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BAM, BAM, BAM! Why Adebayo makes sense in Brooklyn

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Part of a series of reports on potential picks in this year’s draft

SEC Basketball Tournament - Championship Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

And I am NOT talking about the Brooklyn Academy of Music!

I AM thinking about why Edrice ‘Bam’ Adebayo has fallen this far under the radar. Then again we’re in April, and those playoff things are going on, which leaves the rest of us to start talking about the draft now, because you know…

If we’re being honest, those talking about the draft now usually mention only the projected top picks; the Markelle Fultz’s, the Lonzo Ball’s, the Josh Jackson’s.

And then, you have us…Oh well.

Anyway, I’ve watched plenty of Kentucky, and plenty of college basketball as a whole. I’ve even covered my share of it throughout the season, but if you only know me from NetsDaily, you might not have noticed.

The Brooklyn Nets have picks numbered 22, 27 and 57 – but really we’re focusing on 22 and 27 for now. We’ll focus on 57 later, because after all, Manu Ginobili…

Adebayo is a classic center, who’s as good as you’ll get in terms of NBA size. He’s 6’10, 260 pounds, with a near 7’2 wingspan, a stand reach of 9’0, a no step vertical leap of 33.5 inches, and a near 40-inch max vert. He came from High Point Christian Academy in North Carolina as one of the few five-star recruits in the country last year. He also competed at the McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic games.

As a one-and-done at Kentucky (I know, I know), the North Carolina Mr. Basketball averaged 13 points and eight rebounds en route to Second Team All-SEC and SEC All-Freshman Team Honors.

Over his final 14 games, he averaged 13.3 points on 58.7% shooting (74.4% on free throws) while pulling down 10 rebounds and blocking 1.4 shots per contest, putting forth a bevy of standout showings along the way.

Adebayo’s draft range as of now is mid-to late first round, probably a top-10ish pick in the pre-spread-the-floor era, about 10 years ago. Here are the latest projections...

Draft Express: 31st to Atlanta

NBADraft.net: 19th to Atlanta

HoopsHype: 19th to Atlanta

ESPN: 17th to Milwaukee

CBSsports.com: 30th to Utah

Sports Illustrated: 27th (to Sean Marks’ Big Board)

First of all, what is it with this guy and Atlanta? Am I missing something? Do they not know that he hates being compared to Dwight Howard?

Second of all, yes I do recognize that three of these mocks (key word) have him pegged pre-Nets, but we’re here to talk about how he fits.

And yes, he does fit. Take a look...

Courtesy of YouTube account ‘Frankie Vision,’ here’s Bam’s 18-point, 15-rebound game against a Florida team that reached the Elite Eight as a number-one seed and was the 34th best rebounding team in the country at season’s end, and finished 27-9 overall, 14-4 in the SEC.

Here, you’ll see Adebayo get into great positioning on both sides of the ball, as he attempts to corral the boards. He doesn’t seem need to be a ball-dominating big, not someone who requires looks down on the blocks to remain engaged.

You can see that potential top-5 pick Malik Monk as among the Wildcats who feed ‘Bam’ in a variety of ways:

1:50 – Alley-oop off of a slip and roll. Good on Adebayo to keep cutting through the seam and get wide open, like a tight end in football.

2:12 – Old school, right block, hook shot going left. He avoids the double team here, just a quick dribble and goes straight up when right at the rim.

2:30 – Same concept, except Adebayo draws the foul. Pay attention to how he lulls Kevarrius Hayes to sleep, and gets right into position on the right block, earning a trip to the foul line. Had he gotten the ball, the result likely would’ve matched the previous play.

2:55 – Mismatch on 6’2 guard KeVaughn Allen. Adebayo recognizes it right away, and Allen does what I used to do when the big dudes posted me up in high school. Front him. Isaiah Briscoe lobs the pass over the top where Florida’s Eric Hester comes to help, but is too late. 2 handed dunk, created by positioning, a mismatch, and a superb pass.

3:14 – Starts off on the low block and sets the high off ball screen for Monk, who then gets the feed from Briscoe on the three-point line. As the play materializes, Adebayo detects Monk’s dribble penetration instantly. Adebayo drops down toward the bucket, receives the pass in the pocket, and quickly hooks one in with the right hand, while the double team is collapsing on his left. A page from the book of potential future teammate, Brook Lopez, perhaps.

3:34 – One more Monk to Bam alley. Here, Adebayo gets one early touch and quickly passes back out Keith Stone, and kind of lurks in and around the paint, until a penetrating Monk enters the pray. Adebayo’s eyes widen, because he knows what time it is.

Another short one, Bam vs. the hometown boys, the eventual national champions, UNC...

Kentucky memorably nearly knocked off the Tar Heels in the Elite Eight. Adebayo had a scoreless first half against the Tar Heel frontcourt led by Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, but erupted for 13 in the second half, while also collecting 7 boards.

Both of his first two buckets, he gets himself in perfect position for the offensive board, which he didn’t do in the first stanza. Take a look

0:05 – He was actually ready for a lob or some sort of feed from Briscoe, but because of the roll, he was able to finish off the possession with an easy deuce.

0:12 – This time Adebayo straight up housed Luke Maye, high-rises for the rebound, and cashes in his 100th dunk of the season, which came in 38 games.

0:22 – De’Aaron Fox does a great job of manipulating the screen usage, coming back to his right side and deferring to Derek Willis. Adebayo then cuts, like a regular pick and roll, but the pass comes from Willis as opposed to Fox. Adebayo gets the alley, because he never stopped cutting.

0:32 – Tough shot. Solid defense, just bested by better ‘o’ from Adebayo, nailing the hook shot.

0:41 – Not known for his passing, but this was great to see. Head up, one dribble, excellent bounce pass for the assist. He had 32 dimes during the season, this was one of them.

0:48 – As opposed to staying behind Meeks, Adebayo moves up to challenge Hicks, who he easily rejects, maintaining his position the entire way. Adebayo’s 57 blocks led Kentucky, and were 7th in the SEC.

All in all, he’s one of the best centers in the draft, that’s a given. He’s no Karl Anthony-Towns, and in a different era he’s probably projected much higher than he currently is in this draft. He can finish around the rim, provide solid interior defense and despite his lack of shooting at Kentucky, Adebayo actually has a decent touch from the mid-range area, as Sports Illustrated’s Brian Hamilton touched on in January:

Synergy Sports statistics show a player with a total of six jump shots launched all season, and 121 half-court attempts off post-ups or around the rim. A deeper dive hints at a wider array of skills lurking in Adebayo’s arsenal. “He’s so much more comfortable now having the ball in his hands two and three and four and five seconds, to where he’s a basketball player, versus just a guy who’s a dunker,” Kentucky assistant Joel Justus says. Adebayo’s proficiency in handling hard double-teams suggests Justus is correct; when Adebayo has passed out to spot-up shooters in those situations, Kentucky gets a respectable 1.188 points per possession, a figure in the 69th percentile nationally.

Coaches insist Adebayo’s under-deployed jumper has come along, behind closed doors. With school out for the Martin Luther King holiday, Adebayo and (Kentucky assistant coach Kenny) Payne held a pre-practice workout. Payne had Adebayo take pick-and-pop midrange jumpers until he hit 20. Managers shouted out the big man’s make-to-miss ratio with each attempt. Ultimately, Adebayo required 30 shots to get 20 makes, indicative of a touch that Kentucky hasn’t so far needed (and that has been oddly lacking with Adebayo’s 61.8% free throw shooting). “I can see him learning to be able to be a three-point shooter one day,” Payne says.

Is the league moving away from the classic center? Yes.

Is there a place in the league for ‘Bam?’ Absolutely.

His skill-set, size, and ability on both ends of floor dictate that. At his best, he’s probably a near All-Star level big, who can post a double-double nightly, and be an intimidator on defense. At his worst, he’s a back-up center who’ll hang around in the league for a while due to his physical attributes and abilities.

For the Nets, you’re looking at someone who’ll back-up Lopez, with a potential future as a starter, and one of the higher ceilings in this deep class.

Think of a better free throw shooting version of Andre Drummond, who probably won’t get that many rebounds, but has the tools to get the double-doubles, and be an explosive center in this small ball league.