The Liberty Ballers series on potential draft picks has thus far taken a look at numerous prospects for the Sixers to draft. From big men to point guards to trading up, several options have been examined. Now, we will be adding two more to the list of big guys the Sixers could potentially draft.
It's been said before and it will be said again: Virtually every mock draft has the Sixers taking some sort of big man with this pick in the draft. It is a strategy that would be in theory correct if the Sixers were anywhere near contending for a championship. But the Sixers don't just need a big man.
Now I have to be honest with you. When Levin initially sent out this e-mail chain, he asked us who we would like to write about and make a case for why the Sixers should draft said person or make said move. By the time I checked the e-mail chain that, the remaining prospects were Mason Plumlee, Cody Zeller, and Kelly Olynyk. I elected Olynyk. About a week ago, Levin e-mailed me asking me if I could take on Steven Adams as well. Being the loyal soldier that I am, I said yes.
For the sake of my own sanity, we will start with Adams.
Steven Adams, 6'11" center, Pittsburgh.
The youngest of 18 (!!!) children*, Steven Adams is 19-years old, and an extremely raw prospect, having played organized basketball for only the last six years of his life.
*Some of Adams's 17 siblings are half-siblings, as the father, ever the horny man, got to 18 children by having relationships with five different women.
A few days ago, Derek previewed Gorgui Dieng and Rudy Gobert, two defensive big men. Steven Adams also fits into this mold of big man and may be someone worth keeping an eye on as excellent defensive big men are always difficult to come by.
Looking at his strengths, it is clear the strongest part of Adams's game is his defense, and it is ultimately because of his defense that he projects to be the first person from New Zealand ever taken in the first round of the NBA Draft. Where Adams lacks in defensive rebounding, he makes up with his mobility and post presence. He is also a strong blocker, although a lot of that can be credited to his mobility. It feels wrong to draw Spencer Hawes comparisons to a guy who can play defense, but Adams should work on using his size more to his advantage than he does. The good news is he has the tools and being as raw as he is, Adams improving on using his size is something that is certainly feasible and if developed well could make him someone very dangerous to play against.
The offensive side of the ball paints a less than rosy picture. Adams does have a decent offensive rebounding game, but he is not at all a shooter. His free throw percentage was a meager 44% at Pittsburgh last season. He did make 57% of his shots from the field and putting up a true shooting percentage of 55.5%, but it is important to note that Adams was never a go-to guy in the Pittsburgh offense last season, attempting only 175 field goals per 749 minutes, or .23 field goals per minute played. In comparison, the person who will also be discussed in this post, Kelly Olynyk, attempted 342 field goals in 845 minutes of playing time, or .40 field goals per minute played. Adams is also very sloppy with the ball, turning it over a bunch and often times struggling to get a handle on it.
If the Sixers draft Adams, it will be because they want to invest in a project. Adams certainly has a lot of upside, and as mentioned, defensive oriented centers are not always easy to come by, but he has a long way to go before he can fill out his potential. The good news is having played basketball for only six years, Adams is probably still very malleable and an opportunistic team with the right resources and environment may be able to take him and develop him into a starting NBA center. Adams is a project, but his upside is certainly tempting.
Kelly Olynyk, 7'0" center/power forward, Gonzaga.
When left with the Evil Triumvirate of Kelly Olynyk, Mason Plumlee, and Cody Zeller, and I selected Olynyk, Baumann replied in e-mail with "If the Sixers take Olynyk I'm going to hire a helicopter to drop tomatoes on Sam Hinkie's house." Well quite.
Baumann probably is not the only person who feels that way, but let us delve deeper into our deepest darkest fears and talk about what Kelly Olynyk brings to the table.
Olynyk's strength lies within his offense, in particular he has a very strong post presence. After being mostly anonymous his first two season in Gonzaga and sitting out the 2011-12 season, the Canadian exploded onto scouts' radars with a dominant offensive showing as a fourth year junior at Gonzaga. Olynyk put up a very impressive true shooting percentage of 67.5%. He was quite efficient, and made his jump shots in addition to shots at the rim all with excellent touch. Where Olynyk lacks in his offensive game though is in overall explosiveness and his wingspan has earned him the distinction of being this draft class's Mr. Alligator Arms, both of which are pretty big red flags for anyone hoping to be an efficient offensive center in the NBA.
Where Olynyk will struggle most at the next level will be on the defensive side of the ball. Assuming he stays at center*, Olynyk has lots of things to work on if he wants to be serviceable on the defensive side of the ball. Olynyk lacks defensive instinct and awareness, frequently shies away from contact, has lots of room to improve as a rebounder, and managed only 36 shot blocks in 845 minutes in his last season. Any team taking a chance on Olynyk will be hoping they can make massive strides in his defensive intensity, positioning, and overall ability.
*I am assuming Olynyk will try to be a center at the next level. He spent most of his time last season at Gonzaga at center and lacks the speed needed to play power forward in the NBA, though Olynyk has played that position before and is therefore officially listed as center/power forward on most scouting reports.
If the Sixers take Olynyk with the 11th overall pick, they will be getting a guy who projects as a rotational big man. For a team with multiple problems, a guy with a low ceiling and a fairly high floor does not really seem like the type of guy Hinkie will go after in the first round of the draft. While Olynyk was an extremely strong shooter for his position in his breakout year, there are too many other red flags that make me think the Sixers will decide this is not where they need to go with this pick. Olynyk might be able step right in to an NBA bench right away, but the Sixers might be best off looking elsewhere if they do in fact decide to draft a big man with the 11th overall pick in this year's draft.