The Future is Now: Breaking Down Potential Celtics Draftee Steven Adams

With 15 days left until the NBA Draft, it's time to kick it into overdrive with draft prospect analysis. In previous installments of our 'Future is Now' series, we've looked at big men Jeff Withey of Kansas, Gorgui Dieng of Louisville, and Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk as well as UCLA one-and-done swingman Shabazz Muhammad. Today's installment of the series features Pittsburgh center Steven Adams. Adams is a true center with tremendous athletic gifts who's already won over Brian Scalabrine. Scals has worked out with Adams and believes that Adams has the potential to make an Omer Asik-type of impact on whichever basketball team selects him. Adams is seen as a bit of a project, but his draft stock has risen quickly in the past few weeks.

Full Name: Steven Adams
Hometown: Rotorua, New Zealand
College: Pittsburgh (1 Year)
Date of Birth: July 28, 1993 (19 Years Old)

Current ESPN Mock Draft Position: 12th to the Oklahoma City Thunder

Height: 7'0" (With Shoes), Weight: 255 pounds, Wingspan: 7'4.5"

College Career: Adams came to Pittsburgh as a big project for Head Coach Jamie Dixon. He had an up and down season and certainly look his lumps throughout the grueling Big East schedule. The word that would best describe his game is probably "raw". He showed flashes of brilliance with his uncanny athletic ability for his size.

He averaged just 7.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game while playing just about 23 minutes per game for the Panthers. He didn't really contribute all that much to Pittsburgh's offense; many of his shot attempts came from running the court on the break or off of the offensive glass. He never really displayed much in the way of post moves or a midrange game. As a result, his usage rate was very low, only 11% of his team's possessions. In the half court, Adams didn't get very many touches.  Another concerning stat of his is that he's a terrible free throw shooter; he shot 44.3% from the charity stripe this season.

Adams made more of a positive aspect for Pittsburgh on the defensive end of the court. He had a solid 2 blocks per game and was an interior presence. His athleticism, length, and timing made it relatively easy for him to contest shots without picking up cheap fouls. He seemed to progress as a player overall and although Pittsburgh got bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Wichita State, Adams had a solid game, registering his 2nd double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds. He would have been better off in his development if he returned to Pitt for his sophomore year of school, but getting a chance to help out his family financially was an opportunity he felt he couldn't afford to defer.

Scouting Report: 

Strengths: Adams' biggest strength in this draft is that he has one of the highest upsides out of all the draft entries. He is long, strong, and extremely athletic which are all attributes that teams fall in love with when evaluating 7-footers (Meyers Leonard of the Portland Trail Blazers was picked 11th in last years draft for similar reasons). He is a very good defensive player who despite being a raw player, already displays discipline far beyond his experience. Many shot blockers can be baited into stupid, cheap fouls with fakes but Adams is very good at timing his jumps or coming over from the weak side to contest shots without fouling. He is a very good rim protector with potential to become even better.

His lateral quickness actually makes him a pretty solid defender if he is switched onto the perimeter. Because of this, he's actually a very good pick and roll defensive big man as well.

Adams is quicker and more explosive than most players his size and can really be a force when he gets the opportunity to run in the open floor. He's also tenacious on the offensive boards. His ability to spring up quickly and jump higher than a defender boxing him out allows him to get some put back opportunities for easy buckets. He's also capable of playing above the rim and finishing with authority at times. On offense, he's also very effective as a screener; he is willing and able to use his body to give his teammates an angle from which to attack.

His biggest strength is that age old belief that you can teach fundamentals and skills, but size and athleticism are things that prospects either have or don't. Adams certainly has both. He's an extremely hard worker as well which suggests that he's not only capable of improving, but also willing to grind in order to make it happen.

Weaknesses: Right now, Adams' biggest weakness is that his game is pretty unrefined. Offensively, there isn't a whole lot that he can do in order to help his team outside of setting picks and grabbing offensive boards. He lacks a true go-to post move right now and his touch around the hoop is just average. When he catches the ball down low, it appears as though he's made up his mind as to which move he's going to make before feeling out his defender. This can either lead to hurried offense and chaos or an inability to use a counter move if the defender plays him well. When he catches in the post, his quickness relative to defenders actually allows him to get some quality looks simply by moving too quick for his man. He can get a right handed baby hook shot with relative ease. He needs to work on his touch in order to capitalize.

Outside of the post, he doesn't have much going for him offensively either. He was a non-factor in the college game if he caught the ball in a face up position rather than with his back to the hoop. His low free throw shooting numbers are worrisome because they display that he may never be a decent midrange shooter.
(As a note, in his workouts leading up to this point, the reports have been that his jump shot mechanics and midrange game have been extremely impressive to this point. This has been one of the catalysts for his rising stock).

On defense, he has some work to do as well. One of the things he needs to do a better job with is fighting in the post. Too often during his season last year he allowed his matchup to establish great position, right on the block. Even though he's good at contesting shots, if he doesn't fight to push his man off the block, NBA big men can figure out ways to score against him.

Lastly, he needs to become a more consistent rebounder. Right now he can snatch a lot of rebounds due just to his leaping ability and his wingspan. That said, he can be beaten for rebounds as well if he mistimes his jumps. He needs to show more of a commitment to consistently boxing out and finding a body to push away from the hoop rather than just relying on leaping ability to come down with boards.

Video Breakdown (Courtesy DraftExpress):

The video highlights a lot of the things mentioned above. Adams shows flashes of being a very good rim protector on defense as a result of his height and quickness. NBA teams will always covet guys who can do a good job of making shots close to the basket as hard as possible on opposing players. His physical attributes are also on display and the viewer is able to see that there are things Adams can do athletically that other big men simply can't. His offensive rebounding potential is shown as well; it's pretty clear that he's an explosive leaper, even from a standing position. This is important because big men typically don't get opportunities to build up a full head of steam and jump to their maximum capacity. Often times, it's about who can spring up quickest to get rebounds and play above the rim, and Adams is capable of doing that.

The video also shows that Adams gives up post position too easily on defense and occasionally can get lost if he's playing off of the ball. The tape shows some footage of him getting burnt for offensive rebounds for careless reasons that he'll need to clean up. Lastly, the tape isn't kind and certainly reveals Adams' offensive deficiencies. The team that drafts him will have to come to grips with the fact that he's a couple of years away from being an offensive factor.

How he Fits the Celtics: On the surface, Adams' status as a developmental center isn't too different from the project that Danny Ainge drafted last year in Fab Melo. Adams is a better prospect this season than Melo was last year due in large part to his ability to show that he can be a solid man to man defender, something Melo is still trying to prove. He has high upside and would be able to contribute in small ways immediately but would certainly be a player that would need to be eased along. If his improved shooting during workouts is something that's legitimate, he could become a scary pick and roll or pick and pop player.

Ultimately, he's a good fit in Boston if the Celtics decide they'd rather draft for potential than pick someone who could contribute more immediately. How seriously they consider him will also be very telling about how they value Fab Melo going forward. Paying two first round centers who are developmental projects for the future is a bold move. If they grab Adams, it may mean they're looking to move Melo for something (albeit something small). He has high potential and would be a guy who could really help down the road if Sullinger becomes the PF of the future. Sully isn't a great defender and Adams could help mask that a bit.

The real question that remains is whether or not he'll be around at the 16th pick. Chad Ford has him going at 12 to Oklahoma City and Draft Express as well as have him going 10th to Portland. He very well could be gone by the time Boston picks, but if he's around, the Celtics would be wise to grab him quickly and figure everything else out afterwards.

Height, Weight, Wingspan and Video courtesy of DraftExpress
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