How Sunday Dech found opportunity and success beside LaMelo Ball

Illawarra Hawks head coach, Matt Flinn has had mixed success in finding productive lineups or rotations through the early part of the season, but he’s recently landed on something beneficial.

Sunday Dech has seen an increased role and found a place in the starting group, a meaningful development. Per spatialjam.com’s on-off metrics, the Hawks have been 9.2 points better on offence, as well as 5.7 points better on defence, with Dech on the court.

Illawarra’s needs are a fit for what Dech provides. Lost in the rotation in October, his point of difference, the clear ability to defend, was reason for optimism and suggested that his opportunity would come.

The Ball-Dech backcourt pairing certainly isn’t perfect and won’t deliver them a playoff spot but, given the team’s current context, these two complement each other as well as any. Lamelo dominates the ball and is paired with a credible defender in Dech, who then plays more of the opportunistic scoring role.

The below two-man combo numbers, per spatialjam.com, speak to the success of the fit.

Player 1Player 2 Net RatingDefensive RatingLamelo BallSunday Dech4.9112.4Lamelo BallAaron Brooks-17.3128.6Lamelo BallEmmett Naar-40.1130.7Lamelo BallAngus Glover-9.1126.0Lamelo BallDaniel Grida-12.9124.8

Aaron Brooks is no longer an option due to an Achilles injury, whilst Emmett Naar is a pick and roll point guard who needs the ball in his hands - a close to impossible fit next to Lamelo at this stage of their careers. Angus Glover has a stack of future potential, but he is an unpolished rookie at this point in time, and then there is Daniel Grida whose play has stalled after showing good intent and intrigue on both ends last season.

We’re still in the early process of feeling out what Dech is as a scorer at the NBL level, but he has shown legitimate promise with both his shooting form and the way he moves with purpose, when playing without the ball. He should be able to provide enough value on the offensive end to pair with his defence, and establish his spot in the league as a permanent rotation player.

To illustrate the confidence in his ability to contribute enough in a complementary scoring role, see the frequency of these particular plays (full details at jordanmcnbl.com). He's getting a good variety of the necessary play-types.

Sunday DechSpot UpCutTransitionPut BackOff ScreenPoints Per Play0.890.711.751.501.25Frequency30%17%13%10%7%

Dech isn’t a high-volume three-point shooter yet but he has been accurate in college, in his recent New Zealand NBL stint, and this current NBL season.

Take a look at his performance against Cairns earlier this month and you’ll see the range of off ball plays that he makes, and needs to continue to show, in his role next to Lamelo Ball on offence.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7oLgbKs3rQ

Defensively, Dech can really make his opponent work hard early in the shot clock. He likes to get up and in on his man when defending the main ball-handler, often picking them up full court.

He’s got great energy and effort to go with his strong body, he fights through contact, or he can switch and hold up against different types. He’s also attentive off the ball looking to make the right decisions with when to help or when to stay with his direct opponent.

It's somewhat related to his effort, but Dech’s attitude also stands out. Watch his media appearances this season and you will note that he’s articulate, measured, and team-first. These are bonuses and can only help with being a successful role player.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-arnXS7d4d8

Dech is ready to contribute right now, perhaps older than some may realise at almost 26, and Illawarra landing him on a two-year deal appears to be a savvy move. Even without contract dollars known, I would hazard a guess that his contract is one of the better value for money deals in the league right now, given that this is his first full-time opportunity at NBL level.

With Illawarra still having an import to add in place of Brooks (that timeline remains unclear, according to an official release at Wednesday noon), Dech has bought the team a little extra time, he’s helped save them from additional blowout losses, and importantly earned himself a spot in the rotation moving forward. All of this is thanks to Dech embracing his strengths and the right parts of his game, as well as jumping on his opportunity.