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Tuesday July 22 2014
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A Closer Look at Adams

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Only a few short weeks ago, there was a lot of hype about Steven Adams, Pitt's seven-foot freshman center. Now, after a percieved slow start to his career, there are a lot of questions.

Nationally, Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports even listed Adams as one of the most disappointing freshmen in the country.

One of the most common "defenses" you'll hear of Adams is that it's not "all about numbers." That's true. Sports is most certainly not all about numbers, and frankly, I don't think there's anything wrong with Steven Adams, nor do I think there's any reason whatsoever to be alarmed, disappointed, or even concerned, with his progress.

Adams is 19. He's played only one season of basketball in the United States. He's a seven-footer. His college "career" is only 11 games old.

But you know what? Forget that defense. Let's make it about numbers. Let's make it solely about numbers.

There are two freshmen centers who are considered to be having outstanding seasons: Nerlens Noel of Kentucky and Isaiah Austin of Baylor. Both are considered to be top 10 picks in next summer's NBA Draft and the Jeff Eisenbergs of the sports world are very impressed with both. As they should be.

Kentucky's Noel, the nation's top recruit a year ago, is averaging 11.1 points and 9 rebounds per game.

Baylor's Austin is averaging 14.1 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.

Through a dozen games, Pitt's Adams is at 7.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Over his last four games, actually, Adams is averaging 10 points and 9.8 rebounds.

Noel and Austin each play 30 minutes per game; Adams plays only 21. Averaged out to 30 minutes per game, Adams numbers are 10.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.

So the numbers Adams is putting up are pretty much right in line with what the best freshmen centers are doing: his rebounds are dead smack in the middle of the top two, and his points are down a little bit.

Stats comparisons between Adams and the NCAA's top centers:

  • Gorgui Dieng, the injured Louisville junior, averaged 5.7 and 4.4 as a freshman and 9.1/9.1 last season.
  • Alex Len, a sophomore for Maryland and certain No. 1 pick next summer, averaged 6 points & 5.4 rebounds as a freshman last year. He's up to 13.9 and 8.8 this year.
  • Colton Iverson, former Minnesota center who transferred to Colorado State, averaged 5.4/3.6, 5.0/4.4 and 5.4/5.0 in his three seasons in the Big 10. He's exploded with 15.8 and 11.1 numbers this season.
  • Willie-Cauley Stein, also a highly-touted Kentucky freshman, is averaging 7.6 points and 5.1 rebounds in 19 minutes per game.
  • Jeff Withey, Kansas senior: averaged 1.3/1.4 as a freshman and 2.3/1.8 as a sophomore. He improved to 9.0/6.3 last year and 13.8/7.6 this season. 
  • Cody Zeller, Indiana sophomore and the probable No. 1 pick, averaged 15.6/6.6 last season and is 15.7/8.8 this year so far.

Scout's View
I had the chance to speak to two NBA scouts in Charlotte, NC, recently. Both said, in no uncertain terms, that Adams is a first-round pick "right now," as in on Dec. 16. I asked how he compared to Fab Melo, a two-year center at Syracuse who was labeled a bust as a freshman, but was the Big East's Defensive Player of the Year last season, and is Photo by Charles LeClairenow on the Celtics roster. One scout said that Adams has a "much higher upside" while the other didn't seem to agree, saying that he thinks Melo can start in the league eventually -- something he also thinks Adams can do. Both said Adams could still "go either way" in their eyes, meaning his draft stock could rise or fall depending on his production, but that it wouldn't be difficult to imagine him blossoming into a lottery pick soon. While neither thought Adams should leave Pitt after his freshman season, both thought he certainly could do so and still find NBA success.

Adams is currently projected as the 21st pick in CBS Sports.com's most recent mock draft.

I was in a minor league press box in Charlotte, NC, last month, taking in one of Gregory Polanco’s final triple-A games. A colleague, upon learning I was from Pittsburgh, approached me with a question.
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