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LA Clippers 2017-2018 Player Previews: Sam Dekker

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Young, versatile, and full of personality, Sam Dekker is just what the Los Angeles Clippers need in a small forward.

Los Angeles Clippers Media Day Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

Height: 6’9”

Weight: 230 pounds

Age: 23

NBA Experience: 2 seasons

Position: Small Forward

Key Stats: Played a total of 80 games over two seasons with the Houston Rockets; 77 during the 2016-17 season. Averaged 6.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 0.7 blocks in 18.4 minutes per game in the 2016-2017 season, with a 54.3% effective field goal percentage.

Contract Status:

  • 2017-18: $1,794,600
  • 2018-19: $2,760,095 [Team Option]
  • 2019-20: $3,916,575 [Qualifying Offer]

Expectations:

Sam Dekker is a young, long and versatile player expected to bring depth and scoring ability to the Los Angeles Clippers in the small forward position. A definite upgrade over former Clipper Luc Mbah a Moute; particularly on the offensive side of the floor.

Who is Sam Dekker?

Dekker was one of seven players, along with a protected first-round draft pick and $661,000, to be traded to the Clippers in the off-season by the Houston Rockets in exchange for All-Star point guard Chris Paul. Dekker was chosen by the Rockets as the No. 18 overall pick in round 1 of the 2015 NBA Draft.

In his rookie year, Dekker missed all but three games due to a back injury and related surgery. He averaged less than two minutes and generated no notable statistics that season. Dekker’s second year with the Rockets was a marked improvement. He played a little over 18 minutes per game, averaging 6.5 points and 3.7 rebounds. Notably, Dekker had 15 games in which he scored double figures, including two games against the Championship Golden State Warriors in which he scored 17 points.

Dekker broke his left hand during a win over the Phoenix Suns on April 3, 2017, forcing him to sit out the final five games of the 2016-2017 regular season. He was also unavailable for the Rockets’ first round playoff series against the Oklahoma City the Thunder. Dekker would return to play four games in the Rockets’ second round series against the San Antonio Spurs, but his minutes of play and statistics were well below his average.

Dekker’s Anticipated Fit with the Clippers

The Clippers have long been desperate to find a fit at small forward. Between Dekker, anticipated starter Danilo Gallinari, and Wesley Johnson, the Clippers have more depth at the position than they’ve ever had. If Dekker can stay injury-free, he is likely to get meaningful minutes in the Clippers’ rotation, and should contribute significantly to the team’s success.

The 6-foot 9-inch Dekker will have a height advantage over most small forwards in the league, providing a favorable mismatch on offense. Dekker is a multi-talented scorer, who is just as comfortably posting up and dunking as he is stretching the floor or penetrating the lane. He will provide a necessary off-the-bench scoring option for Los Angeles.

Dekker’s size may provide a number of benefits on defense as well. Although he has not yet established himself as a defensive juggernaut, Dekker is a decent rebounder and shot-blocker. He also has the demonstrated ability to switch off and effectively defend guards inside the arc. Impressively, Dekker has voiced a willingness to take on touch defensive assignments in the upcoming season. Helpful, given the Clippers’ loss of defense-minded Mbah a Moute.

At 23, Dekker has time to further grow and develop, and is anticipated to become one of the faces of the “new” Clippers franchise; a revamped, young, up-and-coming ball club. Gone are the days of 1-year minimum contracts and an old veteran bench. The Clippers’ off-season roster overhaul was clearly focused on creating a new identity for the future.

Finally, skill set aside, Dekker’s personality appears to be a good match for laid-back Los Angeles. Positive chemistry among players is welcomed in the Clippers’ locker room; rumors of strained relationships between star players had long plagued the franchise. Returning stars Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are well known for their sense of humor and big personalities. If Dekker’s Twitter account is any indication, he’s going to fit right in.