PHOENIX – “I’m focusing on mainly the defensive side of the ball, rebounding and blocking shots. I feel like that’s what I’m going to be getting my minutes for in my first chapter of the NBA. That’s what I’ll get on the floor for. I’m just focusing on that, making sure I’m getting all of that on lockdown.” – Steven Adams on his mindset going into pre-draft workouts
Steven Adams’ freshman season at Pitt (7.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in 23 minutes per game) was nothing to write home about, yet the 7-footer has shot up draft boards in recent weeks, and according to Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, he’s being considered as a potential option with the No. 5 pick.
For one, it’s hard to teach the type of mobility and athleticism Adams has for his height. While at 19 he’s not a polished shooter or post player, what he did show under Jamie Dixon was an extremely high motor and an ability to impact the game without the basketball (terrific screener who also averaged 5.0 rebounds and 3.4 blocks per 40 minutes).
While he’s definitely a project pick for whatever lottery team takes a chance on him, Adams possesses several of the intangibles necessary to be successful at the NBA level.
“Steven Adams is a very impressive physical specimen,” McDonough said. “He’s a terrific athlete, good hands and feet. He’s still raw and developing offensively, but there is a lot to work with there.”
There are plenty of question marks regarding Adams, including is he ready on June 27 to be an NBA player. The main reason Adams, who is one of 18 siblings, cited for leaving Pitt was his desire to help some of the struggling members of his family. That’s absolutely commendable but by no means does that mean he’s ready to play basketball at the highest level.
As a freshman he shot 57 percent from the floor but keep in mind he only took 5.5 shots per game. Adams was featured on just 11 percent of the Panthers’ possessions in 2012-13, because he has a limited offensive game.
The New Zealand native’s back-to-basket moves are a big work in progress because he lacks the type of footwork that’s required to beat his man off the first step. Also, at 250 pounds, Adams should be a much better finisher in the paint than he was in his only year of college basketball. He’s not exactly soft, but he’s also not exactly a guy a team can count on to bang inside for easy buckets. That’s just not his game.
Is his ceiling as high as team evaluators seem to think it is following the NBA and pre-draft workouts?
Sure, his offensive shortcomings – footwork in the post, shooting touch, finishing around the basket – can be improved upon over time, but for teams struggling to make the postseason year-after-year, it’s not exactly an easy lottery pick to sell to a fan base.
He’s a very likeable guy, plays the game very hard and appears to have a good head on his shoulders when it comes to recognizing where he needs to improve, but with that said, if there was a poster child in the 2013 NBA Draft for raw, he’d be it.
If someone reaches, Adams could be the diamond in the rough among lottery prospects. But he could also be the rough.
“I think he can contribute right away,” Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek said when asked if Adams was a project. “He’s a guy who understands the game, for us as coaches we’re looking to see does he take up the space defensively when a guy drives, does he make an extra pass when someone helps and comes out on him in the post. He was doing those things [in the workout].”
How he fits with the Suns
Does this sound familiar? An outgoing center who runs the floor well and can rebound when needed but struggles to use his body around the basket and often times becomes an outcast at the offensive end.
It should, because the Suns already have a player cut out of a similar mold in Marcin Gortat. While the Polish Hammer has better touch away from the basket than Adams, both are mobile guys that move well without the basketball, but when push comes to shove, well, they usually get shoved.
While Gortat’s future in the Valley remains up in the air, should he be dealt this summer, Adams doesn’t seem like a sound replacement. And certainly not with the team’s No. 5 pick. He has plenty of upside, but for a team with plenty of holes, upside isn’t worth taking such a huge risk.
“I think they play a similar game to what I’m used to,” Adams said of the Suns. “They go on a lot of fast breaks, use screen-and-rolls with bigs, so yeah, that’s my sort of thing. I like to go up-and-down.”
And 1 … a second-rounder to consider
Alex Oriakhi. Oriakhi never showed off a great post game (mediocre hands and footwork) while at UConn or Missouri, but at 6-foot-9, 260 pounds, the former McDonald’s All-American was a force to be reckoned with on the glass. He’s NBA strong, consistently plays with aggression and can be slotted at both the four (big lineup) or the five (small lineup) depending on the matchup.
“Translating to the NBA, it’s just about being a team guy,” Oriakhi said. “I really pride myself on being a great teammate, the guy that does the intangibles and the little things to help teams win. I think every team needs a guy like that. I think a guy like that is just as valuable as someone who scores 20 or 30 points a game. I’m just looking to come in and do the dirty work.”
UPDATE (12:00 p.m.): The Suns had reportedly agreed to bring on Roy Rogers as an assistant coach, but the team pulled out of contract negotiations, according to Paul Coro. Rogers, who was part of Lawrence Frank’s staff in Detroit, was considered a candidate to join Jason Kidd on the Brooklyn Nets’ staff, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported. That might be the case, but everything is possible these days. With the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers nearing a trade that would ship coach Doc Rivers to LA, Lawrence Frank’s candidacy to replace Rivers in Beantown could also be a pull to Rogers.