Draft Express currently ranks Endrice Adebayo 15th in its 2017 board and it seems about right. The six-foot-10 center hasn’t shown the sort of skill level that suggests there is a foreseeable path for him to become a superstar but he is an impressive athlete who fits a clear role in a league where the spread pick-and-roll and switching are becoming prevalent.
From a physical-standpoint, Adebayo has proven himself able to do just about everything on defense.
The 19-year-old (who turns 20 in July) can step into the front of the rim or come off the weak-side in help-defense and elevate out of two feet to protect the basket, as he’s averaged 2.6 blocks per 40 minutes – according to basketball-reference. And though he’s prone to leaving his feet and making himself vulnerable to fouling from time-to-time, Adebayo is averaging just 4.2 personal fouls per 40 minutes, which is a very acceptable number.
He is a stout post defender, possessing plenty of strength in his 258-pound frame to hold his ground, and looks to boxout in the defensive glass. Adebayo has collected just 16.6% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor, which is an unimpressive figure for someone his size, but watching him play, there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with his defensive rebounding. He doesn’t pursue the ball with as much energy as he does on the offensive glass but it’s not as if he doesn’t give a crap either. My theory is that De’Aaron Fox and Wenyen Gabriel have played a role in that figure.
Away from the basket, Adebayo has shown adequate mobility to wall off dribble penetration in pick-and-roll defense and has picked up smaller players on switches with some regularity, even if that’s not a primary strategy Kentucky employs. In these instances, Adebayo bent his knees to get in a stance and proved himself able to keep pace with these smaller players on straight-line drives to block or effectively contest their shots at the rim with his nine-foot standing reach – though he doesn’t appear to have the lateral quickness needed to stay in front of more talented players who are able to shake him side-to-side.
Whether or not he will develop into an elite defender who can anchor a top 10 defense by himself should depend on how smart he is picking up the more subtle nuances of pro-level defense.
Adebayo gets quite a few touches in the post but hasn’t yet developed the skill level needed to support the decision of feeding him the ball with his back to the basket.
If he is matched up against a player who is smaller or generally weaker, Adebayo is able to knock them back and explode out of two feet for some thunderous dunks. Those are impressive.
But for the most part, his footwork is still very mechanical at this point of his development and his touch on turnaround hooks is iffy. His inefficiency in the post explains why his .564 effective field-goal percentage is so anticlimactic.
Kentucky has also handed him the ball in the high post some and he’s impressed on a few occasions, hitting cutters working around him and identifying spot-up shooters coming open. Adebayo is averaging just 1.4 assists per 40 minutes so far but that has looked like a workable skill he might have and that figure could be higher if Kentucky had more shot makers.
Another skill he’s flashed that has looked workable is his catch-and-shoot jumper. His touch is iffy and his release is slow but he didn’t look hopeless in his attempts. That said, Adebayo is currently shooting just 61.1% on his foul shots and hit just nine shots away from the basket the entire season, so this might be just a mirage.
Much like on defense, how Adebayo truly excels on offense is from an athletic standpoint. He’s a decent screener who looks to draw contact, can play above the rim as a target for lobs out of the high pick-and-roll and crashes the offensive glass with prolificacy. Possessing a seven-foot-one wingspan that helps him rebound outside of his area, Adebayo has collected 14.7% of Kentucky’s misses when he’s been on the floor.
His touch on non-dunk finishes is suspect but he’s shooting 73.3% at the basket so far this season, per hoop-math, thanks to his explosiveness helping him transform almost everything into a dunk attempt and his quick second jump helping him convert 75% of his put-back attempts.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor and at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara