Thunder enticed by Steven Adams' 'upside'

17:00, Jun 28 2013
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Steven Adams battles with Wichita State's Tyreke Cotton for a loose ball.
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Steven Adams attempts unsuccessfully to block a shot against Syracuse.
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Wellington Saints fans talk with Steven Adams after the Saints won the 2011 NBL title.
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Wellington Phoenix footballer Danny Vukonic learns the hard way not to try to shoot on Steven Adams during a Christchurch Earthquake fundraising game.
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Steven Adams (left) with Wellington Saints team-mates Erron Maxey and Troy McLean with the NZBL trophy.
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Steven Adams in action for the Pittsburgh Panthers.
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Steven Adams bodies up against Michigan's Trey Burke, who is expected to be a top-10 pick in the NBA draft.
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Coaching mentor Kenny McFadden and trainer and caregiver Blossom Cameron have been influential in Steven Adams' rise.
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The massive 2.25m wingspan of Steven Adams allows him to control the paint.
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Steven Adams with golfer Julianne Alvarez after they won Wellington College Sports sportsman and sportswoman of the year awards.
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The desks at Scots College struggled to hold a seven-footer.
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Steven Adams was a late-comer to basketball.
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Steven Adams (third right) lines up with Wellington Saints team-mate Arthur Trousdell (left) and others to audition for The Hobbit.
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Steven Adams (fourth right) with other members of the 2013 NBA draft class at a movie premiere.
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Steven Adams reacts after a play for Pittsburgh.
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In the NCAA Tournament, Steven Adams knocks the ball out of the hands of a Wichita State player.
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Steven Adams pulls down an offensive rebound against Syracuse.
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Steven Adams hits the hardwood chasing a loose ball.
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Steven Adams lived around the rim during his time in Pittsburgh.
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On the way to the New Zealand Under-21 title, Steven Adams in action for Wellington.
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Steven Adams reacts after being announced as the 12th pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Draft.
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Steven Adams shakes hands with NBA commissioner David Stern after being drafted in the first round in June 2013.
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Steven Adams holds open his jacket showing the NZ flag sewn onto the lining.
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Steven Adams as a student at Scots College in Wellington in 2009.
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Adams in 2011, with Saints basketball coach Pero Cameron
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KING OF COOL: Adams in 2010.
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Adams, third from right, lines up with people tall and short during a casting call for The Hobbit in 2010 at the Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre in Wellington.
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Steven Adams gets a tailor-made suit from New Zealand menswear manufacturer Rembrandt before heading to the USA for the NBA draft in 2013.
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Denver Nuggets small forward Jordan Hamilton attempts a shot against Adams in 2013.
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Adams guards New York Knicks power forward Jeremy Tyler in February 2014.

Oklahoma City had the luxury of looking at this year's NBA draft crop from a developmental perspective.

A trip to the NBA finals, followed by the best record in the Western Conference, will do that for a team.

The Thunder looked to the future with its three picks, taking a pair of projects - including New Zealand centre Steven Adams with the 12th pick - and trading for a third, more experienced, option.

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HOPEFUL: New Oklahoma City Thunder centre Steven Adams.

The 7-foot Adams added some much-needed size for Oklahoma City, which is coming off a 60-22 season and was hoping to find a complementary piece to play alongside stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Adams was one of three selections by the Thunder, which only had such a high pick because of last year's trade that sent James Harden to Houston.

"We're really excited about him joining us and being able to learn from the veteran we have up front," Oklahoma City assistant general manager Troy Weaver said. "We think he has a tremendous upside."

Adams was later joined in Oklahoma City by Colorado forward Andre Roberson, who was acquired in a three-team trade, and Spanish guard Alex Abrines. The Thunder also added Grant Jerrett, a 6-foot-10 freshman forward from Arizona and the 40th pick, from Portland for cash considerations.

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Adams played just one season for the Panthers, averaging 7.2 points and 6.3 points per game while being named to the Big East All-Rookie team. He is the first New Zealander to be taken in the first round of the NBA draft, and he was especially excited to be selected by a team considered among the league's elite, one he said had a "really high chance of the playoffs next year and getting a championship."

The Thunder lost in the NBA Finals last year to Miami and had the best record in the Western Conference this season. However, Westbrook injured his right knee in a first-round win over Houston, and Oklahoma City was ousted in the second round by Memphis.

Oklahoma City had three of the first 32 picks in the draft, with No 29 and 32 to go along with the Adams' pick. The team selected Kentucky freshman Archie Goodwin with the 29th pick, but he was dealt as part of the deal that brought Roberson to the Thunder.

The 6-foot-7 Roberson averaged 10.9 points and 11.2 rebounds per game for the Buffaloes last season, shooting 51.6 percent from the field. He was the most experienced of Oklahoma City's draft picks, having played three seasons in college, and will provide the Thunder with frontcourt depth behind starting power forward Serge Ibaka.

"We think he's a unique player," Thunder general manager Sam Presti said. "He's guarded lot of different positions, and we feel like he is a lot of tools to work with physically. And the other thing that we really like about him is he's got tremendous endurance and persistence on the floor."

Abrines is currently averaging 3.4 points and 1.1 rebounds in 11 minutes per game for FC Barcelona. The 6-6 guard is likely to remain in Europe for a season, and he won't turn 20 until August.

Oklahoma City caused the biggest stir of the offseason a year ago, trading shooting guard James Harden to Houston for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round pick.

The Thunder used the first of those first-round picks on Adams, who averaged just 23.4 minutes per game as a freshman at Pittsburgh. He attended high school in Massachusetts and was a top recruit for the Panthers before deciding to leave college after just one season.

Adams set the Pitt school record for field goal percentage in his one season, connecting on 100 of 175 shots (57.1 percent) last season. He had career-highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds against Bethune-Cookman and had 13 points and 11 rebounds in the opening round of the NCAA tournament against Wichita State.

He also had a good idea he was headed to the Thunder after his pre-draft workout with the team.

"To a certain degree I kind of did, but it was actually more what I was hoping for," Adams said. "Just because I fell in love with the place."

Adams also said he was comfortable spending time next season with the team's developmental-league team in Tulsa, if that's in the Thunder's plans.

Oklahoma City hopes Adams is the perfect addition of size, as well as a long-term scoring option inside to pair with Westbrook and Durant. Westbrook, who averaged 23.2 points and 7.4 assists per game last season, is expected to return healthy before the start of next season.

Durant averaged 28.1 points per game last season, but he struggled at times without Westbrook in the playoffs - where his shooting percentage dropped to 42 percent against the Grizzlies, compared to 51 percent during the regular season.

Adams' addition could signal an eventual changing of the guard at centre for the Thunder, which already features Kendrick Perkins and drafted the 6-foot-11 Perry Jones III last year. Also, Oklahoma City has three free agents in Martin and guards Ronnie Brewer and Derek Fisher.

AP