Facing extraordinary expectations after playing a supporting role as a freshman, James Michael McAdoo has produced a mixed bag of results with a more featured role in year No. 2.
A highly touted recruit out of high school, McAdoo's appeal stems directly from his physical tools, which make his towering ceiling visible despite the clouds that surround it.
It's not difficult to recognize what makes McAdoo stand out. He's an athletic specimen. Given his physical tools, McAdoo could have probably excelled in whatever sport he chose to play.
He stands 6'9'' with chiseled arms, a cut upper body and powerful legs. McAdoo is off-the-charts athletic, with the ability to soar above the rim and run the floor like a 230-pound guard. With the mobility of a small forward and the strength of a 4, McAdoo has the chance at being the ultimate offensive mismatch if his skill set fully develops.
Facing the basket, there just aren't many frontcourt players who have the lateral quickness to contain McAdoo's foot speed. In the example below, McAdoo catches the ball and explodes toward the rim in one fluid, electric motion. And with his hops and athleticism, he's able to turn a difficult scoring angle into an easy two points.
While James McAdoo's struggles center around his raw offensive game, his strengths all revolve around what he does without the ball.
McAdoo is a glowing finishing target in the half court and transition. He's able to give his team a few easy baskets every game because of his ability to finish above the rim. Most of his off-ball production comes on the move, where it's tough for opposing 4s to shadow him throughout a shot clock.
Below is an example of his effectiveness when the game is slowed down. North Carolina is running a simple give-and-go, with McAdoo receiving a back screen to give him an open runway to leap from. The giver, Reggie Bullock, is able to throw the ball anywhere around the vicinity of the rim knowing that McAdoo is capable of snatching and finishing in traffic.
Because of McAdoo's coordination and athleticism, he's able to catch in a crowd and finish over defenders. For McAdoo, this is an easy two points, and there just aren't many players who can get you an easy two like this in the half court.
Given his athletic advantages, McAdoo is capable of filling the role of a team's designated off-ball playmaker. McAdoo was a lot more efficient as a freshman without the offensive freedom he's been granted as a sophomore. If a coach limits his responsibilities and keeps his role to off-ball playmaking, it will maximize his strengths and minimize the damage done by his weaknesses.
In the play below, McAdoo makes a play off the ball that nobody else on the floor is capable of making. Watch him sky above traffic and get the tip-in dunk.
McAdoo's incredible physical tools contribute to a few baskets every game that you don't have to work for as a team. He gives the offense some margin for error, knowing that even a failed offensive set or missed open jumper doesn't necessarily have to end in an empty possession.
McAdoo's versatility will give whatever lineup he ends up in tremendous flexibility on both sides of the ball. Offensively, he's a difficult face-up matchup for 4s who can't keep up laterally. With the ball in his hands, he's improved as a shot-creator in the post (though he's not converting routinely yet) and at least has shown the scoring arsenal of a hybrid power forward.
Playing the 3, he's got the quickness and mobility to get up and down the floor or use his strength to overpower opposing wings en route to the basket.
It works on the defensive side of the ball as well. He's quick enough to guard 3s and strong enough to defend 4s, given the specific matchup isn't too overwhelming.
Here's an example of his size and agility on the defensive side of the ball. Defending 15 feet from the rim, he's able to poke the ball loose, track it down and go coast-to-coast for the acrobatic finish. You just don't see this type of mobility from your typical frontcourt player.
Despite having elite physical tools, McAdoo hasn't figured out how to exploit them as an advantage. He's only shooting 44.8 percent from the floor, a less than attractive number coming from an athletic frontcourt player.
In terms of shot selection, it just hasn't clicked yet. He's taking fadeaway jumpers and off-balance runners when he should be attacking the rim and continuously getting above it.
In 30 minutes, McAdoo is averaging nearly 2.8 turnovers per game, a ridiculously high number for a forward who rarely uses the dribble. His decision-making at times has been highly questionable, and it appears he loses focus all too easily. Between bad shots and wacky passes, he's turned scouts off with a seemingly low basketball IQ.
McAdoo also lacks anything that resembles a reliable face-up jump shot. He's only attempted two three-pointers in two years at North Carolina (missed both), and given the shortened college arc, he doesn't project as a pick-and-pop option either. The fact that he shoots 55.9 percent from the free-throw line isn't a promising sign.
NBA Outlook and Prediction
Entering the 2012-13 season, McAdoo was widely considered a top-five pick, but a shaky sophomore year has some asking he returns.
Thinking big picture, McAdoo has all the tools you can't teach and room to grow in the areas he struggles. He's averaging 14.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, and that's without a refined offensive game.
Many have fallen off the bandwagon, but I'm still preaching patience. While McAdoo is figuring out the game, he's still able to make an impact given his natural gifts and abilities. But if it ever does end up clicking for McAdoo, we could be looking at one of the more valuable skill sets the NBA has to offer.
I personally wouldn't let him slip out of the lottery, but expect McAdoo to go anywhere in the mid-first round.