Feb 18, 2013: Pittsburgh, PA, USA: Pittsburgh Panthers center Steven Adams (13) finishes a dunk against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the second half at Petersen Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Pugliese-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Draft Profile: Steven Adams


After profiling Alex Len and Kelly Olynyk, here comes another profile for a big man with lottery potential. This time, the man in question is Steven Adams.

Background:

Here is an excellently put together Draft Express video highlighting Adams’ strengths and weaknesses, along with some highlights of his freshman season.

Born in New Zealand, Adams came over after graduating from his high school in New Zealand. He played one semester at a prep school in Massachusetts in order to up his stock as well as ready himself for the college game. He was highly recruited as a high schooler based on his height, athleticism and massive potential.

Once he arrived at Pittsburgh, he was an instant boost to the team’s defense. Though he did not play major minutes, averaging a little over 23 minutes per game, he blocked a lot of shots and altered many more.

Though he did not put up major numbers statiscally, Adams’ draft stock gained a lot of traction over the course of his freshman year. As is often the case with the draft, his height and potential had NBA teams salivating because of the lack of true big men in the NBA. Drafting a game changing big man almost instantly makes you a much better team. Because of this, Adams decided to leave school for the professionals after only his freshman season.

Expected Draft Position:

Chad Ford’s latest mock draft has him going 13th to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Draft Express and Draft Net both ahve him going 10th to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Strengths:

Adams has tremendous potential as a defensive player. He has great footwork which allows him to keep up with speedier guys when teams try to get him on pick and roll switches and he is strong enough to hold his own against actual big men down low. As pointed out in the Draft Express video, he is extremely good at hedging on picks and being able to run back to his man. Adams’ length and wingspan makes it hard for point guards to make passes over him when he comes over to hedge on the pick. Because of that, it will rarely lead to a breakdown where the point guard is able to make a pass to a wide open big man in the post.

His ability to block shots is among the best of this draft class. He has great instincts for when to take off and his body positioning helps him avoid stupid contact fouls on clean blocks. His foot speed also helps him catch guys on the fast break and when he comes over to help from the weak side. His defensive abilities are the type of skills that generall do translate pretty well to the NBA.

Offensively, he runs the court excellently. He is quick and has a great motor which causes havoc on the fast break because it is not often that the Center will be the first man down the court on a break. He has great hands to catch passes thrown to him both in the post and when he is running on the fast break.

His athleticism also allows him to finish well at the rim when he is open. He can dunk it with a running start or from a standing position. His shear height makes it hard to cover him down low because he can catch the pass, keep it up high and throw it down without ever putting the ball in a position where it can be swiped at.

Weaknesses:

 He is a long term project along the same line as a Byron Mullens or Serge Ibaka. His actual basketball talent remains to be seen. Some players develop well and some just plateau and never really become as good as they are projected. Drafting based on height is always kind of a tough gamble.

Offensively, he is not going to ever really be a big scorer. He does not have much of a shooting touch outside the paint and it doesn’t look like he will develop one either. He shot free throws at a 41 percent rate which is fairly terrible. It also means that teams will be hesitant to have him out on the court in tight late game situations for fear of their opponents intentionally fouling him.

It seems like he really needs to work on his basketball IQ, most of his game right now is purely reliant on his ability to jump high and run quickly. While that may have worked so far, it’s not going to work quite as well in the NBA where everyone is quick and everyone is strong. If he doesn’t develop go-to moves and work on his fundamentals, he will quickly find himself sitting on the bench gathering dust.

What to expect in the NBA:

As I mentioned, it is so hard to tell how big men will develop in the NBA. He could become the next Serge Ibaka but he could also be the next Hasheem Thabeet. When an NBA player comes into the pros as a purely athletic project, the odds of having a successful career greatly rely on his team’s coaching staff and the player’s ability to absorb new knowledge.

Personally, while I think that Adams will find a niche spot as a small minutes big man who comes in to block shot and energize the team, I don’t think he will become much more than that. From what I have seen of him, I don’t think he has the required natural talent to really develop an offensive game that will allow him to play big minutes. Ultimately, I see him becoming something like a Chris Andersen currently is for the Miami Heat right now. Such a role is an important one for winning teams but it is not the type of player you want to draft in the lottery.

Ultimately I would like to see him go late in the first round or early in the second but the odds of that actually happening seem quite unlikely.

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Tags: Basketball Pittsburgh Panthers Steven Adams

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