Thunder select Pitt's Adams in first round of NBA Draft
In an NBA Draft full of surprises, starting with the Cleveland Cavaliers stunning everyone with the first overall pick, former Pitt center Steven Adams hit the lottery.
The 7-foot, 255-pound center became the first New Zealand native chosen in the first round — he represented his homeland with a jacket featuring its flag — when the Oklahoma City Thunder selected Adams with the 12th pick Thursday night at Barclays Center in New York.
“I think he's going to be a good player, just needs some time,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. “He's got to develop. But he's got the tools. And at his size, being a 7-footer, strong and athletic, who can defend down in the post — he still needs to learn a lot about post defense, his positioning, getting and holding position on the block really on both ends. He needs to learn those nuances, but they don't make them that big very often.”
Adams spent only one season at Pitt, averaging 7.2 points but leading the team in rebounds (6.3), blocked shots (65) and field-goal percentage (.571). A Big East All-Rookie selection, he insisted he would return for his sophomore season but declared early for the draft after a 13-point, 11-rebound effort in the loss to Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament.
Adams' stock soared after a strong showing in predraft workouts and interviews with teams. He said he had a good idea he was headed to the Thunder after visiting them.
“To a certain degree I kind of did, but it was actually more what I was hoping for,” Adams said. “Just because I fell in love with the place.”
Adams also said he was comfortable spending time next season with the team's developmental-league team in Tulsa, if that's in the Thunder's plans.
Oklahoma City hopes Adams is the perfect addition of size, as well as a long-term scoring option inside to pair with All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
Adams became the fifth Pitt player chosen in the first round, the first since Vonteego Cummings went 26th to the Indiana Pacers in 1999.
Adams is the highest Panther picked by the NBA since Charles Smith went third overall to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1988.
Adams also is the first Panthers player to be a first-round pick under Jamie Dixon.
The Cavaliers, who also drafted first in 2011, started what proved to be an unsettled NBA Draft by selecting UNLV freshman forward Anthony Bennett. Nerlens Noel, considered to be one of the favorites to be taken first, instead fell to No. 6, where the New Orleans Pelicans took him and then dealt his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package headlined by All-Star guard Jrue Holiday, according to a person familiar with the details.
The Cavaliers passed not only on Noel but also on Maryland center Alex Len, who went to Phoenix at No. 5.
Most predictions had the Cavs taking one of the big men, with Noel largely considered the favorite even after a torn ACL that ended his lone season at Kentucky in February.
Orlando passed on both of the big men, too, going with Indiana swingman Victor Oladipo with the No. 2 pick. Washington took Otto Porter Jr. with the third pick, keeping the Georgetown star local.