If you were watching the Wisconsin Badgers' Final Four run into the NCAA championship game earlier this year, than you know Sam Dekker is a lot tougher than meets the eye. Most see him and immediately think to themselves, Keith Van Horn. (myself included) And due to Van Horn's unfulfilled potential as an NBA player, he may be unfairly being labeled as soft. Dekker proved anyone thinking along those lines wrong in the NCAA Tournament this year.
Sam Dekker is so damned Keith Van Horny. http://t.co/PKs5oD3ZG7— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) April 7, 2015
While he's not quite the pure scorer Van Horn was coming out of college, Dekker is a strong, confident small forward who can handle the rock and guard a variety of positions on defense. There are some similarities, but his star power is nowhere near where Van Horn's was entering the 1997 NBA Draft.
Dekker is his own player, and his leadership and toughness were on display throughout the NCAA tournament both this season and last. If he continues to add to his arsenal it is going to be hard for a team like the Boston Celtics to pass on him if he's available at number 16 in the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft.
At 6'9" and about 230 pounds, he's got the big frame & quickness needed to continue to defend multiple positions once he becomes a pro. Dekker is an above average ball handler for his position and size, and is lethal when in transition offense. One thing going against him however, is he does not have a large wingspan and will have trouble finishing in the painted area in the NBA.
That said, he'll likely be doing his work on the wings, where he attacks off the dribble very productively but also will spot up and shoot the jumper if given space. His opponents are often left playing a guessing game on defense.
Dekker's point totals have risen in each year with the Badgers, averaging 9.6 as a freshman, and upping that to 12.4 as a sophomore and finally 13.9 per game this year. His field goal percentage also saw a rise from 47% his first two seasons, to 53% this year. That kind of improvement is what scouts are looking for out of upperclassmen entering the draft, and Dekker will need to continue to build on his consistency when shooting if he wants to become a steady role player for an NBA team.
He has been a prospect NBA scouts were watching even prior to his collegiate career under Bo Ryan and the Wisconsin Badgers. He could have been a first round pick after his freshman or sophomore season, but chose to return for his junior year and almost led the Badgers to a championship before falling to the Duke Blue Devils.
Maybe Dekker's best attribute, is his overall confidence. He plays with a fearless style and loves to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line. This was on display in the 2015 NCAA Final Four, as he put the Badgers on his back in some high pressure situations.
Hitting clutch shot after clutch shot, Dekker was unfazed by the unbeaten Kentucky Wildcats and their feared front court. In the NCAA semi-finals, Dekker shot 6-for-9 from the field for 16 points, including this dagger right here..
When being guarded by smaller defenders, he will post up and use his size, frame and footwork to dominate on the inside. Wisconsin played at one of the slowest rates in the NCAA this year, not much transition offense. But Dekker excels in fast break situations and will benefit from a more up-tempo pace in the NBA. He also turned the ball over on just 7.3% of his possessions, which is the lowest rate of any of the Top-100 ranked players according to Jonathan Givony of Draftexpress.com
On defense, Dekker offers much of the same versatility. His quickness and toughness will allow him to guard both forward positions, as well as shooting guards if needed on pick & rolls. Very willing to sacrifice his body and take the charge, he is as active on the defensive side as he is on offense.
So what's keeping Dekker out of the top 10 if he was such a highly touted prospect who's only gotten better over the years? The answer is his shooting consistency. Scouts have pointed out his poor balance and an excessive amount of arc on his shot as problems he will need to work on within his shooting form.
From Draftexpress.com, He made 34.8% of his 3-point attempts for his Wisconsin career, starting his career shooting 39% as a freshman, but that number declined the following two seasons as his role increased more.
While he can handle the rock and take his defender off the dribble with ease, he isn't exactly Jamal Crawford with the handles. He mostly makes use of a straight-line drive and uses spin moves and changing of speeds to combat defensive pressure. This led to him having the second lowest assist rate (8.6%) among non-big men in Draftexpress.com's Top 100 ranked players.
Dekker is an all-out hustle first, grit and grind player who adds a little bit of pizazz on the offensive side, but he isn't likely to turn into the next NBA superstar. His short wingspan will make it difficult for him to finish around the rim, and his lack of creativity when putting the ball on the floor will force him to improve that long-range jumper.
The versatility and leadership qualities will likely land him somewhere in the top 25 picks of the NBA Draft, and A. Sherrod Blakely of CSSNE.com believes he's the Boston Celtics' pick at number 16.
Though he certainly wouldnt be a bad addition to the squad, I'm not sure this is the type of talent the Celtics should be looking for in this year's draft. He offers a lot of the same qualities the Celtics already possess in players like Evan Turner & Jonas Jerebko. There are two traits I think Boston should be focused in on acquiring in the draft this year. One is rim protection, the other is three-point shooting. Dekker is not going to answer the call at either.
A great prospect still with a lot of upside, he certainly shouldn't be outright dismissed by the Celtics as a potential option. He has all the makings of becoming an exceptional role player in the league one day. But I'm just not sure he is the right fit for the team going forward, especially if the Celtics plan on bringing Jae Crowder back for another season.
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Top photo- Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Mid photo- David Banks USA TODAY Sports
Duke loss photo - M.P. KING — State Journal muggsytobs 5/12/2015 09:46:00 AM Tweet Edit