NBA Draft: Jordan Adams using versatility to his advantage

NBA Draft: Jordan Adams using versatility to his advantage
June 13, 2014, 2:00 pm
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Mark Strotman

Jordan Adams doesn't have the vertical Andrew Wiggins does. He doesn't possess freakish 3-point records like Nik Stauskas. No one will comment on his phenomenal length like they will Isaiah Austin, and no one will compare his prospects to the untapped, Hakeem Olajuwon-like potential of Joel Embiid.

But there's plenty to like about the UCLA shooting guard, and the versatile scorer is making the most of his skill set.

A two-year starter with the Bruins, Adams averaged 16.4 points on 47 percent shooting during his time in Los Angeles. He was consistent, too, unlike some of his teammates, scoring in double figures in all but three games and, despite just two seasons at the esteemed program, ranks No. 42 on the all-time scoring list. And on a 28-win team, he finished his sophomore season as the Bruins' leading scorer and second-best rebounder.

The 17.4 points he averaged were seventh in the Pac-12, and his numbers were up in a handful of offensive categories, including field goal percentage, 3-point field goals, free-throw attempts. And his improvement happened thanks to a versatile scoring output.

At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds -- he's now down to 208 pounds after working with a nutritionist all summer to get in shape -- he drew more than five fouls per 40 minutes, ranked in the 100th percentile in points per possession in post-up situations (1.41), per Synergy, and let the Bruins in "and-1" three-point plays, per Draft Express. What he lacks for in athleticism (29.5-inch vertical) and elite speed (12.13-second combine agility test), he's become more aware of his limitations and thrived on what he does best: getting to the basket.

"This whole summer I worked on my post game. I wanted to add that to my game in case I did get the ball on the low block, which I did sometimes in college, whether it’s a turnaround or a little quick hook, it’s something to get easier buckets around the basket," he said at last month's NBA Combine. "All these guys are probably more athletic than me…but I’m more crafty, so I have to find ways to score or get under them or shoot before they jump. Little ways to score the ball."

His craftiness also led him to watch film and study former Pistons shooting guard Richard Hamilton. While not similar in size, Hamilton wasn't the most explosive leapers yet will go down as one of his era's best - if not the best - mid-range shooters.

And his numbers back up that notion. As a sophomore he shot 43 percent when coming off screens and 65 percent off cuts to the basket.

"Some younger (defenders), they tend to turn their head, and once you turn your head that leaves the back door open or they don’t want to follow you on the curl all the way," Adams said. "I watched film of Richard Hamilton, just the way he cuts and curls. I learned a lot from that."

[NBA Draft Profile: UCLA's Jordan Adams]

Adams increased his 3-point field goal percentage nearly five points (30.7 to 35.6 percent), including 42 percent in the Bruins' 28 wins. As Adams went so did the Bruins, and he chalked it up to staying confident in his game and also making the right decision (one-third of his turnovers occurred in UCLA's eight losses).

"I think it first starts with confidence," he said. "I’m trying to score until that person stops me or cuts me off, then I’ll make the right basketball play whether it’s a drive and kick or drop it off, but if I see a lane or see the rim open I’m going for it."

And though he'll make his money at the next level on the offensive end, his defense was a positive, too. This past year he recorded a UCLA single-season high 95 steals, and his 168 steals are seventh most in school history. Though his average height and limited speed and quickness don't lend itself to becoming a stout NBA defender, the former Oak Hill Academy product said he "loves" the Bulls' style. He's already met with the team and believes he'd be an asset in the Windy City.

"It’s physical and tough, and I think I fit that nature," he said. "They always have a great defensive team...two great bigs scoring down low which helps operate for the wings."

He's currently a borderline first-round pick who could solidify his place in the first 30 picks if he proves his outside shooting truly has improved and that his weight won't be an issue. He began that convincing at the combine with his 12-pound weight loss and solid 3-point shooting in drills (17-for-25 from NBA range), 

"My biggest strength is scoring from all angles: shooting, putting it on the floor," he said. "And I'm trying to show (NBA teams) that I can do that and be athletic while doing it."