The 5 spot is easily one of the toughest spots to fill. Quality players at the 5 spot are hard to come by as it is, and quality 7-footers are even more rare. Let’s be honest, and admit to ourselves that scouting 7-footers can be incredibly difficult. The only proof I need to render that statement true is to recall the 2008 draft day hype surrounding a UConn player by the name of Hasheem Thabeet.
At 7’3″ and 263 lbs., Thabeet had the size that turned people’s heads when he walked by them. He was UConn’s version of Serge Ibaka in the 2 years he played for them, as getting inside the paint and scoring against him was next to impossible at the NCAA level. He looked like the ultimate dominant big man coming out of UConn, and I even remember wishing that Presti would trade up in the draft to land him for the Thunder’s inaugural season in Oklahoma City. Unfortunately, or fortunately as my new perspective views it, Thabeet got snapped up by the Grizzlies with the 2nd overall pick, as the Thunder got stuck with pick #4. With it, they were forced to select a UCLA guard by the name of Russell Westbrook, who I’m pretty sure you know all about at this point.
Well, we all see how Thabeet’s career has turned out, and it’s not really that big of a knock on the big man. At the end of the day, most 7-footers are simply hauling around too much size and mass to have the speed and coordination that a successful NBA center requires. I mean, Thabeet is now a current Thunder player, and not only did he average less than 9 minutes per game last season, he only saw floor time in 23 games, period.
Therefore, seeing a kid out of Pitt that, while incredibly raw, also had an incredibly high ceiling with very rare physical tools to boot, the Thunder knew that they were taking Steven Adams with the 12th overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft. Granted, it’s possible that he becomes another Byron Mullens, and becomes a “so-so” player at best, but it’s awfully hard to pass up a player with a 7’5″ wingspan that plays with actual athletic coordination.
After a fairly impressive rookie campaign, all eyes were on Adams in Orlando. He started in 3 of the 5 Summer League contests, as he was nursing a shin bruise for the entire week. So is Adams continuing to improve during the offseason? Let’s see how he looked in Orlando.
Grizzlies: In 17:32, he scored 7 points off of 2-for-4 (50%) shooting, as he also managed a decent 3-for-5 (60%) from the free throw line. He also logged 2 rebounds (1 off., 1 def.), 2 blocks, and an assist, but ended with 2 turnovers and a personal foul as well.
76ers: In 29:02, he scored 12 points off of a beautiful 4-for-5 (80%) shooting performance, although he shot a very “Shaq-like” 4-for-8 (50%) on his free throws. He doubled his rebounds from the first game with 4 (2 off., 2 def.), and added a steal, but also logged 2 additional turnovers. Plus, his 7 personal fouls would have had him ejected from a regular season contest before it ever hit that point.
Nets: Did not play, as he was one of five players given the day off.
Pacers: In 34:18, he scored 10 points off of 3-for-6 (50%) shooting, but still going a dismal 4-for-10 (40%) on his freebies. He crashed the boards something major in this one, logging 8 rebounds (5 off., 3 def.) and adding a block. He also committed 4 personal fouls and 5 turnovers.
Heat: Did not play, as he was one of two players given the day off.
Totals: In 80 minutes and 52 seconds, or roughly 27 minutes a game, his per game stats are as follows: 9.7 points off of 60% shooting, 47.9% free throw shooter, 0.3 assists, 4.7 rebounds (2.7 off., 2 def.), 1 block, 0.3 steals, 4 personal fouls, and 3 turnovers.
It was obvious that the shin bruise limited Adams’ effectiveness in Orlando. Although, if I’m to be honest, his inexperience showed here as well. Despite my near-certainty that the shin bruise hurt his speed even further, there were times where he simply looked lost in transition. Once he heals the bruise, he needs to spend time practicing getting back in transition, as his inability to do so on defense really contributed to his foul troubles in Orlando.
He also needs to spend time with Collison, or maybe even McGary working on post moves during the remainder of the offseason. Adams’ inexperience has left him with no “go to” moves down low, and it showed during the Summer League. There were various times where I saw Adams catch a pass down low and subsequently hesitate, as if he didn’t know what to do from there. It’s because he really doesn’t. Although he has incredible physical tools, he could really use a big man with knowledge of the fundamentals to mentor him, and show him how to use his physical tools to maximum effectiveness at the NBA level.
As high as I am on Adams already, he doesn’t look as though he’s quite ready to start at the 5 just yet. However, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collison, and Hasheem Thabeet are all in their contract year, so Adams becoming a starter by the 2015-2016 NBA season is looking like a very good possibility. As a matter of fact, he could make that a certainty if he continues to progress at the rate he did during his rookie season. While I can definitely still see him as the Thunder’s center of the future, I don’t think he’s quite ready to be the center of the present as raw as he still is at this stage. Once he adds some sizzle to his post game, however, he could very well prove to be the Thunder’s championship puzzle piece. As of now, only time holds the answer as to how far Adams can push himself and his team towards the NBA Championship.