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Sam Dekker, Wisconsin, Forward, 6’9”, 220 lbs., 21 years old
Every season, there’s at least one player who takes his game to a level previously unseen during the NCAA Tournament. This season, there were a few guys who achieved that distinction – Sam Dekker was one of them. Until March Madness, Wisconsin fans had been waiting to see Dekker take over games. He showed flashes which only teased his fans; during the tournament though, those teases became full-game efforts that were an essential part to the Badgers run to the Championship game. the Sam Dekker NBA Draft profile slots him as an intriguing prospect capable of contributing right away to whomever picks him.
The frustration with Dekker was that he would often seem too comfortable playing the Robin to Frank Kaminsky’s Batman in the Wisconsin offense. That could suit Dekker well in the pros though, because he’s not going to be drafted anywhere and expected to carry a team from the get-go; he’s going to be seen as a nice complimentary piece — perhaps even a role player off the bench — and be given time to develop his game even more.
Dekker is a good, but not elite athlete. His athleticism doesn’t jump off the page or the game tape, but he always seems to get to the spot he wants to get to. For instance, take a look at the shot Dekker hit his senior year of high school to win the State Tournament Championship while at Sheboygan Lutheran:
Now, look at the game-winner he hit against Arizona this past March:
It’s virtually the same spot, same shot. He knows what he’s good at and where his spots are on the court.
Offensively, Dekker is good at just about everything, but not elite at any one thing. His jump shot could stand to be a bit more consistent; he’s smart and plays with a high IQ, but rarely displays that superstar “it” factor that makes you jump off the couch. Playing in Bo Ryan’s swing offense helped Dekker’s versatility, too. He’s a natural Small Forward, but could easily be used as a small-ball Power Forward, or if a team wanted to go super-big, he could play Shooting Guard in a pinch. When he gets to the rim, he’s very good at finishing, and can dunk in traffic. Any team that drafts him would like to see his free throw percentage improve, though. For as good of a shooter as Dekker is, his career free throw percentage in his three years at Wisconsin was a few ticks short of 70% … a minor disappointment. His outside shot is pretty dependent on where he is on the court. Statistically, his three-point shot improves by about six percentage points when he shoots from the right side as opposed to the left wing (but again: as shown above, he knows where his spots are). He has the ability to post up defenders, but doesn’t have a go-to move that he can rely on, and he lacks an undefinable shiftiness often seen by NBA players. His drives to the rim are too often straight-line movements, which may not work as effectively in the pros as it did in college.
Defensively, Dekker is ready for the NBA, in part because he’s a smart player to begin with and instinctively plays passing lanes correctly, stays in front of his man, and doesn’t take many risks. The other part of Dekker’s defensive game comes from playing at Wisconsin, where the Badgers play strictly a man-to-man defense. All those reps in a man-to-man system will do Dekker worlds of good in the NBA. He’s a decent rebounder and correctly switches (or doesn’t switch) on screens, which in itself is a great skill to have, since the NBA is largely a pick-and-roll league. It’s highly unlikely Dekker will ever make an All-NBA Defensive team, but he’s always in the right spot at the right time, so he’ll never hurt a team defensively.
Like pretty much all draft prospects, Dekker could use some additional bulk to take on the extra pounding that comes with being an NBA player. For the most part, however, his body is NBA-ready.
Dekker can obviously still get better, but will probably slip in the draft a little bit because his upside is limited. Since he stayed in school for three years, he is — at 21 — one of the older prospects expected to be taken in the first round, along with fellow Wisconsin alum Kaminsky, who stayed through his senior season. But with Dekker, it seems as if everything is in place, but there’s room for small improvements across the board. Which isn’t to take away anything from him, he projects to be a similar player to Gordon Hayward, or, if his outside shot improves, Chandler Parsons. Both of those players signed contracts that pay them upward of $14 million per season, so that should tell you something about how valuable a player Dekker can become. In the draft, however, Dekker will be valued for what he is, and not so much for what he can be, which will probably be enough to slide him out of the top-12 picks. He most likely scenario is that he’s taken by one of the first non-lottery teams to draft (around pick 15).