Pittsburgh v Wichita State

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.

Dave Joerger: Kings will play more small ball

Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger talks to reporters during the Kings basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. Joerger, who was fired by the Memphis Grizzlies at the end of last season, was hired by Kings to replace George Karl, who was fired by the Kings.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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Shortly after the Kings chose center Georgios Papagiannis with the No. 13 pick in the draft, DeMarcus Cousins tweeted, “Lord give me the strength.” Sacramento already had an abundance of centers with Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos. If Cousins wasn’t talking about yoga, Sacramento adding center Skal Labissiere with the No. 28 pick would’ve driven Cousins batty.

At least Kings coach Dave Joerger is accustomed to using two bigs, as he did with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in Memphis.

Joerger, via Cowbell Kingdom:

I anticipate us playing a lot more small ball this year.

I’m not playing big.

Oh.

This is going to lead to some unhappy campers in Sacramento. It won’t be Cousins (not for getting his role reduced, at least). But this will make it hard for Cauley-Stein and Koufos to get satisfactory playing time. It’ll also make it harder for Papagiannis and Labissiere to get minutes to develop.

Like with most things, winning is the best way to quash griping. The Kings have enough wings – Rudy Gay, Matt Barnes, Arron Afflalo, Omri Casspi, Ben McLemore, Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson – to theoretically play small effectively. If Joerger goes that route, he better find success with it. Otherwise, he could get plenty of heat – including from general manager Vlade Divac, who spoke incredibly highly of his first-round picks, the players most likely to get squeezed out of a small-ball rotation.

Dwane Casey: Jared Sullinger has Raptors’ starting PF job to lose

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 05: Jared Sullinger #7 of the Boston Celtics drives to the basket against Patrick Patterson #54 of the Toronto Raptors in the first half at TD Garden on November 5, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
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Last year, Patrick Patterson declared the Raptors’ starting power-forward job his to lose.

Well, he lost it.

Luis Scola started most of the regular season before Toronto tinkered in the playoffs. Patterson claimed the job. Then, the Raptors turned to DeMarre Carroll with Norman Powel in a small-ball lineup. Finally, Toronto reverted back to Scola.

A year later, there’s still no clear, great option at the position. Scola went to the Nets. Patterson returns. Pascal Siakam and Jarrod Uthoff are rookies. First man up: Newly signed Jared Sullinger.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey, via Doug Smith of the Toronto Star:

“I would say Sullinger is the guy now that it would be his to lose, but I reserve the right to change my mind,” Casey said, citing the need to see how that group reacts defensively.

If Sullinger’s bar is defensive, he’ll have a tough time clearing it. He neither protects the rim nor moves well on the perimeter – making him similar to Scola. But Scola got the job last year with similar contributions.

Sullinger rebounds well, and he has some shooting range, though he hasn’t been selective enough with it.

Patterson’s ability to defend the pick-and-roll might make him a better fit next to Jonas Valanciunas, especially if Patterson has confidence in his 3-point shot.

There should be a place for Sullinger in the rotation, but if he’s starting at power forward, that speaks to a lack of quality options.

Report: Cavaliers giving championship rings to 1,000+ workers

CLEVELAND, OH -  JUNE 20: The Cleveland Cavaliers mascot Moon Dog cheers on the fans prior to the arrival of the Cavs players return to Cleveland after wining the NBA Championships on June 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Cavaliers will reportedly give David Blatt a championship ring, and Anderson Varejao also has one available.

They aren’t the only two unexpected ring recipients.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Majority owner Dan Gilbert and his partners decided to present rings to more than 1,000 full and part-time employees throughout the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena organization, employees who’ve been fitted for rings told cleveland.com.

A conservative cost for distributing rings to employees is more than $1 million.

This is very cool by Gilbert. Obviously, lower-level team employees won’t receive the same blinged-out rings the players get. But this is a nice way to reward their hard work.

Not to go all Jerry Krause, but organizations win championships. Some pieces – LeBron James – matter much more than others, but everyone plays a part. Security guards keep players safe, preventing a dreadful incident that could derail a playoff run. Public-relations staffers ease the burden on players. Ushers improve the fan experience, which increases revenue and helps Gilbert afford a massive luxury-tax bill.

It all adds up, as Gilbert clearly recognizes.

Mike D’Antoni: Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony rejected my system, but new (old) approach with James Harden

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with Kkobe Bryant #24 and Pau Gasol #16 after the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Staples Center on November 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 95-90.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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I can’t understate how revolutionary Mike D’Antoni’s offense looked with the Suns. In his first full season, 2004-05, they scored 110.4 points per game – the most anyone had scored in a decade. And it wasn’t even close. Phoenix played fast and scored efficiently.

That offense eventually got D’Antoni jobs in the NBA’s biggest markets and with two of the league’s best scorers, Carmelo Anthony (Knicks) and Kobe Bryant (Lakers).

Ian Thomsen of NBA.com:

But his coaching relationships with Anthony and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles did not turn out so well. The last two stars essentially rejected his system.

“They did,” acknowledged D’Antoni. “And they were paid 20-something million dollars for it — they were successful. So I don’t blame them. Nothing’s been proven up to that point.”

The Warriors had yet to show that D’Antoni’s offense could thrive in late May and June.

“They’re thinking, like, he’s crazy,” D’Antoni said of Anthony and Bryant. “So I don’t blame them at all. This is a much better situation.”

With the Knicks and Lakers, D’Antoni edged back from his own offensive principles in part because he wasn’t sure, either. He was in a lonely place as the proponent of a style that was rejected by NBA fundamentalists. In New York and L.A., D’Antoni lacked the proof that would be provided years later by the Warriors of Kerr, who when serving as GM of the Suns had himself objected to D’Antoni’s point of view. The inventor didn’t believe fully in his own invention.

“I wasn’t that confident,” D’Antoni insisted. “It was a little bit before analytics. Everybody was telling us that we couldn’t do it, no one was telling us we could. Analytics came in and said, hey, you can do this — this is good, actually. So now you’ve got (GM) Daryl Morey with the Rockets and how they play and different teams trying to do it, and now it’s kind of caught on.

This bucks the narrative that D’Antoni’s offense can’t work with a score-first star. If D’Antoni compromised his scheme for Kobe and Melo, we haven’t yet seen it full bore with a player like that.

We will this season in Houston, where D’Antoni has turned score-first James Harden into the Rockets’ point guard.

As D’Antoni said, it’ll be easier to sell his scheme now that it has been proven to work. But as other teams adopt elements of it, he’ll have less of a strategic advantage.

The best coaches have revolutionary ideas AND get their players to buy into them. D’Antoni’s methods are no longer as cutting-edge, but he’ll have an easier time selling his players. That’s a justifiable knock on D’Antoni’s overall coaching prowess, but he still brings positives.

We’ve seen D’Antoni’s system at full throttle, and we’ve seen him coach generational scorers. To get both simultaneously will be a fun experiment in Houston this year.