Steven Adams found himself on that can't-miss list entering his freshman year at Pittsburgh. Ironically, it turns out he was pretty tough to find.
The New Zealand native played a minimal role in Jamie Dixon's offense. During one loss to Cincinnati, Adams played 24 minutes without taking a shot.
He's still learning the game and figuring how he fits in.
However, Adams drew rave reviews at this year's NBA Combine, where he was able to showcase some hidden talent and a likable personality. With just five weeks left before the draft, the buzz on Adams is starting to pick up.
At a legit 7'0'' with a massive 7'4.5'', wingspan (second-largest at the combine), Adams' physical profile is built for NBA play. He's also exceptionally athletic and mobile. Adams runs and jumps with the same rhythm as a guard.
At 255 pounds with a strong upper body, Adams is a human missile in the frontcourt.
This is where the hype came from. Adams has tremendous physical tools that he has to learn how to use.
Adams is awfully limited offensively, but he's a gigantic target at and above the rim—and that's something you can't teach. He turns tough or non-existent scoring opportunities into easy ones.
Watch his point guard Tray Woodall just lob the ball to a space knowing Adams has the length and hops to finish above the rim:
With his ability to play almost 12 feet in the air, Adams is a presence on the offensive glass and a threat to tip in misses. He's an easy-bucket guy, which doesn't require much skill at 7'0'' tall.
Adams didn't take many jumpers at Pittsburgh, but he showed he's got the touch to eventually play the pick-and-pop.
He's got great balance and fluidity when he rises up. Without many opportunities to let it fly in college, his confidence will build with repetition.
Here's a look at Adams running the pick-and-pop and converting on the baseline:
At the NBA Combine, scouts were impressed with Adams' shooting touch. He was knocking down shots off the catch and the dribble, and looked natural doing it.
As Adams travels for workouts, his jumper will play a big role in his draft stock. Given how limited he looked at Pittsburgh, coaches will want to know he's got more than just size and athleticism.
Steven Adams blocked two shots per game in 23.4 minutes, an excellent rate for a young center prospect.
Given his size, length, mobility and leaping ability, Adams has all the tools to effectively protect the rim.
Below is a great example of Adams playing his man off the ball while also reading the play. After seeing a perimeter defender get beat, Adams recovers to the rim in time to block the attacker's shot:
Adams projects as a defensive asset, which is why coaches will be patient with his offensive development. If they can carve out an athletic, two-way, seven-foot center, the time it takes will be worth the wait.
Adams doesn't have much of a post game at the moment, though he acknowledged at the combine that it's on his priority list. He's capable of hitting the over-the-shoulder hook, but to call it a strength would be considered a stretch.
Otherwise, he hasn't shown any shot-creativity with regard to the rest of his game. We're finding out during this pre-draft process he can make shots when set, but creating them is a different story.
This won't be news to scouts and coaches. They're just going to want to see that there's a foundation here to build from, which seems to be the case as we inch closer to the draft.
Adams is an adequate rebounder—there are no red flags, though there's no confetti either.
He really needs to improve at the free-throw line where he only shot 44.3 percent. It's a little weird considering the touch he's shown in spot-up situations. His coach of course came on the ESPN broadcast of the combine to warn everyone that Adams is a better shooter than his free-throw percentage suggests.
That doesn't sound unreasonable.
Draft Breakdown and NBA Outlook
He finished his freshman year averaging 7.2 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 57 percent from the floor. At this point in his career he's a finisher and a shot-blocker.
Adams is a project who's going to need a season on the bench before he's ready to take the stage. Teams eying him will be well aware of this, and the one that pulls the trigger will have been sold on his potential.
His stock is currently on the rise after his introduction at the combine. Many there were impressed with how well he interviewed, a very underrated part of the process.
In a draft where there aren't many standout options at the power forward, small forward and shooting guard positions, big men could fly off the board quickly this year. Adams has the upside to generate interest from teams drafting as early as the mid-to-late lottery.
Oklahoma City and Boston are the two most likely destinations in the top 16.