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.

Rumor: Kawhi Leonard directly told Gregg Popovich he wanted to leave Spurs

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Kawhi Leonard and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich met in San Diego yesterday.

How did the discussion go? Reports have been mixed about even the nature of the meeting, let alone a resolution from either side.

But here’s an update with a reportedly direct conclusion.

Stephen A. Smith on ESPN:

From what my sources told me, Kawhi Leonard met with Gregg Popovich face-to-face, looked him dead in his face and told him “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be in San Antonio any longer.”

Leonard put out word he wanted to leave San Antonio, ideally for the Lakers, last week. There was some hope Popovich could mend the relationship, but that seems to running thin. There is so much bitterness between both sides.

The next question: What do the Spurs do about it?

Do they keep trying to ease tension with the 26-year-old superstar? Do they trade him? If so, when? Before or during the draft?

No matter what Leonard told Popovich yesterday, San Antonio has big decisions to make and soon. Leonard firmly stating a desire to leave would be clarifying, but it’d hardly make this situation easy to handle.

Brendan Haywood: Former Hornets teammates ‘sick and tired’ of Dwight Howard’s act

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It has become an annual tradition – Dwight Howard getting traded then his former teammates celebrating his exit.

It happened with the Hawks last year. Now, it’s happening with the Hornets, who sent Howard to the Nets.

Brendan Haywood, via Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:

Now retired, Haywood played with current Hornets Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist his final season. He also knows many other players throughout the league.

Howard went to Charlotte and declared himself team leader – despite the presence of Walker, the franchise player. Howard’s immaturity and ego have rubbed teammates and coaches the wrong way for years.

But at least this is progress. Howard’s time with the Magic, Lakers and Rockets devolved into interpersonal strife well before he left those teams.

Rumor: Knicks will take Villanova’s Mikal Bridges at No. 9

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Most mock drafts have the Philadelphia 76ers taking Mikal Bridges at No. 10, keeping the Villanova star in Philly.

But what if he’s not on the board?

Marc Berman of the New York Post reports the Knicks are going to take Bridges at No. 9.

Sources have indicated Bridges still is the favorite to be the Knicks’ selection at nine Thursday — even if Michael Porter Jr. falls. The Knicks are starting to get cold feet on the uber-talented Porter after his latest mishap last week, when he incurred hip spasms before his on-again, off-again, on-again public workout in Chicago….

In the big picture, president Steve Mills and (new GM Scott) Perry need to land a central building block that will contribute next season to show Kristaps Porzingis, a restricted free agent in 2019, there’s a future, and also to entice a 2019 free agent. Point guard Kyrie Irving is squarely on the Knicks’ radar.

While Kentucky freshman forward Kevin Knox opened the Knicks’ eyes with a surprising workout and has gotten consideration late in the process, Bridges is the best bet. Perry said recently adding “a solid rotational player” at nine is as important as shooting for an All-Star.

It’s unlikely Porter is on the board at No. 9. The Cavaliers like him a lot and will take him if he falls to No. 8, the Bulls could grab his one spot earlier, and there are teams farther down the draft board looking to trade up and snag Porter.

Bridges projects to be just what Mills may want — a solid rotational player, and one who can step in soon and contribute.

But the Knicks need talent, and Knox out of Kentucky has the higher ceiling thanks to elite athleticism (he has climbed a lot of teams’ draft boards during workouts). He can play some three or be a small ball four, and if he shows consistency with his jumper, he has the athleticism to be part of a team’s core.

 

Knox may have the higher ceiling, but the Knicks need not to miss, and Bridges is that.

Ayton, Young, Porter and more: PBT’s in-depth draft prospect breakdowns

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In the days before the draft, there’s more smoke clouding the picture around the NBA draft than there is at a Snoop Dogg concert.

What you need to cut through all that is someone who knows these players, has seen them multiple times over the years, spoken to them, knows their game.

That’s where Rob Dauster comes in. The lead writer at NBC’s CollegeBasketballTalk, he has seen these players while they were in high school, spoken to them, followed their college careers — and he broke down their games for us at NBC. It’s what you need to know about the top guys in the draft.

Check these stories out:

DEANDRE AYTON

He has the size. He has the length. He has the athleticism, explosiveness, fluidity, and mobility. He can space the floor and, in theory, both protect the rim and handle his own if forced to guard on the perimeter. In theory, Ayton is the total package and an ideal five for the modern NBA.

Whether or not he will live up to his considerable potential is a different story.

MARVIN BAGLEY III

Offensively, he’s everything that you want from a small-ball five. He can dominate in the paint, he can space the floor and he is aggressive and productive on the glass. He was a walking double-double in college and it’s not hard to project him being the same in the NBA.

The problem is that he is not a five on the defensive end of the floor.

JAREN JACKSON JR.

He will fit seamlessly into the modern NBA given the combination of skills that he has while the other four players projected to go in the top five this year have more question marks….

He’s 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan. He shot 39.6 percent from three after shooting 43.8 percent from three on the EYBL circuit in 2016. He averaged 3.0 blocks despite playing just under 22 minutes a night as a freshman. He is as switchable as any big man in this class defensively because of his ability to move his feet. 

MO BAMBA

A 7-foot-0.5 center with a 7-foot-10 wingspan — which will be the longest in the NBA as soon as he steps onto an NBA court — Bamba’s ability as a game-changing defensive presence is at the core of what makes him such an appealing prospect. He finished with freshman season with a block rate of 13.2, averaging 4.9 blocks per 40 minutes and anchoring a Texas defense that finished the year ranked 12th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric…

There are questions about his strength and his toughness and his love for the game. Does he play because he’s addicted to the game, or is it simply because he was blessed with the physical gifts that will makes NBA teams salivate and invest millions and millions of dollars into him in the hopes that he pays dividends as the NBA’s preeminent defensive anchor?

MICHAEL PORTER JR.

He is a tantalizing talent that can do things athletically and as a shooter that 6-foot-11 people are not supposed to be able to do… He was good enough at Hoop Summit and on the all-star circuit that there were people that were projecting him as the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft as recently as November.

But all of that changed in the course of the last seven months. It starts with the back injury… And that’s before you get into the questions about his position and his makeup.

Porter has a ceiling as high as anyone in this draft, but when the floor is as low as his is, it makes him a scary — and risky — player to take.

TRAE YOUNG

He became the first player in Division I history to lead the nation in scoring and assists, but he did it as a player that doesn’t like to play defense on a team that couldn’t figure out how to win late in the year.

Is he the second-coming of Steph Curry?

Or is he Jimmer Fredette?