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Dekker Eager to Prove He’s Ready for NBA Stage

Sam Dekker used the NBA Combine to explain some of his consistency issues and detail what he’s working on.

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The NBA’s annual lottery drawing will be held on Tuesday and the order for the top 14 picks in the NBA draft will be finalized.

And next month, when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver reads the names of those selected in the lottery, many pundits have predicted Sam Dekker’s name will be among those first 14.

A year or two ago at this time, that may have seemed highly unlikely.  However, the former Wisconsin star has slowly but surely proven that he is one best players available in the this current crop of future NBA players.

Dekker is coming off a junior season at Wisconsin in which he averaged 13.9 points (shooting an impressive 52.5 percent from the floor) and 5.5 rebounds per game. He was generating buzz the whole season, but Dekker really made a name for himself nationally and inserted himself squarely into “lottery pick territory” with two back-to-back phenomenal performances in the NCAA tournament.

Dekker poured in 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in an incredibly impressive win over the University of North Carolina in the Sweet 16. Then, he backed that up by scoring 27 points (on just 11 field goal attempts) in an Elite 8 win over Arizona, which propelled Wisconsin into the Final Four. Dekker was red hot from outside in that Arizona game, knocking down five out of six attempts from behind the arc.

However, as we know, once a player enters the national draft debate, folks start digging deeper. This eventually led to questions as to why Dekker’s efficiency and effectiveness seemed to fluctuate from time-to-time. For instance, in the Big Ten Championship Game against Michigan State played on March 15, Dekker chipped in just four points and finished with three rebounds in 39 minutes of action.

Thus, when Dekker met with the media at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, one of the first questions he received was about his perceived inconsistency.

Well, I mean consistency is always going to be a question with everybody, but yeah, you’re right with me,” Dekker said. “There are times where I would play at a very high level and then I would have a few games where I just wouldn’t be as aggressive. I was passive once and awhile, and that’s just me maturing and just letting things go and having that confidence that I can be a difference maker every night. That comes with growing up, comes with maturation like I said, and I think I’ve taken a big step and leap toward that direction and have gotten much better.”

He was also asked about his experience in Chicago, and if he had arrived in the Windy City feeling he had something to prove.

“I don’t know, I don’t really know how I did today compared to other people,” Dekker said. “I probably could have jumped better, but it’s all good. People know I’m athletic, they can just YouTube me dunking and they’ll get plenty of those, so I don’t think I have to worry about that. I just try to come out here with a good attitude, represent myself well, my school well, show teams what I have and then off the court is just as important. Being a good character and representing myself well.”

Dekker did admit to fighting through some jitters throughout the daunting process.

“Yeah, you do have little nerves,” Dekker said. “My first vertical jump I was a little over-thinking just because this is your first time doing this stuff, everyone’s new to it when you’re a rookie and I think a lot of guys would be lying if they said they didn’t have any nerves in here. You shouldn’t though because you’ve done so much work to get to this point, but it’s human nature and it’s going to happen, but I thought I did pretty well today.”

Dekker also explained why coming of age playing in the Big Ten has been so important to his development.

“Well, the Big Ten is one of those conferences where you see a lot of different styles,” he said. “You know Michigan State is a physical team that likes to get out and go. We have teams like us that like to slow it up once in a while but we don’t mind pushing it, and then teams like Indiana that literally just run it down your throat and put up threes. So we’ve seen all different types of teams and we played a tough conference schedule.

“I think we’ve had every type of style thrown at us this year and I think we handled it well, myself included. I like the style of play that the NBA has; I’m an open-court type of guy and just like to get moving, so I don’t think I’m going to have any trouble transitioning with that.”

When further discussing his transition to the league, Dekker was confident that his versatility would be a major asset and that he could a number of different positions.

“I see myself being able to play the two, three and four,” Dekker said. “I have the ability to get up and down and run like a guard and handle the ball, but I like playing on the wing as a four.”

He also admits that he wasn’t as forceful in the low post as he should have been in college – that he didn’t use his height to his advantage as often as he should have. He’s looking to correct that issue at the next level.

“Sometimes I don’t realize enough that I’m 6’9 and I can play inside,” he said. “So that’s one thing I’m really trying to add to my game, the inside game. And I’m getting there. Once I do that, I think I’ll be a tough match-up.”

Many scouts and NBA executives agree that Dekker’s versatile skill set is incredibly impressive, and that he can be a match-up nightmare when/if he puts it all together.

That enticing upside is the reason he’ll likely be a lottery pick next month.

Tommy Beer is a Senior NBA Analyst and the Fantasy Sports Editor of Basketball Insiders, having covered the NBA for the last nine seasons.

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