14 February 2011.
That was the last time a New Zealander has suited up for an NBA game, and it has seemingly been a long time between drinks.
Now, that short dry spell is over, as Steven Adams made his NBA debut against the Utah Jazz. The Kiwi received 18 minutes of court time, putting up two points (1-1 FG), three rebounds and one assist in his time on the court. It was a fairly uneventful debut, yet I scoured the game to find snippets and under-the-radar moments, to evaluate how Adams went in his first regular season match. There were some significant plays which highlighted his strengths and weaknesses as he received extended stretches of playing time by coach Scotty Brooks.
Here’s a run-down of all the notable plays Adams’ participated in, and analysis of how he fared.
Note: Click on the screenshots to see the images in full, where it is easier to see the players and plays in question.
First play: Adams gets trapped in a switch on a pick and roll, meaning his first NBA play is a foul as his footwork gets exposed by a quicker guard. An unhappy glare results.
Play Two: Adams makes up for his earlier mistake with a good switch on the pick and roll, before getting back to front rangy opponent Rudy Gobert. Adams does an excellent job boxing out Gobert (No.27) for the rebound, as shown below, which eventually falls to a teammate.
Play Three: Adams shows some decent floor spacing (aka the clear out for Durant tactic), but Collison steals the offensive rebound from him and puts it back in.
Play Four: Adams earns a foul on Gobert with an excellent, aggressive cleanout, contiuning the physical battle between the two.
Check out Steve’s freethrow COMPOSURE!
Nooo, Nick, what are you doing!?!?!?
Play Five: Adams finds himself alone at the top of the key, where he cannot capably shoot from:
He dishes off to Derek Fisher, and attempts to set him a screen, but the communication isn’t there and it results in Fisher hoisting up a long two (which he hits) Here’s Adams not managing to get one side of his opponent to effectively screen him:
Play Six: Adams plays good defence at the rim, although the shot choice from Enes Kanter is admittedly awful as he practically throws it into Adams’ armpit.
Play Seven: Adams has a good contest of another bad Kanter fadeaway.
Play Eight: Adams gets switched onto Gordon Hayward, and does a decent job of following him through the lane, but his attempted re-switch fails, letting Utah get an open three, which they eventually miss. In the screencap below, you can see Adams totally losing Hayward (20) on the curl around Kanter.
Play Nine: Adams gets post entry, Lamb makes himself open and Adams hits him in stride, a simple pass but his first career assist.
Play Ten: Collison takes a jumper, look at Adams’ position on the right block here.
Now, check out the change and see how he exploits Kanter with good strength to grab the offensive board.
Play Eleven: Adams clears out a shot for a teammate…
Before tipping in back in amongst a bunch of bodies -check out the aftermath to Adams’ first career bucket:
Play Twelve: Adams does a good job to get straight up (verticality alert!) to contest Alec Burks at the rim, but a crazy circus shot denies Adams’ effort. Seriously, he scores from this position:
Play Thirteen: Adams gets boxed out by the bigger Gobert, commits a foul and gets subbed. Here shows his lack of positioning on the defensive end on this occasion:
Play Fourteen: A monster screen opens Sefolosha for a jumper. Look how he manages to screen out both the Jazz bigs here to open up his man for an easy opportunity.
Play Fifteen: Adams gets burnt on a picked-apart screen, Burks gets an easy two after splitting the double-team.
Play Sixteen: Adams gets lost on a fake screen, Gobert turns and receives the pass for the layup while Adams watches on having hedged woefully.
Final Play: Adams shows some Kendrickc Perkins-esque hands by knocking an easy rebound out of bounds. He gets subbed, but was going to be anyway.
Conclusion: While his offensive impact seems minimal on the scoresheet, I thought Adams did a fairly job good offensively with all things considered. He showed a good awareness of the key and the three-second rule, and although he was sometimes too eager to clear out when his teammates attacked the rim, his offensive positioning was excellent.
For a rookie, his understanding of the Thunder sets was promising, while his passing when received the ball in the post was at times sloppy. Defensively, there are issues with his switching and hedging, but he is pesky on the boards, not always corralling them but always being in place to tip them to a teammate or away from an opponent.
Overall, he did a fairly good job of containing Enes Kanter and the massively wingspanned Rudy Gobert, but there will be tougher competition down the road. Offensively, he is going to have to wait for transition opportunities to score his points, and playing a large chunk of his minutes with Derek Fisher didn’t help his cause.
However, the nearly three year wait is over – and there are far more promising times down the road.