Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker hopes NCAA Tournament success lands him in lottery, perhaps with Phoenix Suns
PHOENIX — How a player’s perceived draft stock is affected by their play in the NCAA Tournament has long been debated.
There’s no debate how well junior forward Sam Dekker performed during Wisconsin’s Final Four run.
Named the West Region’s Most Outstanding Player, Dekker averaged 19.2 points with 57.1 percent shooting including 41.7 percent from three-point range in six games.
He’s long been considered a first-round draft pick, but many believe he may have now sneaked his way into lottery status with his play in March.
“He certainly rose to the occasion in the NCAA Tournament,” Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said. “He really elevated his game, elevated his play and there’s no question he helped himself. As far as stock going into the tournament, it’s not something we really determine. He was a first-round candidate one way or another, but I think his performance in the last five or six games of the year in the tournament certainly helped.”
Wednesday, Dekker worked out for the Suns, who pick 13th in the June 25 NBA Draft.
“It went well,” he said, before adding about his tournament success, “If it did help (my draft status) then that’s good. I was just trying to go out there and play well and it happened to work out pretty well for myself and for our team. I don’t really put too much stock into that stuff. People can put down names in a numbered slot whenever they want, so I don’t pay too much attention to that. There’s more that goes on than the outside knows. I just try to play my game, every day get better and come draft day we’ll see what happens.”
Dekker headlined a group of draft prospects that included Arizona junior forward Brandon Ashley, Arizona State senior guard Bo Barnes, Colorado State senior guard Daniel Bejarano, Syracuse senior forward Rakeem Christmas and West Virginia senior guard Juwan Staten.
Listed at 6-foot-9 and 218 pounds, Dekker is “a pretty fluid athlete” according to McDonough, who was impressed by the 21-year-old’s ability to handle the basketball and attack a defender off the dribble, areas of his game he did not always show in college.
Dekker is a threat to score anywhere on the floor, but had his most success with a spot-up jumper.
“He shoots it pretty easy,” McDonough said. “He’s got a high release, high-arcing shot.”
Dekker made 63.9 percent of his two-point attempts and 52.5 percent from the field overall this season. Dekker became only the eighth player in Wisconsin history to score more than 1,000 points and grab 500 or more rebounds in just three seasons.
Dekker does need to get stronger, especially to defend the bigger power forwards he will likely face at the next level.
“He’s got the body to do it, the frame to do it,” McDonough said, referring to Dekker adding strength once he begins an NBA weight program. “I think he’ll be able to guard most 4s. Some are tougher matchups, the Zach Randolphs of the world and Blake Griffins are a little more powerful, but that’s a challenge for 80 percent of the guys in the league.”
The interest Dekker is receiving may leave him unavailable once the Suns are on the clock, though if it is Phoenix that drafts him, he certainly wouldn’t complain.
Their styles of play fit well, according to Dekker.
“That’s something I like to do is I like getting out in the open court, using my athleticism; just putting the defense on their heels,” he said. “That’s something I’ve been able to do well over the course of my career and hopefully I can continue that. But, wherever I go, hopefully I can fit in, and I can see myself being used in many different ways.”