A big reason why the Houston Rockets have been so successful this season is the emergence of their two sophomore players, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell.
We’ve all heard about the MVP level season James Harden is having. We’ve heard about how Mike D’Antoni has saved his reputation as a coaching guru. And we’ve heard about how Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon are enjoying career resurgences in Houston.
However, we need to start talking about the growth and development that Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell have shown as rotational players this season. Let’s dive deeper into the seasons both players are having in order to truly appreciate their contributions for the Houston Rockets this season.
It is important to note that because Sam Dekker only played six minutes during his rookie season due to a back injury, he is essentially a rookie. That makes his contributions to a team on pace to win 59 games all the more impressive.
For the season, Dekker is averaging 7.5 points and 4.1 rebounds in 19.4 minutes per game. That may not sound like much, but when you translate them to per 36 (starter) minutes, you get 13.8 points and 7.5 rebounds. Those numbers are eerily similar to the per 36 minute numbers of Otto Porter (15.2 points and 7.0 rebounds).
Then you take a look at Dekker’s advanced metrics. Dekker currently has a 116 offensive rating, 0.5 offensive box plus-minus and 1.04 offensive real plus-minus, which is good for 17th in the league among small forwards.
Dekker is also a part of the Rockets’ most successful lineup (in terms of net rating) as the lineup of Patrick Beverley, Eric Gordon, Corey Brewer, Dekker, and Nene boasts a 112.1 offensive rating and 89.4 defensive rating, good for a net rating of +22.7 in the 123 minutes it has played.
When you consider the fact that Dekker has essentially been a league average player (14.5 Player Efficiency Rating, -0.2 box plus-minus) in his rookie season, it’s clear that Dekker certainly has the potential to be a solid starting wing (or small-ball 4) in the NBA.
Space City Scoop
While Harrell was able to play 379 minutes during his rookie season, the jump he has taken in his second season in the NBA has been nothing short of remarkable. Filling in for the injured Clint Capela, Harrell has started 13 games this season and is playing 19.2 minutes per game in the crowded Rockets frontcourt.
Harrell is putting up 9.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game in that limited playing time. If you translate those numbers to per 36 minutes you get 17.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. If those numbers weren’t impressive enough, wait until you hear Harrell’s advanced statistics.
For the season, Harrell has a 127 offensive rating, a 19.7 PER, a 66.6 true shooting percentage, and a 1.4 box plus-minus. Harrell is also 21st in the league among power forwards in real plus-minus.
Speaking of impressive lineups, when Harrell fills Capela’s void at center the Rockets boast a net rating of +18.7. The lineup of Harden, Gordon, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson and Harrell have an astounding 125.9 offensive rating to make up for their 107.2 defensive rating.
Harrell quickly developed chemistry with James Harden in the pick-and-roll, as (explosively) shown here:
Even with Harrell’s impressive play, he will struggle to find consistent minutes in Houston’s center rotation that includes Capela and Nene. Dekker is the more likely “sophomore” to receive consistent playing time as the de facto backup power forward.
Regardless, it is extremely promising that both players are rapidly developing and able to contribute on a consistent basis on a contending team. Daryl Morey must be smiling in his office each and every time the two players are on the court making plays for the Rockets.