Adams made own luck, but deserves it too
OPINION: Luck's got nothing to do with where Steven Adams is now as the newest member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. And everything.
The 19-year-old New Zealander ended up a lottery pick in yesterday's NBA Draft in Brooklyn because he's worked unbelievably hard to complement the incredible natural attributes he's been born with.
You don't make the NBA just because you're as tall as a building, got arms like an albatross and hands like shovels. Though those things certainly help.
From the moment he came under the wing of Kenny McFadden in Wellington as a raw 14-year-old who had been plucked from the streets of Rotorua to sort his life out in the capital, Adams has worked studiously and religiously towards this day.
He's sacrificed, he's prioritised and he's worked his butt off to become the first New Zealander to go in the first round of the NBA draft (picked 12th overall by the Thunder). Effectively he's been rated one of the dozen best young players on the planet. No luck in that equation.
But when NBA teams choose their new young talent via the draft process that sees, generally, the worst teams pick first and the best teams last, Adams experienced a real stroke of luck.
He didn't just get picked in the lottery (top 14), he won the flaming thing.
Among the teams choosing in the first round, Adams could not have found a better home if he'd hand-picked it. He has landed at pretty much the perfect NBA destination.
For starters the Thunder are a quality, values-based organisation who have modelled themselves on the club everyone wants to be like, the San Antonio Spurs. Their GM Sam Presti learnt his trade at the Spurs, and has moulded this club on their image.
So Adams is at a club that will treat him fairly and squarely, which in the billion-dollar world of the NBA is not necessarily a given.
Then there's the Thunder team itself. In Kevin Durant they have the NBA's second best player and No 1 nice guy. It's an irrepressible combination and means the Kiwi youngster will have a superstar teammate he can genuinely model himself on.
In Russell Westbrook, the outrageously gifted Thunder point guard, Adams will also find himself alongside a talented, driven, competitive individual who desperately wants to win, and also have a little fun in doing so.
It's as good a one-two punch as there is in the league (on a par with the Heat's own LeBron James and Dwyane Wade) and with youth on their side probably going to be around for the best part of a decade.
Adams has landed at a club that could be a contender for the next six or seven years.
But, crucially, he's also joined a squad that doesn't need him from the off. This is important.
The big knock on the 2.13m Kiwi being picked this prominently is that he still needs a lot of work on his game. A lot of refining. Few times, if ever, has a guy gone so highly who only averaged seven points a game in the college hoops.
So Adams is going to need fine-tuning, tuition and games in the D-League (luckily the Thunder have an excellent offshoot in Tulsa). He's also going to need time - to learn the NBA game, to adjust to its speed and athleticism, to generally figure things out.
Luckily the Thunder have that. They have three other centres on their books in Kendrick Perkins (son of ex-Canterbury Ram Kenny Perkins who still resides in Christchurch), Hasheem Thabeet and young Daniel Orton. They won't be fast-tracking their newcomer till he's ready.
Also Oklahoma is as small market as it gets in the NBA. The Kiwi kid from Rotorua will find the pace familiar, and he won't have the media focus he would have had in, say, New York or LA. Nor the distractions.
In short, the situation is perfect for Adams. If he's as good as everybody thinks he can be, then he'll have time to find that level. He'll also have a club who will help him every step of the way and team-mates who will have his back, and probably enjoy his special brand of Kiwi humour too.
Of course this is the NBA, and he could be traded tomorrow too. That's the world he now lives in.
- © Fairfax NZ News