Yesterday, we talked about the most disappointing player in the Summer League (here's lookin' at you, K.J.), so it's only right that today we take a closer look at the most pleasant surprise of the Rockets' Las Vegas games thus far.
Sam Dekker came into this year a complete unknown, missing virtually all of last season with back surgery and his subsequent recovery and rehab. Best case scenario, he turns into Chandler Parsons junior, slashing into the paint from the wing and draining threes. Worst case, his career is derailed by the balky back before it ever gets started.
In the three summer games thus far, Dekker's been much closer to best-case scenario.
He's averaging 16.0 points per game in 26 minutes of action, with his point total ranking first on the Rockets and 17th in the entire Vegas Summer League. His shooting percentage of 55.6 percent is the second-best of any of the other scorers in the top 20, and he's been dynamic in transition and has also flashed a consistent ability to get into the lane. Take a look at his reel from the Sacramento game.
Sam @dekker with another strong @NBASummerLeague performance. https://t.co/F2kxMltbNB— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) July 11, 2016
In addition to his scoring, Dekker has averaged 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.0 steal per game and has mostly looked a cut above his peers thus far in summer action. It's truly been a pleasant sight for a guy who could barely get out bed seven months ago.
With the Rockets in dire need of a youth injection at small forward, the 22-year-old Dekker appears to be regaining the form that made him the 18th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. If he can keep up this trajectory of good health (he bounced back quickly from a sprained ankle in the Summer League opener) and consistent play, the young man out of Wisconsin could soon find himself spelling Trevor Ariza when the varsity boys start back up in October.
One area Dekker has struggled with thus far in the Summer League, however, has been his three-point shot. He's shot just 3-12 for 25.0 percent from beyond the arc, including an 0-5 performance from deep against Sacramento. He'll need to get sharper from deep to earn significant minutes in the Houston offense. He'll also need to continue to improve defensively -- never his calling card -- if he's to keep up with the litany of talented small forwards in the Association.
For now, though, Dekker is just enjoying being healthy and having fun contributing. He recently told ESPN's Calvin Watkins:
"It's very refreshing to be on the court again and play the game. One thing I got to realize, there will be some kinks in the road just getting back to the form I want to be in. I'm very hard on myself, and I got to realize to relax a little bit. I'm just out playing basketball, and it will all come back. I'm feeling good and I'm feeling confident, and I'm just happy to be on the court doing what I love."
It shows in Dekker's performance, and if the second-year man can continue to get more comfortable, he'll not only surprise in the Summer League, but he'll have a chance to surprise when the regular NBA season rolls around as well.