James Michael McAdoo has experienced quite the roller coaster when it comes to his perceived draft stock.
A highly touted recruit out of high school, he was widely expected to declare for the NBA after his freshman season, taking advantage of his ridiculous athleticism and the mystery shrouding his future. Surely, he was going to be a star, even if it took him awhile to reach that celestial level.
Had McAdoo declared after his freshman year with North Carolina, he'd likely have been a lottery pick. But he came back for his sophomore season, improving his numbers rather significantly. After that, he stayed again, and his junior year was filled with stagnation.
"I had chances to go after my freshman and sophomore years but was more excited about coming back to school then," explained McAdoo in an official statement on his school's website when he declared for the 2014 NBA draft. "Right now I am excited about fulfilling my dream to play in the NBA and do what I have to do to take that next step."
The deferring of that dream had negative repercussions, though. His draft stock dried up like a raisin in the sun.
McAdoo's star has fallen dramatically, slipping from lottery expectations to the point that we can't be certain if he'll be one of the first 30 prospects taken off the board this year.
When you look at McAdoo, it's hard to tell whether he's a small forward or a power forward.
He has the height and wingspan necessary to line up at the 4 without giving up too much size—although he'd still be considered undersized for the position, much like a Paul Millsap—but he's also not strong enough to bang around with the more physical frontcourt players. Checking in shy of 230 pounds is not conducive to success given his lack of elite strength.
Fortunately for the former Tar Heel, his incredible athleticism helps make up for any inches and pounds he might be giving up.
McAdoo is extremely quick for a man his size, whether changing directions, moving laterally or running in the open court. He's a fantastic athlete, capable of leaping high on the first jump and recovering quickly for the second.
In fact, these fluid athletic tools are the most exciting thing about his future in the NBA.
On the court, McAdoo's most noticeable strength is how quickly and explosively he moves on both ends. Here's DraftExpress.com's Joshua Riddell breaking down how that's helped him offensively:
One of his best skills is his quickness, allowing him to beat opposing big men down the floor in transition. His quick first step also helps him explode past defenders when he catches on the perimeter, usually needing one dribble after his first step to get to the rim. McAdoo is a solid finisher around the rim when someone else creates a shot for him, converting 59.3% of his non-post-up around the basket half-court attempts, according to Synergy Sports, while showing an ability to finish through contact, as he had 22 And-1 chances last season.
That first step serves him well, particularly because he can also explode up toward the rim when he gains even the tiniest bit of separation.
I mean, just look at this dunk, one that gave the forward the 1,000th point of his collegiate career:
That's a special brand of athleticism, one that many athletes can't even dream of possessing. Because of this explosiveness, he's able to put quite a few defenders in disadvantageous positions. And as a result, he draws plenty of fouls, even leading the ACC in free-throw attempts during his junior season.
Athleticism is only beneficial if a player actually bothers to use it. And while McAdoo has had his share of confidence issues while failing to assert himself on the offensive end, it's hard to deny his sheer desire to make the hustle plays, the ones that result in floor burns and bruises.
"Good steal percentage shows his activity level on defense, tends to be a good sign as far as adapting to the NBA," wrote Michael Visenberg for NBADraft.net.
That steal percentage was a stellar 3.1 percent as a freshman, per Sports-Reference.com, and while it declined each of the next two seasons, that's quite understandable. After all, he was increasing his offensive responsibilities and figuring out ways to insert himself in the proceedings.
One of those, as Visenberg notes, was taking charges.
McAdoo never hesitated to put his body on the line, sliding over with a split-second notice to get in the driving lane and draw an offensive foul. It takes a certain level of commitment to forget about physical aches and pains, and McAdoo did that on a consistent basis throughout his time under Roy Williams.
While McAdoo might be a tweener on offense, he's fully capable of playing against both positions on the less glamorous end of the court.
His size and length aid him against 4s, while his foot speed, quickness and hustle help him thrive while guarding perimeter-oriented power forwards and all types of small forwards. That's a stellar combination, one that should help him find a niche at the next level while his offensive game is growing.
At the same time, McAdoo still has room to grow.
He was prone to foul trouble throughout his collegiate career, finishing his junior go-round averaging 3.7 personal fouls per 40 minutes, and his foot work often leaves him vulnerable to double moves from more crafty offensive players. He showed better awareness and discipline as his time in Chapel Hill proceeded, but an even stronger mental ability will help him out at the next level.
So too will more strength.
As Riddell notes, "According to Synergy Sports Technology, McAdoo converted just 22% of the 51 jump shots he took last season, easily one of the worst marks in this draft."
That's not going to cut it.
McAdoo has struggled to develop any sort of consistent presence on the offensive end. When he's not being set up by his teammates for easy, athleticism-involving opportunities, he struggles to create his own offense and can often look lost.
Those shooting woes are harmful to his stock, as is the fact that he never developed a working set of post-up moves. Basically, his development completely stagnated after he was given that lottery tag heading into his freshman year at North Carolina; his numbers improved, sure, but largely as a result of increased playing time and opportunity.
After spending that first season playing behind Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller, McAdoo just never gained confidence. Now, while his upside is still impressive, he's an older prospect—relatively—who hasn't developed as expected.
The offense is problematic. So too is his rebounding, or lack thereof. But most concerning is that passive mentality that was devoid of the focus and drive to improve, even if he hustled and became a high-energy player on the court.
McAdoo isn't going to win Rookie of the Year. Nor will he make an All-Rookie team at the end of his first season in the Association.
Frankly, he won't even be close to doing so.
The UNC product will likely spend his time bouncing between the NBA D-League and a bench in the big leagues, depending on the needs of his team. There are too many holes in his game—shooting, rebounding and defensive awareness—for him to justify spending much time on the court, but his athleticism and ability to switch on the less glamorous end should at least get him a bit of playing time.
At this point, it's clear that McAdoo was largely a product of hype during the early stages of his post-high school career. The lottery pick he was expected to be drafted with would've been wasted had it actually been used back in 2012.
However, let's not write him off just yet.
The forward won't turn 22 years old until the 2014-15 season is well underway, and he has the athleticism necessary to thrive when he develops a bit more skill. There's still a chance—however slight it may be—that a switch flips in his head, driving him to work harder and improve the jumper that's holding him back.
Ultimately, McAdoo should have a career somewhat similar to Anthony Randolph's.
He'll be an athletic phenom who tempts everyone into giving him chance after chance. Maybe he'll find more success than Randolph, but he'll never develop into a consistent starter. Too much evidence points away from that.