In what was a completely shocking move, at least for the more global basketball community, it was reported late on Thursday that the Oklahoma City Thunder would be signing Real Madrid wing Gabriel Deck to a three-year deal that will begin now, with the remainder of the 2020-21 season.
The move was particularly surprising because Deck had just helped Real Madrid qualify for the Euroleague playoffs merely hours before, scoring 19 points against Fenerbahce in a must-win game for Madrid, only to be let out of his contract early to join the 20-32 Thunder that ensuing evening.
Had Deck and the Thunder waited for after this season to come to terms on a union, the shock of the move would not have been so great. But for Real Madrid to let him out of his contract early, ahead of their impending domestic and international tournaments, is the real surprise here.
Making the move even more surprising is the fact that Deck’s contract with the Thunder, HoopsHype has learned, isn’t even guaranteed after this season, meaning the 26-year-old is taking a legitimate risk here.
There’s a chance this move by Deck could be a game-changing moment in international basketball, too.
Who knows? Might this lead to more talent from the Euroleague – widely considered the second toughest competition in the world of basketball – leaving for the NBA mid-season? Impossible to predict now, but if Deck thrives in this upcoming situation, it’s certainly a possibility.
In all, Deck’s career with Real Madrid lasted nearly three successful years, and though he may not be super well-known by the average basketball fan, he’s someone who has been on the fringes of NBA radars dating back to before his time with the European powerhouse.
Below, you can check out nine things to know about the Thunder’s latest signing.
His nickname is ‘La Tortuga’, which translates to ‘The Turtle’ in English…
Let’s get the frivolous stuff out of the way first.
Deck’s nickname is ‘La Tortuga’, ‘The Turtle’ in English, a nickname given to him because, as the story goes, one time, Deck was cold while in a living room with his friends and put a blanket around his head, covering his ears, and his friends said he looked like a turtle. And the nickname has stuck since then.
Athletes: They’re just like us!
He used to rock a distinctive mohawk/mullet…
We can’t publish a picture of this very distinct hairstyle Deck used to have for copyright reasons but just trust us: The swingman used to rock a very noticeable mohawk/mullet blend during his time with San Lorenzo.
If you want to see it for yourself in all of its glory, just click here.
He participated in the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit along with Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns…
Deck took part in the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit, the annual event that pits the top American and international prospects in the world against each other for a single game, with the preceding practices giving scouts a good chance to look at future NBA players.
Some of Deck’s teammates on the international team that year included All-NBAers Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns, former No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins and current Los Angeles Lakers point guard Dennis Schroeder, an absolutely loaded squad that year that actually beat the Americans – a group that included Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis – 112-98 in the showcase matchup.
Deck played just over three minutes in the game, going 0-for-1 from the field while not recording any other statistic. Regardless, it was undoubtedly a great experience for his development as a player.
He played his first professional game in Argentina at age 14…
As is more common in overseas leagues, Deck’s professional basketball career started extremely early on in his life.
Deck was merely 14 years old the first time he tasted professional basketball game action, and he did it in the tough Argentinian league as a member of Quimsa, the local team from the province in which he was raised.
That doesn’t necessarily mean Deck already had a professional contract at that point in his career, as amateurs are often allowed to play with the pro clubs as part of their development, but it’s still an interesting fact nonetheless.
Deck would spend six years with Quimsa before switching over to San Lorenzo, a much bigger club in the Argentinian league.
He was the top scorer in the 2012 U-17 World Cup…
One of the main reasons Deck found himself on NBA radars years before actually making the transition to the top basketball league in the world was for his performance at the 2012 U-17 World Cup.
Deck was the leading scorer at the tournament at 21.5 points per game, and though Argentina’s youth team disappointed overall at the 2012 U-17 World Cup, finishing sixth with a 4-4 record, Deck individually was brilliant.
He missed out on being named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player – that distinction would go to someone you may have heard of, Jahlil Okafor – but Deck was still named to the All-Tournament team along with Okafor, Dante Exum, Mario Hezonja and Justise Winslow.
That’s a very impressive group right there, as though none of those names would go on to be NBA stars, they were all elite NBA Draft prospects at one point or another.
He had a very illustrious career at San Lorenzo…
While with San Lorenzo, Deck was dominant, earning an extremely noteworthy list of accolades during his three seasons there.
Deck was the Argentinian League MVP in 2018, he led San Lorenzo to two Argentine League championships during his three years there, both tournaments in which he won Finals MVP, and he even led the powerhouse South American club to a FIBA Americas League championship in 2018, where he was the tournament’s top scorer and Grand Final MVP.
Needless to say, San Lorenzo’s return on investment on the Deck signing was through the roof.
He was teammates with Joel Anthony and DeJuan Blair at San Lorenzo…
‘The Warden’ as he’s known by Miami Heat fans, Joel Anthony was a teammate of Deck’s with San Lorenzo for one season, as was seven-year NBA veteran DeJuan Blair, both of whom helped Deck greatly in leading San Lorenzo to such great heights during his three seasons with the club.
He makes a big impact on winning…
If you thought Deck’s career success only took place in Argentina, you’d be mistaken, as Deck was also part of one Spanish League championship with Real Madrid, as well as winning one Copa del Rey title and three Spanish SuperCup championships.
Of course, Deck was more of a role player with Real Madrid than he was at San Lorenzo, but the fact that he acclimated so well to a complementary role indicates he could do well if asked to do something similar with the Thunder.
Deck was also part of Argentina’s 2019 Silver-medal-winning World Cup team.
His game should acclimate well in the NBA…
Deck’s game can be described as that of a high-energy, two-way swingman with good athleticism and shooting touch, as well as slashing ability. He also isn’t afraid to post up smaller foes and either get to the cup himself or set up teammates for tidy looks near the rim.
As is the norm for most Argentine athletes, Deck also possesses a unique flash in his game that is uncommon for most players:
Gabriel Deck leaves Real Madrid to the NBA.
3-year deal with OKC Thunder. pic.twitter.com/zKwNVYYEV0
— Los Vikingos (@VikingosWay) April 9, 2021
In 31 Euroleague contests for Real Madrid this season, Deck averaged 8.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 0.7 steals while shooting 41.4 percent from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, in 21 Liga ACB matches, Deck put up 10.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 steals, and hit 33.3 percent of his outside looks.
For a closer look at Deck’s game, just check out these highlights from a recent 18-point performance for Real Madrid:
Are the Spanish giants making the playoff? 👀 pic.twitter.com/qvbDCgNBTw
— Turkish Airlines EuroLeague (@EuroLeague) April 3, 2021