The season is dwindling, but the Oklahoma City Thunder continue to toy with lineups and have even added a new player in Gabriel Deck, former Real Madrid star and Argentina native.
While a large portion of the Thunder roster presumably won’t survive the offseason, Thunder GM Sam Presti has his eyes set on Deck for the long haul, along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Theo Maledon, and Luguentz Dort. The difference is that SGA, Maledon, and Dort have proved themselves over at least one season, while Deck hasn’t.
On Tuesday against the Sacramento Kings, Deck logged 16 minutes. While I wanted to get a bigger sample size of OKC’s new acquisition, the issue may be that he’s too good to receive significant playing time for the Thunder, who are trying their hardest to secure a top-five lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
So, knowing that, it may be hard to nail down Deck’s identity on the court. That’s where I am coming in to help.
Here are a few things I’ve evaluated from Deck’s limited minutes.
First and foremost, he’s aggressive.
The old mindset about European players is that they’re soft by NBA standards, shying away from contact every chance they get. That may have been the old narrative, but the new generation of guys from Europe are different. Nikola Jokic and Luka Doncic are two of the big names changing that stereotype, Giannis Antetokoumpo is another, and apparently, Deck has that same mindset.
More than often, you’ll find him attacking the paint or the midrange over standing on the perimeter.
His passing ability is superior.
Talking about his physicality, he uses that to penetrate, but most of the time, it appears as if he’s looking to pass. We’ve seen that same playing style from Russell Westbrook, using penetration to draw in defenders and kicking the ball out to teammates. While we aren’t expecting Deck to turn into a Russell Westbrook caliber player, it’s an excellent sight to see just three games into his NBA career.
His post-up skills are there.
Deck’s a textbook small forward. He’s big enough (6-foot-6, 235 pounds) to back down most defenders who would be guarding him. He’s genuinely a textbook power forward. He has the skills to be a guard, bringing the ball up the court on occasion, yet tall and strong enough to have his way in the post and score on defenders around his size.
His hidden strength could be his ballhandling ability.
As referenced in the last paragraph, Deck can handle the ball, but he’s definitely above average for a small forward from Europe who hasn’t experienced the speed of an NBA game. Everything he did with the ball in his hand looked effortless, and he appeared to be so comfortable.
Things are setting up nicely in the ballhandling department for the Thunder with Maledon, who I think is the PG of the future for this franchise, SGA, who I believe will be moved to the shooting guard position primarily, and Deck, who may not be in the starting lineup or he may. Still, regardless, he can handle the ball for the Thunder.
Presti usually has his finger on the pulse when dealing with overseas talent, and with this signing being relatively spastic, he’s high on Deck, and after three games, I see why. I see the potential.