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PBT Draft preview: Steven Adams is climbing draft boards

May 20, 2013, 2:43 PM EDT

Pittsburgh v Wichita State Getty Images

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.

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