In my season preview of Sam Dekker, I said that he would not be able to crack the rotation and was a year or two away from making major contributions. Well, the future is now.
The Wisconsin product doesn’t look like a second-year player who practically redshirted last season. He’s basically still a rookie, but he is thriving in this Rockets offense. He’s been an unexpected and much-needed spark off the bench. In some games, he has been as high as the second man off the bench, and he still is not done in his ascent to explore his potential in the rotation.
A big reason behind Dekker’s rapid improvement has been his shooting. He hasn’t played a huge amount of minutes, but he’s shooting close to 52% from the floor. He is also one of the Rockets’ best three-point shooters, and given the fact that the Rockets live and die by the three, having Dekker on the floor more often gives the Rockets a better chance to live rather than die.
The weak spot for this Houston team in the first 11 games is clearly the bench wings, and Dekker has easily been the best wing off the bench so far this season. James Harden has been playing out of his mind, and the starters have done a good job making solid contributions and fulfilling their roles.
Clint Capela and Nene have also been solid in the post and holding the fort down for Houston. The wings have been average at best so far. K.J. McDaniels has shown bright spots but is not as consistent, and Brewer has started the season in a major slump. Dekker has been much better than expected, and it has led to more minutes for the former Badger.
A big reason for his increased workload has been his transition from small forward to power forward. Standing at 6-foot-9, many thought Dekker would be fighting with McDaniels and Brewer for minutes at the small forward spot, and he still is, but he has been getting a lot of minutes at power forward — he has been subbing in for Ryan Anderson — which has allowed him to gain more minutes in the rotation.
He is occupying the spot many believed would be Donatas Motiejunas’ role with the team, and although Coach Mike D’Antoni still considers him a Rocket and hopes to have him back later this season, Dekker has played well in his absence. Having a 6-9 power forward off the bench rather than a 7-footer gives the team more speed and versatility at that spot in the lineup. He has the ability to guard 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s, which gives the team a lot more versatility. We’ll wait to evaluate just how well he guards them once he plays more than 186 pro minutes.
At the beginning of the season, I thought Montrezl Harrell would be the one getting the minutes at the position, but Dekker’s place in the rotation has given the Rockets another three-point shooter on the floor and it has allowed the offense to space out. D’Antoni wants an open paint for James Harden to drive in and have three-point shooters camping on the perimeter able to shoot if he can’t finish. Dekker is a much better fit for this system than D-Mo, Harrell or Brewer. His play will continue to get him minutes, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season has in store for him and the Rockets.