Steven Adams reached double figures in scoring once in Big East play and six times overall as a freshman at Pitt last season. He recorded double-digit rebounding games five times but never in consecutive outings. His free-throw percentage was among the worst in NCAA Division I.
Those are not the type of statistics usually associated with an NBA draft choice, much less a high first-round pick.
But NBA teams aren't necessarily looking at production when they evaluate college players. Instead, they are looking for potential, and it oozes out of every inch of the 7-foot, 250-pound frame of Adams.
That potential is so apparent that despite his ho-hum, one-season stop in Oakland, Adams is almost assured of being a lottery pick in the NBA Draft tonight in New York.
Adams, who averaged 7.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in his one season with the Panthers, was a workout warrior and helped himself more than any other player in this draft.
The day he announced he was leaving Adams was considered a borderline first-round pick. But after a strong showing at the NBA draft combine and more impressive performances in workouts with teams at their facilities, ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford said Adams could go as high as No. 7 to the Sacramento Kings. The lowest Ford sees Adams going is No. 12 to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"Steven Adams has been one of the high risers in this draft," Ford said. "NBA teams have loved his workouts, loved his interviews and loved him as a person. He's showed more skill than he did at Pitt, and he has an NBA-ready body."
Ford is not the only analyst with a bullish outlook for Adams. Jay Bilas, also of ESPN, had the opportunity to call several Pitt games this season and agrees with Ford and others that Adams has all but locked up a lottery selection.
"I am buying it," Bilas said. "He's got a big body and he's a really good athlete. And his numbers per minute are actually pretty good. He doesn't have a good feel for the game yet and he struggled from the free-throw line. He looked mechanical. But I think he's going to be a good player. He just has to develop."
That is likely to happen in the NBA Development League and not as an active member of an NBA roster. The consensus among NBA personnel types is that Adams, who turns 20 next month, would be best-suited to spend a year or two in the D-League working on his game.
This is the reason Ford has Adams going to Oklahoma City in his mock draft.
"If you draft him, you know he's not ready to play in the NBA," Ford said. "One of the reasons we have him in the mock draft going to the Thunder is because the Thunder have a great D-League franchise. It's a perfect example for what the D-League is supposed to be. He has the raw abilities to be a terrific player down the road."
This is where the risk comes into play for teams drafting in lottery positions. Most teams in that position, excluding Oklahoma City which acquired the No. 12 pick via the James Harden trade, are not playoff teams and would rather draft players that are capable of contributing early in their careers.
"Steven Adams is a risk," Ford said. "But here's the thing with younger players: What do you look like at the start of the season and what do you look like at the end of the season?
"At the start of the season it was a horror show. It looked like he had never played organized basketball before. The first time I scouted him I remember I wrote down in my notes: Years away, come back and check on him as a junior. Then I caught him in a Big East game at the end of the season and he was a better player. By the Big East tournament I was seeing what scouts were seeing when he was in high school."
And there is not a shortage of NBA general managers who are willing to gamble on 7-foot centers. Along with point guards, legitimate 7-foot centers are the most valued players by general managers because they are becoming rarer, especially those with the athleticism and skill set that Adams possesses.
"They just don't make them that big very often," Bilas said. "Size is one of the toughest things to find in the draft. Teams want 7-footers to bang and rebound. That's hard to get. That's what makes him even more attractive."
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1. First Published June 27, 2013 4:00 AM