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Sam Dekker to be traded to Cleveland Cavaliers, per report

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The former Badger is headed back east for what could be his best chance yet at NBA playing time.

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Sam Dekker is on the move again.

The former Wisconsin Badgers star will soon be on his third NBA team since being drafted in 2015, as the Los Angeles Clippers are trading Dekker to the Cleveland Cavaliers, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Sunday. It’s unclear what the Clippers’ return will be, as Woj stated the move is “essentially [the] Clippers clearing a roster spot.” Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon reported Dekker is being incorporated into the trade exemption generated when the Cavs traded Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics last year.

Dekker, 24, was traded to the Clippers before last season as part of the deal with the Houston Rockets that sent Chris Paul to Houston. He appeared in 73 games last season, averaging 4.2 points and 2.4 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per game. Those numbers dipped across the board from his most productive season, his last year with the Rockets the season prior in 2016–17, when Dekker averaged 6.5 points and 3.7 rebounds in 18.4 minutes per game.

The Rockets drafted Dekker 18th in 2015 after the Sheboygan native elected to pass on his final year of college eligibility to turn pro. Dekker came out of high school as a five-star prospect in 2012 to become one of only four true freshman to start under Bo Ryan.

Dekker appeared in 113 games at Wisconsin (81 starts), pairing with Frank Kaminsky to lead the Badgers to consecutive Final Fours in 2014 and 2015. He was named the 2015 NCAA West Region’s Most Outstanding Player and finished his time at UW as a two-time second-team All-Big Ten selection after making the Big Ten All-Freshman team in 2013.

One interesting note following Woj’s report: Yahoo Sports’ Jordan Schultz quoted a league source as saying, “‘A lack of maturity and focus regarding basketball’ have plagued” Dekker throughout his NBA career. Take that for what you will.

The early word from Cleveland

SB Nation’s Cavs blog, Fear The Sword, had this to say in their write-up of the trade:

The Cavaliers haven’t made any moves at the forward position so far this offseason, and find themselves short-handed there after the departures of rotation mainstays LeBron James (pretty important guy) and Jeff Green.

Well, they’ve taken their first step towards remedying that.

[...]

He’s an energy guy that can play the three or the four defensively, which is something the Cavaliers desperately need. Unfortunately, he’ll struggle to survive at the three until his shooting gets better (he shot a hideous 16 percent from distance last season on 0.8 attempts per game.)

The early word from L.A.

SB Nation’s Clippers blog, Clips Nation, had this to say about Dekker moving on:

The primary advantage for the Clippers is that they get to move Dekker’s guaranteed $2.7 million salary off of their books, potentially giving them additional flexibility under the luxury tax line and saving owner Steve Ballmer a little bit of money—though it wouldn’t surprise me if L.A. is sending Cleveland cash to cover a portion of Dekker’s salary for this season.

Dekker, a 6’8” combo forward from Wisconsin, was a major disappointment in his third NBA season and first as a Clipper, routinely losing minutes to Wesley Johnson, rookie wing Sindarius Thornwell, and two-way contract players from the G-League such as C.J. Williams, Jamil Wilson, and Tyrone Wallace. Of the 21 players who wore a Clippers uniform last season, only Brice Johnson and Sean Kilpatrick were less impactful, and Sam provided no indication that he could perform at an NBA-caliber level going forward.