Comparisons are as inevitable as mock drafts during this season of pre-draft workouts, so here's one for Bam Adebayo, who was one of six players to work out for the Pacers on Monday: Mel Daniels.
Adebayo, a one-and-done prospect out of the University of Kentucky, is just short of 6-foot-9 in his bare feet. Same as Daniels.
Adebayo got a late start in basketball, and has grown from a raw physical specimen into a blooming talent with plenty of potential for further improvement. The same would have been said about Daniels when he was 19.
Adebayo grew up humbly in a single-wide trailer in a small town in North Carolina, Pinetown. Daniels grew up humbly as well, although in Detroit's inner city.
Adebayo loves poetry, and considers Edgar Allen Poe his favorite. Same as Daniels.
I swear, if Adebayo had told me Poe's poem, "The Bells" is his favorite, I would have wondered if Daniels had somehow found a way to reincarnate himself into this 19-year-old kid and revitalize his professional basketball career. That was Daniels' favorite.
Adebayo's first name is Edrice, but he picked up a nickname after tipping over a table when he was a year old. Bam! Sounds like something Daniels would have done, too.
Adebayo has never heard of Daniels, who passed away on Oct. 30, 2015 after gaining belated induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. That's understandable, given the fact Daniels retired in 1976, 21 years before Adebayo was born. But they likely would have bonded, because both prefer speaking the blunt truth over blowing smoke.
Asked Monday if he feels he could have an immediate impact if drafted by the Pacers, Adebayo shrugged.
"Who knows, bro?"
Asked what his role might be with the Pacers, he shrugged again.
"What they want me to do is what I do," he said. "We'll meet with the coach after this, and I'll see what he wants."
Those were perfect answers, especially for a teenager who is mature enough to know he's a long way from starring in the NBA, but also enthusiastic and dedicated enough to believe he can become one someday. Of the six players on the Bankers Life Fieldhouse practice court, Adebayo stood out as the most buoyant. He interacted comfortably with his fellow draft candidates, the Pacers' coaches and the media members, and even appeared to be enjoying himself amid the serious nature of the audition.
"Any day could be taken away from you," he said. "I just go out there and try to have fun as much as possible."
Adebayo reflects the depth of this year's draft. A year ago, he might have been taken in the top seven or eight picks. This year, he could be available to the Pacers with the 18th selection. He's strong, physical, has quick feet, jumps quickly, and is regarded as a possible all-defensive team pick after he plays long enough to get his NBA bearings.
He averaged 13 points at Kentucky last season off athleticism rather than refinement. He has yet to establish dependable post moves, and his mid-range shot is dicey, as reflected by his 65 percent free throw accuracy. He hit several mid-range shots at the end of Monday's session, but also put up a few air balls.
While his court awareness needs improvement, his off-court awareness is coming along nicely. He said, for example, he's paid no attention to the pervasive mock drafts.
"There's not enough time in my schedule to be looking at mock drafts," he said. "I pay attention to my agent and my inner circle."
He also seemed aware of the Pacers' roster. Asked a generic question about his impression of the team, he quickly brought up Lance Stephenson.
"Lance is a good description of them," he said. "He fights, he scraps and he plays hard.
He also brought up Paul George, Myles Turner and Jeff Teague.
"They look like they're down-to-earth people," he said. "I can play with guys like that."
Daniels would have appreciated that answer, too, just as he would have appreciated Adebayo's decision to join a poetry club his senior year in high school. He thought it was a crazy idea when first brought up to him, but he wound up enjoying it and learning from it.
"I really paid attention to it. My teacher was awesome," he said.
"I look at stuff differently now. Before I took poetry, if somebody said something off-the-wall to me, I took it as being rude. Now I take it as encouragement. I use it as motivation."
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