Cavaliers continue rebuilding their roster to begin the second post-LeBron James era, a few points emphasis within their plan have become apparent. First off, they aren’t interested in a complete tear down ala’ the 2010-2011 Cavaliers. They believe that fielding a competitive team is better for the development of the young core players on the roster, as it makes it more difficult for a losing mentality to creep in. While some may disagree with this plan, anyone who remembers those Cavaliers of eight years ago can understand why Dan Gilbert would be hesitant to commit to a second total rebuild. Second, the team seems to be focused on building around young players with high motors, and at least some upside. While only the middle trait applies to Channing Frye, most would agree that Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, and David Nwaba fit the bill.

Now, the Cavaliers have added another young player in Sam Dekker. Still just 24 years old, Dekker certainly fits the young part of the equation, but what about his motor and upside?

College basketball fans likely remember Dekker as a member of some great Wisconsin Badgers teams. Along with Frank Kaminsky, Dekker helped lead the Badgers to back-to-back Final Four Appearances in 2014 and 2015, losing to Duke in the 2015 NCAA Championship Game. The Badgers also won the 2015 Big Ten Championship, with Dekker taking home Second-team, All-Big Ten honors both of those years. It was during that 2015 Tournament run that Dekker really gained attention as an NBA prospect, as he was named West Regional Most Outstanding Player. Dekker was a different kind of player for a small forward. He shot a great 59.1% on his two-point attempts, and turned the ball over just once per game during his college career. He could get to the rim off the dribble in the pick-and-roll, moved well off the ball, and used his size (6’9″, 230 pounds) to bully smaller players down low. Dekker was also solid on the glass, particularly on the offensive end. On the defensive end, Dekker showed good lateral movement, and both the willingness and ability to chase and defend both small forwards and stretch power forwards. On the other hand, he didn’t put up much in the way of blocks or steals, didn’t really create for others, and wasn’t much of a floor-spacer, shooting just 34.8% from deep and 69.5% from the line during his three seasons with the Badgers. While Dekker seemed to have a good motor, it was a bit inconsistent, perhaps due to his lack of confidence in his outside shot. Also, while he could defend both threes and fours, he wasn’t (and isn’t) an elite defender at either position, and lacked a truly elite offensive skill. These questions caused Dekker to fall slightly during the 2015 NBA Draft, when he was selected 18th overall by the Houston Rockets.

Fast-forward to his second season in Houston, and Dekker was still the same player in many ways. Back surgery had cost him all but three games of his rookie season, so Dekker didn’t really play until the 2016-2017 season. Spending most of his time at power forward, Dekker averaged 18.4 minutes in 77 games, becoming a real rotation piece for a Rockets team that won 55 games. Dekker’s strengths were evident, as he shot 59% on two-point attempts, averaged 2.4 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes, and averaged just one turnover per 36 minutes. Dekker also shot a non-terrible 32% from three on 2.4 attempts per game. While the percentage was below average, it was high enough that—when combined with the frequency of his attempts—it allowed Dekker to serve as a bit of a floor spacer. He still didn’t get many steals or blocks, and shot just 56% from the line, but Dekker finished what was essentially his rookie season with a o.3 VORP, and ranked 41st among small forwards in Real Plus-Minus, ahead of the likes of Josh Richardson and Andrew Wiggins, as well as former Cavaliers Richard Jefferson and Jeff Green. The last two names are interesting in that Dekker may well take over the role of combo forward that Jefferson and (later) Green filled for the Cavaliers over the past three seasons.

Going into last summer, it looked like Dekker was possibly on the verge of a breakout season. He was considered one of the few Rockets with upside, and fit their switching defense far better than Ryan Anderson did. Then the insanity known as the NBA offseason began. Dekker was traded along with  Patrick BeverleyMontrezl HarrellDarrun HilliardDeAndre LigginsLou WilliamsKyle Wiltjer and a 2018 first-round pick to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Chris Paul. With Danilo Gallinari, Blake Griffin (until he was traded), Wesley Johnson, and later Tobias Harris ahead of him, it didn’t seem like there would be a big opportunity for Dekker, and at first there wasn’t. But—to the surprise of no one who follows the NBA—Griffin and Gallinari dealt with injuries while Johnson was ineffective for much of the season, and the window of opportunity was open for Dekker. But he didn’t climb through. Dekker maintained his excellent shooting on two-point attempts, and continued to rebound at the same solid rate, but his outside shot completely abandoned him as he shot just 16.7% from three on the season. These struggles obviously affected Dekker, and he simply stopped shooting threes as the season went on (1.1 attempts per game before the All-Star Break, 0.2 attempts per game after). This wasn’t the only issue. His assist percentage dropped, while his turnover percentage jumped, and he declined in Offensive and Defensive Win Shares as well as Box Plus-Minus at both ends of the floor. All of this added up to Dekker being rated below Replacement Value and becoming highly expendable to a Clippers team that was facing a roster crunch.

So the question is, which Sam Dekker are the Cleveland Cavaliers getting? The one who looked like an up-and-coming role player with the Rockets, or the one who looked like he was on his way out of the league with the Clippers? A year ago, almost everyone who covered or followed the NBA would have taken Sam Dekker over Jeff Green. Now, Green is coming off a surprisingly solid season with the Cavs, while Dekker was given away by the Clippers, with questions about his focus following him out the door. While it seems like Dekker will get more of an opportunity with the Cavs as a backup small forward/small ball power forward, he will still have to compete for minutes with Kevin Love, Cedi Osman, the Cavaliers’ glut of big men, and possibly Rodney Hood and Kyle Korver. There is no guarantee here. Still, Dekker is just 24 years old, didn’t cost the team any real assets, has shown potential in the past, is on a small contract, and will be a restricted free agent next summer. Trading for him was a low risk proposition for a team looking for young rotation players. If he pans out, great. If not, no big deal. All in all, this was a worthwhile move for Koby Altman and the Cavaliers.

 

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Arch Stanton
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Arch Stanton
8 days 8 hours ago

Arch Stanton
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Arch Stanton
8 days 8 hours ago

I’ve got to say that I don’t really care about being left off the National TV games. I can’t stand most of the announcers anyways.

Raoul
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Raoul
8 days 3 hours ago

Amen. Why so they use morons on national broadcasts?

daspec90
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daspec90
8 days 10 hours ago

Interesting article about public investment in Quicken Loans Arena:

daspec90
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daspec90
8 days 6 hours ago

daspec90
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daspec90
8 days 6 hours ago

I think that the second pasted link might work. It’s in the NYT.

Arch Stanton
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Arch Stanton
8 days 12 hours ago

It looks like the Lakers are now playing the Warriors on X-Mas. So no X-Mas game for the Cavs.

Chris K
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Chris K
8 days 9 hours ago

I was the lone family member in my house interested in Christmas basketball. I now embrace SVG’s attitude…

JMay
Member
8 days 9 hours ago

I like Christmas basketball (I, too, am the only one in the family who cares), but I despise when these leagues set Cleveland up for failure on national television knowing full well that we likely would not win. Though, judging by all those signings from Magic this summer, I actually think we could stand a decent chance depending on the turmoil that the Lakers are going through around Christmas.

Arch Stanton
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Arch Stanton
8 days 8 hours ago

We did win in 2017, which was the only time we had won the entire 4 years I believe.

Arch Stanton
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Arch Stanton
8 days 8 hours ago

Sorry that was actually in 2016

JMay
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8 days 11 hours ago

Not disappointed.

JRL
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JRL
8 days 11 hours ago

I’m not surprised at all.

Nate Smith
Admin
8 days 19 hours ago

Nice piece on dekkar.hus rpm of -1.46 isn’t th e worst. Ultimately I bet he ends. Up in Europe unless his J improves

Scotch
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Scotch
8 days 21 hours ago

Thanks for the write-up Mike! Didn’t realize he is a decent rebounder. If he a Jeff Green replacement…he can’t likely shoot as poorly from 3 AND be as bad a rebounder. So maybe it’s an improvement in at least one respect. I don’t seem him earning big minutes on a Tye Lue coached team if he couldn’t find his way to the floor on last year’s clips.
I just think our whole season’s prospects seem to be coming down to one man: Tye Lue. If he can coach…we could be fun to watch. If his lineups are as awkward and stupidly anti-stats based as last year we are about to watch a very frustrating product.

MikeO
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MikeO
8 days 13 hours ago

He may be a slightly better rebounder than Green, but Green does everything else at a considerably higher level. Dekker could still improve, it’s always possible, but he’ll need to if he wants to remain in the NBA.

Jason
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Jason
9 days 8 minutes ago

If he could shoot he would be a decent player.

Alas, he cannot. His FT% is near Thompson levels. And he is poor from 3. Perhaps Korver can help him.

I like Preston more as a combo F. Or even Osman.

CLF
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CLF
8 days 23 hours ago

Yup…. his shooting sucks. And his technique isn’t all that bad either, just not confident and not working on his game enough, given his rumored lack of maturity and focus.

Maybe getting passed around the league as a journeyman will light a fire under him.

newnomad
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newnomad
9 days 3 hours ago

“SLAM ” DEKKER —LOVING IT !!!

newnomad
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newnomad
9 days 3 hours ago

hopefully we hear A.C. / FRED YELL—” DOUBLE -DEKKER ” ALOT NEXT YEAR !!

newnomad
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newnomad
9 days 4 hours ago
good write up / evaluation of Dekker/ have posted several opinions previously on Dekker so won’t elaborate too much—-other than we actually more or less for free / no gamble but good chance of huge pay off / @ 24 could fit in nicely with the other young players and grow into a solid group / ———think being so young / getting traded / believed he just got married –had a baby / new system—new coach—fan base and from what we all know the clippers organization / players / locerroom were / are rather dysfunctional group —–probably felt like he didn’t fit in from the very start —-affected his play ———if he is supposedly “taking jeff green’s ‘ role —-I AM ALL IN FOR THAT ——–I AM THINKING / HOPING COME NEXT JANAUARY –FEBRUARY WE ARE ALL BLOGGING HOW KOLBY ‘STOLE ‘ A GOOD PLAYER AND WE ARE ALL PLEASANTLY SURPRISED !!—-GO CAVS –AM EXCITED FOR THE SEASON TO START !!—————-JUST WANT TO ADD FOR A GUY HIS SIZE– ( ALMOST LOVE’S SIZE )—I THINK HE MOVES WELL / MOBILE —-CAN PUT THE BALL ON THE FLOOR / FINISH AT THE RIM / HIT THE CORNER SHOT ——-AND MAKE THE… Read more »
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