History on Steven Adams' side as 12th pick

MARC HINTON
Last updated 05:00 30/06/2013
Steven Adams
Reuters
KIWI HISTORY: Steven Adams makes history after being drafted by NBA franchise Oklahoma City Thunder.

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Having made history by becoming the first Kiwi to be drafted in the NBA's first round, man-of-the-moment Steven Adams should now be studying it.

A glance through the NBA's record books should provide the 19-year-old with all the optimism he needs as he heads into some pretty challenging territory.

Adams was picked 12th overall in Friday's NBA draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder - a dream result for the athletic 2.13m Kiwi.

He heads to a championship-calibre club, with two young and settled superstars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and with an established roster that can absorb all the development time their young first-round pick needs. That's the first box ticked.

The Thunder are widely considered one of the finest values-based organisations in the league with a culture that suits Adams to a tee. Again, so far so good.

But, after averaging a modest 7.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in his only season of college hoops, Adams will still face the expectations that come with being such a high draft pick.

Many have raised eyebrows over the Thunder selecting him ahead of other much more NBA-ready players and critics have suggested he'll need a year or two of D-League action to get anywhere near ready for this level.

He's been selected - assuredly - on promise, athleticism, and his freakish physical makeup. But sooner rather than later he's going to have to turn that into a game ready to foot it alongside Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan and the other quality big men in the NBA's Western Conference.

But here's where history offers encouragement. Looking back through the No 12 picks in recent years, the last six are all still well and truly rolling in the NBA and you have to go back to 2006 to find the first to have dropped out of the league.

So, if Adams continues a pretty settled trend he can expect to forge a respectable and extremely well-paid career.

Given he's going to be playing alongside two of the best players in the entire league, he can also reasonably expect championships to figure in his future at some stage.

The last six No 12 picks are not only active in the NBA but getting handsomely paid for it. Thaddeus Young, of the Philadelphia 76ers, is making more than US$8 million ($10m) a year as a highly rated small forward after being chosen No 12 in 2007, while Sacramento's Jason Thompson has also carved himself a pretty respectable career after being picked in the same spot a year later. He earned US$5.25m last season.

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Gerald Henderson, the 12 pick in 2009, earns over US$3 million a year with the Charlotte Bobcats and has just come off a season where he averaged 15.5 points a game, while 2010 selection Xavier Henry is now with the New Orleans Pelicans after being shipped there from the Memphis Grizzlies.

The last two 12-picks, Alec Burks and Jeremy Lamb, are still very much establishing themselves in the league, but both are said to be heading in the right direction. Adams will get a close-up look at Lamb as he's part of the Thunder's young roster.

If Adams needs reassurance, this should offer it. NBA teams know what they're doing with this level of talent. He's making all the right noises too, pledging to concentrate on the basics and then look to refine his game over time.

He's in just the place to do all the learning he desires. Scott Brooks is a fabulous coach, Sam Presti a brilliant GM and the Thunder will not rush this special investment of theirs.

But with the high-octane scoring power of Durant and Westbrook, with the athleticism and strength of Serge Ibaka, and the long-range shooting of Kevin Martin, the laidback Kiwi could be the missing piece of the puzzle for OKC.

How quickly he develops could determine how quickly the Thunder deliver the championship they flirted with in 2011-12.

NBA DRAFT NO 12 PICKS 2005-12

2012: Jeremy Lamb Houston Rockets
Now: Traded to the OKC Thunder and spent most of the 2012-13 season in the D-League with Tulsa where he averaged 21 points per game. Latest salary US$2.02m.

2011: Alec Burks Utah Jazz
Now: Still with Utah, averaged 7.0ppg. Salary US$2.1m.

2010: Xavier Henry Memphis Grizzlies
Now: Traded to the New Orleans Pelicans past season where he averaged 3.9ppg. Salary US$2.3m.

2009: Gerald Henderson Jnr Charlotte Bobcats
Now: Still with Charlotte, averaged 15.5ppg. Salary US$3.1m.

2008: Jason Thompson Sacramento Kings
Now: Still in SacTown and performing solidly for the Kings with 10.9ppg. Salary US$5.25m.

2007: Thaddeus Young Philadelphia 76ers
Now: A sixth-year pro with the Sixers, coming off a season where he went for 14.8ppg. Salary US$8.3m.

2006: Hilton Armstrong New Orleans Hornets
Now: Dropped out of the NBA. Played 2006-10 with the Hornets, then appeared briefly for Sacramento, Houston, Washington and Atlanta, before heading to France, Greece and finally the D-League.

2005: Yaroslav Korolev LA Clippers
Now: Playing in Europe after making just 34 appearances as a seldom-used sub over two seasons for the Clips.

- Sunday Star Times

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