PBT Draft preview: Steven Adams is climbing draft boards

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For the next five weeks PBT will be profiling likely first-round draft picks in the upcoming NBA Draft. Today we talk about Pitt’s star center.

In today’s NBA player development matters a lot — draft a guy and for a few years bring him along slowly, develop his skills and mold him into a player that fits your system, all at an affordable price compared to the free agent market. Look at the teams left in the playoffs such as Indiana, Memphis and the Spurs — they are all masters of this.

If your team can develop players Steven Adams out of Pittsburgh is a guy to consider.

And he is a guy on the rise — he was a solid first round pick who may have moved up to late lottery with his showing at the NBA Draft Combine last week (especially if he keeps that up in workouts for teams). First, he measured big — 7’0” in shoes, 255 pounds. That’s legit NBA center size. But what really turned heads was showing a little midrange game, soft hands and more offensive skill than he had displayed during the season.

He’s still very raw, very much a project, but there may be some real tools there to work with. DraftExpress currently has him at 16 after the combine, but don’t be shocked if he climbs a little more before the draft itself.

STRENGTHS

It starts with size — he is a legit NBA big man inside. And that in his case comes with good athleticism. Even in today’s small ball era you need one legit big man on the roster for some matchups. Adams can be that guy, especially in a couple years. But as he said in his combine interview, he will not come in and dominate but he can dominate right away at specific tasks.

Much of that will be on the defensive end and the glass. He blocked a lot of shots in college because of his size and mobility — he can protect the rim. But more than that, his mobility makes him a guy who can hedge out on the pick-and-roll to cut off the ball handler, then recover to his man.

That said, he took up the game late and his instincts are raw, he is a project. But with those kinds of tools he has the potential to develop into a good NBA defensive big.

Also, he is strong on the glass. At both ends of the court.

WEAKNESSES

Did we mention he was raw yet? Actually, we can’t mention it enough. This is really a guy you are drafting as a project, a guy who could see some D-League time because he needs to be in games.

His offensive game is lacking. Even though he showed a lot more potential at the combine than expected that was in drills. You and I can knock down a few jumpers against a dummy defender; it’s a different thing in game action. His footwork is poor and will get him in trouble against good defenders. Adams has the tools to get much better, but it’s going to be a process. A multi-year process.

Like you’d expect from a guy who came to the game late, his instincts just are not there. He needs a lot of coaching, a lot of time on the court in games. He needs experience. He’s the classic kind of player that would have benefitted form more college but will develop faster in the NBA and D-League as long as he keeps his confidence.

WHAT DOES DAUSTER THINK?

We don’t get to watch as much of these guys as college writers do, so we turn to Rob Dauster of NBC’s CollegeBasketballTalk.com.

Adams is the epitome of a long-term prospect. A New Zealand native, his introduction to competitive basketball came very late, and as such, his skill level and understanding of the game is way behind a lot of players his age. He doesn’t have much in the way of a post game, his footwork is choppy and he doesn’t seem to have the confidence in his game to take advantage of his physical tools. There was many-a-night during Big East play that Adams no-showed.

That’s understandable, however. He was a freshman in a new country playing at a level far beyond the games in New Zealand that came against overmatched, and sometimes co-ed, opponents. But his physical tools leave scouts drooling. Adams is enormous. He measured at 7′ in shoes, his wingspan is 7-foot-4.5, and he checks in at a solidly built 255 pounds. He can also run the floor and jump better than a number of the seven-footers with his body-type.

That size and athleticism is one of the reasons that Adams was an above-average defender for the Panthers last season. Throw in the fact that he showed off a better-than-expected skill level during the drills at the combine over the weekend, and Adams is one of the prospects in this draft that is trending upwards. It will be a few years before he’s contributing in the NBA, but if he lands with an organization that will take the time to develop his game, he could end up being a presence down the road.

WHERE DOES HE GET DRAFTED?

Late lottery to just beyond it. Say 10-16 probably. DraftExpress has him at No. 16 now but big men tend to climb the closer we get to the draft. Just something to watch.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.

Report: Other small-market teams championing Pacers’ tampering allegation against Lakers

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The NBA, at the Pacers’ request, is investigating whether the Lakers tampered by making impressible contact with Paul George.

Bob Kravitz of WTHR

In fact, there’s word that other small- and mid-market team officials have reached out to the Pacers and told them, “Good for you. Fight the good fight.”

Small-market teams whine too much about the disadvantages they face, but tampering isn’t really a market-size issue. Remember, under Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers were known as the only team that didn’t tamper.

The Lakers have advantages because George is from the area, and Los Angeles offers immense marketability. That’d be true whether or not they contacted George or his agent before he officially became a free agent.

I understand the desire to take down the big, bad Lakers – especially now that they appear poised to become truly big and bad again. But it’s hard to find a team that can cast a stone at them from anywhere other than a glass house.