Sam Dekker deserves praise for overcoming a back injury that virtually kept him from playing all of last season. His grit, size, decision-making and shooting (at least at the start of the season) has proven he’ll find a role in the NBA.
On the positive side, the Houston Rockets seem to have scored another worthwhile pick in the draft in a slot, at No. 18, that more often resembles a mirage of an oasis in the desert than a fertile giver of quality starters or role players.
The former Wisconsin Badger is using his size to play quality, hustle defense and slow opposing wings. At 6-foot-9, opponents have to respect Dekker’s size, but he isn’t a lock down defender and can be painfully slow in his lateral movement on the perimeter. But, on a Rockets team that struggles to play defense, Dekker uses his body to slow opposing wings while jostling, bumping and all-around being annoying. You’d notice it more if Patrick Beverley didn’t already fill the role at an All-World level.
On the negative side, Dekker started the season scorching from three, but his stroke has faded.
In Dekker’s first 25 games, he shot 38.2 percent from three, 21/55. This accounted for 40.4 percent of his total shots in this period.
In thee 37 games since, Dekker has shot 29.5 percent from deep, 29/98. This accounts for 46.2 percent of total shots in this period.
On the season, this brings him to 32.7% on 2.7 attempts a game: 50 of 153.
As the Rockets’ three-point barrage increases the team has to see results from the heavy rain of Spaldings, or the entire Morey-D’Antoni experiment is doomed before it starts. Dekker has to prove those shots should be coming from him.
Dekker’s 32.7 percent three-point accuracy puts him 166th in the NBA among players who attempt more than two three pointers a game. That’s better than notable players like John Wall, Draymond Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo. But it’s the worst of any Rockets rotation player not named Clint Capela, Nene or Montrezl Harrell, now that Corey Brewer is in La La Land.
The drop-off may not seem too dramatic, but Dekker’s numbers drop even further if you remove the top and the bottom. Dekker had a breakout shooting performance on Jan. 21 against the Memphis Grizzlies when he shot 6-11 from three. We haven’t seen anything like it since. Dekker’s next best performance is a 3-4 shooting night. His worst performances were an 0-4 shooting evening and an 0-3 evening.
If we pull those four games from the original 37-game sample, then we get the following: 20/76 on three-point attempts for a 26.3 shooting percentage, three points lower than the original sample of Dekker’s last 37 games.
These numbers should concern Dekker the most. D’Antoni is notorious for playing an eight-man lineup in the playoffs. Right now, the three men off the bench would be Nene/Capela, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams.
If Dekker’s three ball disappears, his chances of seeing significant playoff minutes may too.
Since Williams joined the squad, Dekker has played 20, 16, 11 and 11 minutes in the Rockets’ four games. Not a positive early omen.
A solution may be for Dekker to move full-time from the three point elbow to the corner. Dekker’s ability to put the ball on the floor and find the open shooter when the defense is forced to react would suffer. But viewing his shot charts and it’s obvious his three point makes would increase.
Dekker’s shot chart over the season’s first 25 games.
Versus Dekker’s shot chart in all the games since:
Look at Dekker’s numbers through the months of the season yourself. Note: If you pull that splendid Grizzlies game from the January statistics, then Dekker shot 26.6 percent that month.
Sam Dekker 2016 - 2017 Three Point Shooting by Month