It is remarkable the seismic shift that has occurred among Memphis Grizzlies fans on their feelings toward the 22nd pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Jordan Adams, from the time his name was first called on draft night by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to present day.
If you will remember back to draft night, Grizzlies fans - at least the vast majority - were disappointed when Adams was selected.
Their disdain could be misconstrued as them believing Adams was unworthy of such an early selection. But I believe it's rooted in a combinations of a couple of things.
First, look at the makeup of the roster. The Grizzlies already had Courtney Lee, Tony Allen, and Mike Miller, who had consumed the bulk of the minutes at shooting guard - Adams' undeniable position - the prior season. In addition, the Grizzlies had drafted Jamaal Franklin during the 2013 NBA Draft, and he was widely regarded as the developmental shooting guard.
On top of that, the Grizzlies' perceived 'biggest need' or 'glaring weakness' since trading Rudy Gay had been size, athleticism, and play-making on the wing, or more specifically, the small forward position. Tayshaun Prince took up the majority of the minutes at small forward, but the veteran was statistically one of the worst starters in the league during the 2013-14 season (although it was later revealed that Prince suffered through both illness and injury and has rebounded for a solid 2014-15 season). Quincy Pondexter missed over 60 games that season, and it remained to be seen exactly what type of player Pondexter would be post injury.
So, if you look at what the Grizzlies already had in place at shooting guard, and their glaring need for an upgrade at the three, it is entirely understandable that fans got frustrated when Adams' named was called, especially with Rodney Hood and Kyle Anderson still on the board.
Once Grizzlies fans began to take a look at the player they had drafted, regardless of position, they began to realize why Adams was selected.
Coming out of high school, Adams, a consensus four-star recruit, chose UCLA (over Memphis, ironically), but he was rated as the lowest incoming recruit to UCLA that season behind Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, and Tony Parker (no, a different one).
Despite relatively low expectations, Adams averaged 15.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.2 steals, and 1.8 assists as a true freshman. The Oak Hill Academy product would only progress as a sophomore, averaging 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.6 steals, and 2.3 assists despite playing slightly fewer minutes per game.
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Looking at the early returns on the Grizzlies' mid-season acquisition, who may well be the answer to the hardest of questions - how will Memphis get to the top of the NBA mountain?
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Adams declared for the draft after his sophomore season and actually worked out for the Grizzlies with college teammate Kyle Anderson. Once the workout concluded, Adams spoke with the media, like all high-profile workout participants, but he fielded more questions about Anderson than he did about himself. At the time, many believed Anderson was a near ideal fit in terms of what the Grizzlies needed at the small forward position, and he would, in all likelihood, be available when the Grizzlies selected at 22.
Adams was later brought in for a second workout with the Grizzlies, and that's when mock drafts began to slot Adams to the Grizzlies at 22.
Grizzlies VP of Basketball Operations John Hollinger - basketball's advanced stats pioneer and the creator of the Player Efficiency Rating (PER) - is thought to have most of the control when it comes to the draft process. In Adams' sophomore season he posted an implausible 28.3 PER. For context, that would be the third best PER this season in the NBA behind only Anthony Davis (31.91) and Kevin Durant (28.71).
If you were to go back and look at the advanced stats that undoubtedly weigh very heavily in the evaluation of Hollinger and Grizzlies management personnel, Adams scored astronomically high in virtually every key analytical stat. He is the exact type of player this current front office regime of the Grizzlies actively pursues.
On top of looking like a great player on paper, Adams displayed a lighting quick release on his jump shot and saw his shooting number improve rather significantly from his freshman to his sophomore seasons.
Defensively, Adams posted gaudy steals numbers (led the Pac-12 and was sixth in the nation in steals per game his sophomore season), but some questioned whether Adams was truly a good defender.
Far too often, people view a player as a good defender simply because he puts up a high number of blocks or steals, but being a good defender goes beyond what can be seen on a nightly box score.
Adams was noticeably overweight at UCLA, and in the NBA where players have better footwork and are quicker than college opponents, Adams could not afford to lug around extra weight if he expected to be able to stay in front of NBA shooting guards every night.
So while Adams unquestionably had good hands and a knack for getting in the passing lanes, he would need to drop some weight in order to continue to advance at the next level.
Once Adams was drafted, and after the initial shock among Grizzlies fans had settled, word began to get around to the general public that Adams was a 'John Hollinger/Advanced Stats All-Star', and that is when the perception of Adams began to change drastically. Grizzlies fans began to fall in love and become enamored with the idea of Adams.
The admiration for Adams was only intensified when the rookie took the floor in a Grizzlies
practice jersey for the first time in the Summer League. In five Summer League games, Adams averaged 14.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 2.2 steals while shooting 38.9 percent from three.
But the Jordan Adams preseason love-fest may have reached the zenith when, on August 31st, the Grizzlies cut the previously deemed developmental shooting guard Jamaal Franklin.
The cutting of Franklin signified to everyone that the Grizzlies management had the utmost trust and belief in the development and potential of Jordan Adams.
By this point, nearly every fan of the Memphis Grizzlies had an almost irrational infatuation with prospect of Adams.
I don't know if I've ever seen a fanbase reverse their opinion of player so quickly quite like Grizzlies fans did with Adams. He went from a draft day disappointment to having fans yearn for him to play without ever stepping foot on an NBA court.
Despite all of the excitement surrounding Adams, one thing was still clear: Memphis was deep, especially at shooting guard.
In addition to adding Adams and fellow rookie Jarnell Stokes in the draft, the Grizzlies signed former All-Star Vince Carter to bolster scoring off of the bench and fill the shooting void left by the departed Mike Miller.
Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger made it very clear from the outset that he would bring along the rookies very slowly, so people should not expect them to get much if any playing time early on. And that line of thinking made a great deal of sense, honestly. With Allen, Lee, Carter, Pondexter, Prince, and even Beno Udrih and Nick Calathes expected to take up the minutes on the wings, there simply was no room for Adams to log minutes outside of a couple of spot, garbage-time minutes here and there.
Joerger held true to his word, and Adams only played in four of the team's first 26 games.
Luckily for Adams, he's been able to spend time in the D-League with the Iowa Energy. Adams has appeared in 10 games with the Energy, and he's produced well, as expected, averaging 19.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.9 steals, and 1.6 assists while shooting 48.3 percent from the floor and 40.9 percent from three.
As the season has gone on, Adams has seen his appearance with the big club go up - playing in nine of the team's last 20 games, including a recent road win against Dallas in which the rookie logged 10 minutes and scored five points on two of three shooing, knocking down his only three-point attempt of the night.
At the beginning of the season, there was really no way to justify carving out minutes in the rotation for Adams; however, it is becoming easier and easier to find Adams minutes.
First, look at the roster now: Pondexter and Prince were shipped out of town in the Jeff Green trade, taking away two wing players in front of Adams and adding another that may be best suited as a power forward but certainly won't be logging any shooting guard minutes.
There are 96 minutes to be had on the wing. One would have to imagine that Jeff Green takes around 25 of those minutes and maybe logs another 5-8 minutes at power forward. Lee has been somewhat up-and-down, but he has firmly entrenched himself in a roughly 30 minute per game role. Allen will and should get around 25 minutes per game, and whether that's off the bench or starting is somewhat of a mystery right now.
Between Green, Allen, and Lee, that's roughly 80 wing minutes taken up, leaving 16 available minutes.
Joerger continues to like using two point guard lineups with some combination of Mike Conley, Udrih, and Calathes, but those may not be an every night thing. So we'll say they account for roughly 4 wing minutes-per-game.
That now leaves us with right around 12 minutes to be distributed between Carter and Adams, and this is where the conversation gets interesting and somewhat subjective.
Carter was brought in to not only replace Miller, but also to add a couple dimensions that Miller couldn't bring to the team: play-making and defense.
Unfortunately, Carter has just not been very good for the Grizzlies this season. Overall, the numbers look awful for Carter. He is having his worst season shooting in terms of overall percentage (currently shooting 33.6 percent, previous career-worst was 40.7) and three point percentage (currently shooting 27.8 percent, previous career-worst post rookie season was 34.1 percent). His PER is at a career-low 10 (previous career-low was 13.6, and just for a reference point, Tayshaun Prince's PER is 11.4 so far this season).
Even beyond all of the numbers, Carter simply does not look like himself on the floor. It is completely understandable that Carter is getting older, and he is not the Half-Man-Half-Amazing he once was. But there are times when it looks like it takes all the strength he has just to make it across half-court. He cannot get enough separation from defenders to get open looks. He chucks up wild, long threes far too frequently. And on top of that, Carter suffered an injury to the ankle/foot area against Denver on Thursday night.
The extent of the injury is currently unknown, but, assuming it's not serious, it could be an opportunity for Carter to rest his body.
Many still believe that Vince Carter will be able to contribute for the Memphis Grizzlies when they need him in the playoffs - assuming he's healthy. It would be far too premature to assume Carter is just a sunk cost at this point. He's shown flashes throughout the season of being the player the Grizzlies brought him in to be and, frankly, they desperately need him to be that player if they want to make it out of the buzz saw that is the Western Conference.
But right now, the Grizzlies do not necessarily NEED Carter. What they need is for Vince to get himself fully healthy and ready come playoff time.
In the meantime, the Grizzlies can start looking into distributing Carter's 12 minutes per game elsewhere, and Adams should be the first place they look.
While Adams' future potential is great, the Grizzlies can utilize his ability to space to floor with his shooting, draw contact and get to the foul-line, and create turnovers off of steals defensively right now. Adams is still extremely young, but he's shown promise in his very limited playing time.
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Get involved in the conversation!
It would be silly to suggest that all of a sudden Adams needs to turn into a key rotation because rookies - especially rookies picked near the end of the first round - simply do not play significant roles on contending basketball teams. But Adams can be used in a similar but lesser role as that of Jon Leuer.
Leuer averages 15.3 minutes per game, but he is clearly a back-end of the rotation player whose minutes are often dictated by match-ups and how he's playing that particular night. Something similar to that where Adams averages 10 minutes a night, but his minutes are largely dictated by match-ups and strength of play seems ideal.
Some of this lobbying for Adams' playing-time stems from the fact that the Grizzlies do not have a good track record recently with their draft picks. Since 2009, the Grizzlies have drafted 11 players. Of those 11, seven are not in the NBA, three - DaMarre Carroll, Greivis Vasquez, and Tony Wroten - either start or see significant minutes for other NBA teams (yes, I know Wroten doesn't really count, but he does play 30 minutes per game when not injured), and one - Jordan Adams - is still with the team. (Note: Jarnell Stokes was drafted by the Utah Jazz and then traded to the Grizzlies; therefore, he is not considered a Grizzlies draft pick.)
Point being, eventually, you have to develop your own draft picks, and as an organization, you cannot miss or give up on virtually all of your draft selections.
The Grizzlies now have an opening to give Jordan Adams a few minutes per game - minutes that are invaluable to the development of a talented rookie.