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.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

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Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.