Sixth Pick Tournament Round One: Trey Burke vs. Steven Adams

Published: June 5, 2013

Mason Ginsberg and Nick Lewellen represent Michigan point guard Trey Burke and Pittsburgh center Steven Adams in round one of the Sixth Pick Tournament.

The Case for Steven Adamas (Lewellen)

STOP! Well, I may have caught some of you, but the reality is that probably more than half of you clicked on this article, immediately scrolled to the bottom, and voted Burke. You can do whatever you want and going with Burke isn’t a bad choice. My only problem with that is I don’t think most of you know Steven Adams as well as you should to make that choice. A month or two ago there would have been no point in me writing this article, but Steven is starting to shoot up draft boards after having a strong combine and exceeding expectations on team visits. While that may not be enough to change your vote, let me try to change it by telling you why Steven Adams should be the first draft pick ever made by the New Orleans Pelicans.

Size and Athleticism

Adams measured at 7 feet, 250 pounds with a 7 feet 4.5 inch wingspan at the combine. That is legit NBA size, but his most impressive attribute may be his all around athleticism. He showed tremendous ability to run the floor at Pittsburgh, and he seems to be that rare big man who looks confortable in open space on the fast break. He is quick for his size and has the ability to play well above the rim. I could go in to more detail about his soft hands or high motor, but let’s just all agree he has elite size and athleticism for an NBA center.

Skill Set

First off, Adams is raw and don’t believe anyone who tells you anything different. He could go to a free throw clinic hosted by Shaq and learn something. This really dragged down his offensive efficiency. He shot a great 57 percent from the filed, but he only managed 44 percent from the line. His post game, or offensive game in general, is not as developed as you would typically like from a lottery level prospect. At this point in a guy’s career there can only be a couple of reasons for his skill set being less developed than it should. In my opinion, Adams falls in the “didn’t play against a high level of competition for most of his life” category, not the “he doesn’t work hard” category. He has a high motor and is often praised for his “blue collar” style (I mean he is Scalabrine approved). That means with the right coaching he will improve, and we don’t have to worry about an “I’m country strong” situation.

It isn’t all bad news, though. Adams is already a great shot blocker (averaged 2.0 BPG in only 23.4 MPG) and rebounder, especially on the offensive end (2.8 ORB per game, 6.3 Total, and a total rebound percentage of 19.2%). Really most of his touches on offense were a result of his solid offensive rebounding. Honestly, Adams’ numbers may have been better had he played more. Pitt saw him as a project player they’d have for a couple of years. Adams fully expected to return for his sophomore season, until he took a trip home to New Zealand. He came back saying that he needed to help his family and declared for the draft.

Interestingly, reports from the combine and his visit to the Celtics have said he may have a larger offensive skill set than he showed at Pitt. claims that he is a “humble kid”, who needs to learn to take control on offense more. Considering the AAU culture most of these prospects developed in, the idea of a humble workhorse on an NBA team is very appealing to me.  Also, the idea he doesn’t have an offensive game is a bit exaggerated to me. He already runs the floor well and is a solid scorer in transition. He shot a solid 83% in transition, according to Again, his scoring numbers would have certainly been stronger if he played or was feature more. He was responsible for only 11% of his team’s overall possessions.

Really, everything Adams gives you on offense is just icing on the cake. His real value is on the defensive end. He is quick and mobile, and he plays the pick and roll well. Even when he is beat by his man, he is athletic enough to recover and make a play on the ball. This lessens the responsibility of the help defender on the other side.

The reality is that Adams has a way to go, but has all of the skills and work ethic to become a solid NBA player with the right coaching and sufficient time to develop.

Fit with the Pelicans

In my opinion, every move the Pelicans consider making from now on should first begin by answering two questions, how does this effect things with 1) Anthony Davis and 2) our young core overall?

1)    We have time for him to develop – If we were making a championship run in the next 2 to 3 years, there is no way Adams should be on our radar. But we aren’t even close. We have time to let him develop, before we need him to become a major contributor.

2)    Takes defensive workload off of Davis – If you agree with me, you think that Anthony Davis has a great deal of potential on the offensive end of the floor. A lot of people seem him as just a defensive stopper, but I think he could develop into a premier scoring big. Having another defensive minded big like Adams will allow Davis to focus more on the offensive end and not be the sole defensive post player on our team.

3)    He’s a Monty type player – Monty Williams has a type, and we all know it. He likes defense first players, hard workers, and guys who play hard. I’d say that Steven Adams qualifies for all three, which means he will actually see the floor and improve.  

4)    Let’s go big – Professional sports are an evolutionary game in many ways. This means that when one team has success with a strategy, like playing a smaller and faster lineup, some teams will follow. It is worth taking the time to explain in detail, but the NBA is monkey see monkey do league. The best way to exploit those changes in strategy is to go opposite of the heard and take the approach that will dominate. Look how much success Indiana is having these playoffs with their dominant frontcourt. Why not try to replicate the same thing here?

Final Word

It would be crazy for me to argue Adams is better player than Burke. What wouldn’t be so crazy would be for me to suggest that Adams is a better fit than Burke and might have more potential. Burke is an undersized scoring point guard, who struggles a bit on defense. He also doesn’t have the absolute elite speed you’d want from a guy with his size on an NBA team. Burke has a lot of heart, tenacity, and the offensive skills, but his defense and athleticism should be a concern for the Pelicans or for any team that has Monty Williams, one of the most defensive mind coaches in the NBA, leading the way. For those who actually read this before voting, I’m proud of you.  I’m sure I couldn’t convince all of you to go against the status quo, but hopefully I convinced enough you to at least considering thinking about this matchup.

The Case for Trey Burke (Ginsberg)

Poor Steven Adams. After seeing his name in this tournament, only one word comes to mind – why? The Pelicans are picking 6th, not 15th. Not a single mock draft from any of the most prominent NBA Draft analysis sites has Adams getting drafted any higher than 12th to the Thunder. On the flip side, none of those mock drafts have Trey Burke falling out of the top 10. There are a myriad of reasons to opt for Burke over Adams than that one, but it’s pretty clear given that data that none of the NBA draft analysts would have much to think about if given a choice between the two. If the Pelicans acquire a pick in the mid-teens, then Adams can be introduced into the conversation, but not a second before.

Since it’s really not worth breaking out the big guns for this early round match-up, let’s just briefly review why Burke is pretty much a lock to be drafted in the top 10.

  • Versatility. One of the reasons that Burke is such a special player is that he doesn’t bring just one elite skill to the table. Since the 1997-98 season, there have only been two NCAA guards to average at least 6.5 assists per game and less than 2.5 turnovers per game while making at least 80% of his free throws and at least 38% of his 3-pointers. Those two players are Ty Lawson and Trey Burke. This versatility is also displayed in a broader perspective via his excellent standing in the win shares department. In that same time span, only three guards have posted higher win share totals – Stephen Curry (twice), Jon Scheyer, and Kemba Walker.

  • “Chris Paul-esque” drive. There are so many different things that can be said to compliment Burke’s attitude and competitiveness, so in order to avoid being too long-winded, comparing him to CP3 in this regard should suffice. The guy is a natural born leader who never backs down from a challenge, as the past NCAA tournament showed everyone who was paying even the slightest bit of attention. There are many players at both the college and professional level who give varying degrees of effort in each game; with Burke, that effort and motor are never a question.

  • Measurements. There have been very few knocks to Burke’s game, but one potential concern was his size. At 6’1½”, he is considered slightly undersized by some for even the point guard position. For perimeter defense, however, wingspan is typically the more essential asset than vertical length, and Burke does not disappoint in that respect. His most recent wingspan measurement came in at 6 feet 5½ inches; to compare, Michigan teammate Tim Hardaway Jr. is a full 5 inches taller than him, but possesses only a 1½ inch edge in wingspan. In a nutshell, this isn’t a feature that will blow anyone away, but an area in which Burke is much better equipped for the next level than people give him credit for. If one of his few “negatives” isn’t even really a negative, then what’s not to like?

So why not Adams with the 6th pick? It’s pretty simple, really. Fran Fraschilla broke it down pretty well in one of ESPN’s 5-on-5 discussion columns last week. When asked which player is the biggest project, he replied with Adams, explaining “his overall game is going to be a work in progress for a while” and “his inexperience and lack of feel for the game will take a while for him to overcome.” A player who is drafted sixth overall is not someone who should have a “lack of feel for the game” or be “a work in progress for a while.”

This is not to say that the player who the Pelicans draft must be able to contribute immediately, but someone who is clearly this far off from being a relevant NBA player does not provide the type of value that rookie contracts can typically give a team. Some of the best bargains in the NBA (Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Andre Drummond, Anthony Davis, etc.) are the product of the rookie contract pay scale. If Adams doesn’t really start coming along until the back end of that first contract, then he loses a great deal of his value. As the first round progresses, the scale begins to tip more in his favor, but sixth would be far too high to take a gamble like that with far surer bets (such as Burke) available.

[polldaddy poll=7150036]

For previous matchups in the Sixth Pick Tournament, click here.


  1. Mkerrigan1

    June 5, 2013 at 9:22 am

    I like the argument for Adams I just feel like there are plenty of bugs to get in free agency this year that we can lock down for a couple of years. We need a floor general so I went with Burke. I’m really on the CJ Mccullem band wagon reading the argument for him.

    • Mkerrigan1

      June 5, 2013 at 9:22 am


      • Caffeinedisaster

        June 5, 2013 at 9:30 am

        Mkerrigan1 If we were still the Hornets, we WOULD be the BUGS in free agency.

  2. Caffeinedisaster

    June 5, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Orlando’s taking Burke, unless they trade for Bledsoe.  Taking another big might not be so bad.  We could trade Sideshow Rob or Adams for other assets.  Seven footers are always in demand, and we’d have THREE.
    On a completely obvious note, I voted Burke.

  3. Papa Pelican

    June 5, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Burke all the way.If the Pels get the Mavs pick Steve Adams

  4. fearthepelicans

    June 5, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Back in January on the ESPN forums, a Pitt fan told me Adams would be the perfect compliment to Anthony Davis and that the Pelicans should draft him wherever they pick. I told him he was crazy. Doesn’t seem quite as crazy now, I still would take Burke.

  5. Ddiamondd

    June 5, 2013 at 10:12 am

    I would rather have a smart player with high basketball IQ with less impressive athleticism than a freak athlete that can’t play. I’m sure all would gladly take someone like Duncan over a DeAndre Jordan. To me, drafting a talented and cerebral player in Burke is a much better course of action than drafting almost purely on potential with Adams. I do however like

    • Ddiamondd

      June 5, 2013 at 10:14 am

      …Building around two strong bigs. I just don’t think Adams is one of them.

    • Chris_wuzhere

      June 5, 2013 at 11:54 am

      So Burke is Tim Duncan now? Better comparison is would rather have Kemba Walker or Andre Drummond?

      • Ddiamondd

        June 5, 2013 at 2:31 pm

        I didn’t mean to say that Burke is as good or will be as good as Duncan. That’s just the first example of a talented, smart player that doesn’t wow me athletically. I didn’t mean to put Burke on the same level as one of the greatest players ever.

      • Roger.That.

        June 5, 2013 at 4:42 pm

        Ddiamondd Duncan is a tremendous athlete.

      • daThRONe

        June 5, 2013 at 5:39 pm

        Roger.That. Ddiamondd 
        Duncan is a decent athlete even for as a big. He is just insanely skilled.

  6. Mr. West

    June 5, 2013 at 10:49 am

    I’m not that huge of a Burke fan, but even I know Steven Adams blood will paint the walls tonight.

  7. lsutigers33

    June 5, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    this one was the easiest.      Does anyone know if Portland would be interested in EG for the 10th pick?

    • Caffeinedisaster

      June 5, 2013 at 3:36 pm

      lsutigers33 We’d have to get more than that for him.  I say we wait and see how many games he’ll play this year, along with his production.  If he doesn’t, we try to dump him for a 2014 lottery pick.

  8. Papa Pelican

    June 5, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    The Pels will draft Burke with the 6th pick and trade for the Mavs 6th pick for Saric.

    • Papa Pelican

      June 5, 2013 at 1:16 pm

      Make that the Jazz not the Mavs

  9. soulbreaker

    June 5, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    Ouch, searching for players with his body and frame, Burke really have a smell to Johnny Flynn, remember him? skinny, athletic, speed average, who was buried in mock draft until he  guide his team until the NCAA tournament. Lesson? never ever pick one player for his play in 5/6 matchs before see if he have the body and/or skills for the NBA. In my case i am all in in the Adams bandwagon, for me he is the best center in this draft in terms of defensive potencial, i don´t know if he can play like Drummond did the last year but if he can be a Deandre Jordan type of player i´m happy with that! with Griffin Billups Paul and Butler the Clippers was one of the best defensive teams in the league!

  10. nolafredo

    June 5, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    There’s little Adams can’t give you that other guys (Len, Zeller) can’t give you and better.  Even if we trade down, I’d still look at someone like Jeff Withey ahead of Adams.
    As for Burke, he’ll divide opinions, but his talent level is enough to make him the clear-cut choice in this round.  He’ll have some competition in later rounds, no doubt — specially if he goes up against McCollum or Oladipo.

    • soulbreaker

      June 5, 2013 at 2:40 pm

      nolafredo Both players are different than Adams. Zeller will be an offensive monster with little value in defense(unless he can match SF… and i think he can) and Len could be more balanced but he is a big risk with injuries. Adams? an athletic freak with long arms and great strength… the last C with that kind of body? Andre Drummond. Another(And more likely)? Deandre Jordan

  11. ryanschwan

    June 5, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    Sometimes players are too far behind in development to make it worth the time.  See JaVale McGee and DeAndre Jordan.  See even Tyson Chandler.  These guys were so raw to start, they are still barely able to contribute today – after their cheap rookie contract is over.  Their teams had to give them contracts on faith they’d continue to develop, and are now gambling big money contracts rather than small-money rookie contracts.

    Adams will be the same way.  He could develop into a usable big.  Let someone else waste their time doing it, and if he’s good, go after him later.  They can be had for the right deals.

    • soulbreaker

      June 5, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      ryanschwan It´s true, but Chandler was one of the worst mistakes in the Paul era and the most expensive players for his production in the league are centers, the Perkins/Deandre´s deals are the rule today in the league(ugh). In this case, Burke never ever will be a good defender probably even average, and i think this team have enough players (above)average in off but horrible in defense. IMO, that´s precisely why we need to pay Pek to come, until our young C is ready for the battle. I don´t know this is my opinion now probably i´m wrong, but in this draft and the next for me the team only need two things: defense and passing

      • Roger.That.

        June 5, 2013 at 4:41 pm

        soulbreaker ryanschwan What do you mean that Chandler was “one of the worst mistakes in the Paul era?”  During our run, Chandler was clearly the 2nd best player on the Hornets team.

      • soulbreaker

        June 5, 2013 at 5:01 pm

        Roger.That. soulbreaker ryanschwan  you don´t trade your 2nd best player in his prime and try with someone else, that is what i mean

    • soulbreaker

      June 5, 2013 at 3:27 pm

      btw do you have twitter? poor MM receive all our question haha

    • Caffeinedisaster

      June 5, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      ryanschwan Your thinking aligns with mine on this matchup.  BTW, nice profile pic.

  12. Caffeinedisaster

    June 5, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    The more I look at it, the more I think he’s our pick.

  13. Chris_wuzhere

    June 5, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Burke is benefiting from the same hype that got Kemba and Flynn drafted as high as they were. He’s a good player but what does he offer the team? If our main weakness is perimeter D how does Burke improve that area for us? I couldn’t vote for Burke against any of these guys except Schoeder. Every other option is better than taking Burke because he’s an intangibles guy and we already have enough intangibles guys on this team in Jason Smith and Ryno and even Darius Miller.

    • daThRONe

      June 5, 2013 at 6:21 pm

      He offer a leader, who values the ball, and who can make the game easier for his teammates. Calling Burke an intangible guy is like saying Chris Paul is an intangible guy. He dominated a league that was the consensus strongest conference individually and team wise. On a team without another go to player.
      You want to say he can’t defend, but they said the same things about Paul. Paul made all 1st  team defense this year. He has more than enough lateral quickness and length to defend. I’ve seen him pressure the ball more than enough to know he’s capable of it.

  14. Jared Ennis

    June 5, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    I’m not on the Burke bandwagon but i don’t see any way that Adams is drafted at 6. It’s more likely that Eric Gordon plays 82 games in a season than it is Adams gets drafted at 6.

  15. daThRONe

    June 5, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    I am a fan of Adams. I wish we can buy the Mavs trade or do a deal involving Gordon to get back in to draft Adams. I do think he fit perfectly with not only Davis, but Burke as well. Honestly I don’t think his growth will take as long as many seem to think. His base on offense and defense seem pretty solid for a guy with so little big time experience.
    With that said I think Trey is the best player in the draft overall so I voted for him.

  16. fearthepelicans

    June 5, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    Even though Burke will probably never be a top notch defender, he’d still likely be a massive upgrade over Vasquez.

  17. jsl05

    June 5, 2013 at 8:39 pm

    Can we vote for none of the above?
    On a serious note, Adams is a straight-up streetballer. He really needs to learn the basic fundamentals of the game; he looks lost when he’s out there. I can’t see many coaches letting him hold the team back during practice. For him, it all depends on where he ends up. He will need a really good and patient coach. If we have that here, I’d take him over Burke.
    Burke offers really nothing special. He is a good leader, but I’d rather go get a vet on a minimum contract for that and then let our core feed off that. I like the dimension that Adams could add to this team. He has everything to be a great center; he just needs to be a coachable student of the game to max out his potential.

  18. yaboytonez

    June 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    I like Burke. He reminds me of Lillard who went 7th last year. I don’t like the CP3 comparisons though. I think we are going to take him.

  19. Pingback: Sixth Pick Tournament Round Two: CJ McCollum vs. Trey Burke | New Orleans Pelicans |

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