Adams to get immediate chance to impress
New Kiwi NBA recruit Steven Adams - the Thunder from Down Under - will not have to wait long to start the process of impressing his new coaches at Oklahoma City.
Adams will feature on the Thunder's Orlando Summer League team that will play six games in six days in Florida between July 7 and 12. It will be his first chance to prove he has the skills to play at the NBA level, rather than be confined to the D-League where many are predicting he will spend at least his first year.
After heading straight to Oklahoma City following Friday's draft in New York, the Rotorua-born 19-year-old will spend a week familiarising himself with his new team-mates at the Thunder - or at least those who are around over the summer off-season.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti confirmed Adams and fellow draftees Andre Roberson and Grant Jerrett will take part in the Orlando summer league - the platform NBA teams use to assess young and fringe players.
"We will have a good week leading up before summer league," Presti, who added he was "thrilled" to land the New Zealander with the 12th overall pick in the draft, said.
"It's very, very hard to find guys who can protect the basket and are physical," Presti said of his chief recruit. "This is a young player, but this is a physical player. He understands that he has a long way to go."
The Thunder GM didn't go as far as dismissing suggestions that Adams' game is not yet ready for the NBA level, but he did offer the raw New Zealander some hope.
"When you go back and study the film based on different points in the season, you can really see the progression in his game. He has some attributes that are hard to find," Presti said.
"There are a lot of people who say the draft is about bigs and point guards. That's why you see a lot of them. We are hoping that Steven will continue to grow moving forward."
Thunder assistant general manager Troy Weaver also lauded the upside of the 2.13m Adams - one of nine seven-footers chosen in the draft's first round.
"He's a tremendous young man," said Weaver. "He has great size and a natural physicality for a young player that we're really excited about. He has a great pair of hands and he's a really good athlete.
"We're really excited about him being able to learn from the veterans we have up front. We think he has a tremendous upside.
"He's just a younger version of what we have. You could say he's a little more athletic than our centres but he's a young guy that's going to have to come in and work. He has some physical tools to work with so that was very attractive to us."
Adams, who travelled to Oklahoma yesterday with his brothers Sid and Moses Beckham, pledged to do whatever was required as he set out on this new chapter in his hoops career.
He goes in with his eyes wide open in terms of the development needed in his own game, and understands that is likely to involve logging time with the Thunder's D-League affiliate, the Tulsa 66ers.
"All I'm trying to work on right now is rebounding, blocking shots, defence and running the lanes," Adams said.
"All the base sort of stuff. I'll start from there and I'll try to branch off. Whatever the coaches want.
"All the coaches in there were real good people and all they cared about was just getting better, progressing and reaching towards the championship . . . their programme is really, really good."
Adams will be jostling with a handful of centre options over the summer. Starting big man Kendrick Perkins still has two years left on his contract and is considered the most suitable mentor for the young Kiwi.
The Thunder also have Hasheem Thabeet and Daniel Orton (both on non-guaranteed contracts) in the position, as well as last year's draftee Perry Jones III and starting power forward Serge Ibaka who are capable of playing the position.
There's a lot of work in front of Adams as he looks to find his niche in a league that is fast, physical and extremely athletic.
The good news is that he has landed at pretty much the ideal destination - a club that believes in values, in standing by its players and in the promise of youth.
The Thunder will pay Adams well over $5 million over the next two years because they believe he can evolve into a player capable of performing at a similar level to stars like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Ibaka.
The first step in that direction will take place in Orlando in just over a week.