The Cleveland Cavaliers will have the first pick and the 19th pick in this upcoming draft. In the next few weeks here at Right Down Euclid, we will be profiling players the Cavaliers might draft in the first round on June 27th. Today, we profile Steven Adams.
Tale of the Tape
Name: Steven Adams
Weight: 255 lbs.
2012-2013 Per Game Stats: 7.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.7 SPG, 2.0 BPG, 57.1 FG%, 44.3 FT%
Steven Adams is an intriguing prospect with a lot of upside at the center position. The New Zealand-born seven-footer doesn’t have a ton of basketball experience, and wasn’t a big producer in his lone season at Pitt, but his defensive potential and offensive game translate to success in today’s NBA. Adams might take a few years to become a true force in the NBA, but let’s look at the tools that have me so high on the man from down under.
Steven Adams has a beautiful physical profile, which is a main reason he can succeed in the NBA. He’s seven feet tall with a 7’4 1/2” wingspan, carrying 255 pounds on that frame even though you really wouldn’t know it by looking at him. That’s about the same frame Alex Len has, although Adams has a longer wingspan. Adams also performed extremely well at the NBA Draft Combine. He put up 16 reps in the bench press. His vertical leap of 33 inches isn’t fantastic, but only Mason Plumlee and Cody Zeller were better among centers. Add in an outstanding three-quarter court sprint, which Plumlee and Zeller were the only ones to beat and the second-biggest hands of any prospect, and there is a ton to like about Steven Adams physically. And, as we’ll touch on throughout the rest of the profile, he is able to translate these tools to the game in ways that make him really exciting.
In the conventional sense, Adams struggles as a prospect. He’s not a good shooter, with a somewhat mechanical motion, and sweet Jesus that free throw percentage (44.3 percent) is the stuff of DeAndre Jordan-esque nightmares. He doesn’t have many well developed post moves. His finishing skills aren’t the best. However, Adams does have some qualities that could help him be effective in his first few NBA seasons until he becomes a more effective shooter and post player. Adams is a great PnR big. He sets really good, hard screens and, while he’s not great finishing in traffic, he rolls to the basket pretty well. He’s also a great offensive rebounder, where he has good instincts in grabbing boards and scoring off putbacks. This is where he will be most effective immediately on the offensive end. His transition game is also very good, as he runs the floor extremely well for a guy his size. There is stuff to like here, even immediately. If Adams can correct his shooting to develop a mid-range J, he could eventually be like a terrifyingly large stretch 4. He’s not going to be good right away, but given time to develop, Adams could end up being a really unique player in the NBA.
Defensively, Adams should have more potential and more immediate impact. He’s shown promise as a rim protector, posting 3.7 blocks per 40 minutes, and has excellent timing when it comes to blocking shots, both rotating from the weak side and on the ball. He’s also an excellent PnR defender, something that will be incredibly useful for him. He hedges screens incredibly well, and thanks to that incredible quickness for his size, recovers to his man really nicely. This quickness also makes him a great challenge to beat on an ISO, where he frustrates opponents with his quickness and length in face-up situations better than anyone in this draft not named Jeff Withey. He also has a good feel for post-up D, although he doesn’t deny the ball well, something that will come as he gains more experience. Really all of Adams’ negatives defensively are things to do with experience. He doesn’t have a good grasp on rotations and gets lost off the ball; that’s something that will come with experience. Ditto for his problems on closeouts. He also is a limited defensive rebounder, treating it like offensive rebounding and lurking more than actually boxing out. This will likely improve as he becomes stronger and becomes more comfortable with his body, but until that happens, that’s probably the biggest problem with Adams on defense. Still, Adams has enough positives on this end that he should be able to become a quality option defensively right away.
Adams has a ton of potential to be a great NBA player. His skills on both ends translate well to the modern game, and I feel good about his ability to fix his major problems, like making his shooting motion more fluid and his understanding of team D. His court awareness is somewhat suspect, which is a bit of a red flag, but that should come with more experience as well. In terms of his potential, it’s difficult to figure out the rate at which Adams will grow. Next season, I don’t have much hope. If he can crack a rotation and get 10-11 minutes per game, improve his understanding of NBA defense and hit over 50 percent from the line, that would be a success. I’d expect roughly 3-4 years from now we will see Adams start building into a solid NBA player. Offensively, I think he’s going to be a bit of a niche player, but defensively, he should eventually be a really, really solid anchor.
SB Nation put Adams’ ceiling at Brendan Haywood, which I think is an accurate comparison for Adams but not necessarily his ceiling. Haywood was once an excellent PnR player who struggled to shoot and offered solid value on the defensive end. I think Adams can be a better version of Haywood, mainly because I feel that his shooting will improve as he progresses. Also, Adams is a little quicker than Haywood, and his offensive game translates to be a little more perimeter-oriented than Haywood’s. Ultimately, I think Adams can be a more productive version of Brendan, but expect teams to use him in a similar role to what Washington did with Haywood in the mid-00’s.
How Does He Fit on the Cavaliers?
Adams is a project, which the Cavs don’t need right now. He fits what the Cavs want in a center, in that he can protect the rim and would create an interesting pick-and-roll threat for Kyrie Irving. However, the Cavs already are trying to develop Tyler Zeller and don’t need to take on another big who needs time to mature. Even if the Cavs skip on Nerlens Noel and plan on taking a center at 19, Adams doesn’t make as much sense as some of the other candidates and likely won’t even be there, as many are projecting him to go in the top 10 as of late. He’s a better fit on a team like Atlanta or Philadelphia, who can take the time to develop him due to the quality of players ahead of him (Atlanta) or the likelihood that they won’t be relevant any time soon (Philly).