Earlier this summer, the Rockets signed former Milwaukee forward Jeff Adrien to a minimum, one-year deal. Not exactly the type of signing that moves the needle too much, but Adrien still presents a curious case.
Is Adrien the solid, physical presence he seemingly proved to be in Milwaukee, or did he simply benefit from playing on the worst team in the NBA last season?
The answer to both questions is yes.
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Being traded from Charlotte to Milwaukee was the best thing that could have happened to Adrien. In 28 games with Milwaukee, Adrien saw 15 more minutes per game (25.2 mpg). With those increased minutes, Adrien posted a solid 10.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 0.8 blocks per game. Extrapolated over 36 minutes, those averages ballooned to 15.6 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.1 blocks per game. Even more impressive, Adrien posted an 18.4 PER with Milwaukee; averaged together with his stint in Charlotte, his PER for last season was a respectable 17.4, easily the highest of his career.
Milwaukee proved to be Adrien’s coming out party. However, when looking at his per 36 minute averages throughout his career, one thing is certain; Adrien is an excellent rebounder, despite his marginal height (6’7”). In fact, during Adrien’s last stint with the Rockets in 2011-2012, he grabbed an impressive 12.6 rebounds per 36 minutes of play.
After being released by Golden State during his first NBA season, Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com had this to say about Adrien’s skill set:
The bread and butter of Adrien’s game, and his main virtue as an NBA prospect remains his rebounding ability. Although undersized at 6-5 ¼ without shoes, he possesses a mammoth 7-2 wingspan which helps him out tremendously, especially when you consider his He-Man like frame. He’s constantly lurking trying to make things happen on the offensive glass, and plays with an excellent intensity level that is surely winning him fans at the NBA level.
Good role players need to have at least one dynamite NBA skill set. Adrien has garnered respect as a rebounder throughout his career, but Milwaukee gave him a chance to showcase just how effective he can be when given a role and adequate minutes.
The Rockets new crop of reserve players are full of unknowns and players with very limited or even zero NBA experience. Adrien, however, brings a known skill set to the table, in addition to tenacity, hustle, and energy.
It will be interesting to see how Rockets’ coach Kevin McHale will utilize Adrien this season. One thing is certain; McHale must be canny enough to identify and utilize his players’ strengths in order to maximize the Rockets’ potential. Adrien is a proven rebounder and a physical presence. Let’s hope that McHale realizes his potential and provides him with a meaningful role off the pine.
All statistics courtesy of basketball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.