What Steven Adams Must Do to Emerge as Surprise Rookie of 2013 Class

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterOctober 21, 2013

TULSA, OK - OCTOBER 17: Brian Roberts #22 of the New Orleans Pelicans is defended by Steven Adams #12 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the NBA preseason game on October 17, 2013 at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Shane Bevel/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Entering the 2013 NBA draft, Steven Adams was believed to be more of a long-term project than a short-term solution. And that's still likely the deal.

But he has looked convincing for the Oklahoma City Thunder through five preseason games. He's handled first-, second- and third-line big men with considerable comfort. 

He has the physical tools that should allow him to make an immediate impact. At 7'0'' with a 7'4'' wingspan, a strong 255-pound frame and exceptional athleticism, he's built for the NBA interior. 

However, he's currently raw in terms of his offensive skill set. I'm not even sure he has a move to go to. For Adams to neutralize his weaknesses and contribute as a rookie, he'll need to take advantage of opponents in four particular facets of the game. 


Make Himself Available

Adams has to let his four other teammates on the floor know that he's open for business. 

At Pittsburgh, he often went stretches without making a peep. In one game, he played 24 minutes and didn't take a shot.  

If he wants to convince his coaching staff to play him early on, he'll have to become an option on the offensive end. And to do that, he must learn to get into scoring position.

Below, you'll see Kevin Durant with the ball at the top of the key, while Adams sits baseline behind the defense. Without anyone in the paint, this is a chance for Adams to flash to the ball and land in scoring position right at the rim. 

With two sudden steps, Adams makes himself a target for Durant, who does his part by sending the entry pass to his inside hand. In one motion, Adams is able to make the catch and go up for an easy bucket—and he didn't need a fancy move to do so. 

In this example, Adams used movement and recognition to pick up two points, as opposed to creating his own shot with a skilled move—which he may lack at this point in his development. 

He will have to recognize these types of opportunities, since the Thunder likely won't be featuring him in the post. 


Set Screens

If Adams wants to earn some real time, he'll have to make his screens count. 

The Thunder coaching staff will use his gigantic, strong and mobile body to set hundreds of picks throughout the year. Not only should he focus on sealing off his target, but he should think of each screen as a scoring opportunity for himself. 

He's a great option working off the pick-and-roll because he has the coordination and athleticism to catch and finish over anyone. 

Adams also demonstrated a soft touch in the mid-range as a participant at the NBA Draft Combine, shocking scouts in attendance who hadn't seen him take a jump shot. He has the stroke to pose as a pick-and-pop threat if the opportunity ever presents itself. 

Screens will play a huge role in his game throughout his career. And although they don't show up in the box scores, they will keep him on the floor as a rookie for a title contender. 


Run the Floor

In the hunt for easy buckets, he should be able to find a few per game by running the floor in transition. 

He's fast, powerful and athletic. Adams will have an advantage against the majority of centers he faces, given few will be able to keep up with him in a 90-foot race. 

Oklahoma City finished in the top 10 in the league in pace last season, which should play right into Adams' strengths as a big man who can get up and down the hardwood. 


Rebound and Protect the Rim 

Adams has been active on the glass through five preseason games, averaging 15.1 boards per 40 minutes of action. 

He grabbed 15 against the New Orleans Pelicans and 10 on Enes Kanter and the Utah Jazz, taking up space inside and finding the ball at its highest point. Adams offers Oklahoma City a new dimension of interior activity that it doesn't currently get from Kendrick Perkins and Hasheem Thabeet—two centers who couldn't jump over a puddle. 

Given Adams' height, length, strength and willingness to take contact, he'll have to provide the Thunder with a consistent presence on the boards, as well as rim security as a defensive anchor inside. 

At the end of the day, the Thunder could use the strengths that he brings to the table. Whether he's ready to contribute mentally is another story, but the blueprint for rookie success is simple enough to follow, thanks to a strong supporting cast in Oklahoma and his standout physical tools. 

Becoming available offensively, thriving as a screener, running the floor and controlling the interior are four areas of the game where Adams can excel. And none requires a refined set of skills.