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Golden State Warriors 2014-15 season review: James Michael McAdoo and the Allure of Potential

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With the Warriors beginning their Las Vegas Summer League stint tomorrow, we look at the 2014-2015 season and debut of James McAdoo. Where can his potential take him?

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

After making the Golden State Warriors as an undrafted rookie last season, James Michael McAdoo will be one of the focal points of the summer league team as a player who appeared on the regular season roster during the 2014-15 season.

What can we expect? Let's start by looking back at his first season.

McAdoo's Debut

January 19th, 2015The Warriors are trouncing a poor Denver Nuggets team at Oracle. Golden State has held a diminished demoralized Nuggets team to 28 points in the first half and is well on their way to an easy victory. Steph Curry has put up light work and has 20 points through three quarters, and everyone on the roster has contributed a basket. The home crowd prepares itself for garbage time, and a new face emerges from the end of the bench.

James Michael McAdoo had appeared in the 2014 Summer League for the Warriors, putting up solid enough numbers to get himself a contract before the start of the season. McAdoo had a solid if not spectacular college career - three seasons at North Carolina where he averaged 11.4 points and 5.9 rebounds (he topped out in 13-14 averaging 14.2 points and 6.8 boards). He played on some underachieving Tar Heel squads, and subsequently had his draft stock reduced even though he was a top national recruit (#4 player in his class by Scout.com) when joining North Carolina. He declared early for the draft, but was left off the big board in the end.

McAdoo was pegged as a tweener - not big enough to be a center, but played fast and angry enough to be a solid energy guy on both that Summer League squad and with his time in the Santa Cruz Warriors ready for his big call up. Yet he has a championship pedigree under his belt; he was part of the 2009 and 2010 FIBA Americas U16 Championship teams. He also helped Santa Cruz to a D-League title, where he showed grit and hustle on his way to shoring up a solid front court for a solid squad. When he finally signed his 10-day Warriors contract on January 19th to give the squad some extra front court depth with a Fezsus Ezeli injury, not much attention was paid to the new member of the team.

As McAdoo entered the floor that night in Oracle, the biggest affiliation he seemed to have was his tie to his "uncle" (EDIT: not his father as previously stated, thanks @JPzC for pointing out), Bob McAdoo. His famous relative paved the way for his spot in NBA royalty just based on his last name. Would James just be another NBA flash in the pan because of his famous namesake? That night, he gave Warriors fans a quick glimpse of the skill that had put him in the national attention coming into college.

His energy was contagious. His rebounding was fun to watch as he scrambled on the floor for every loose ball. He had a soft touch around the rim and great elevation on his jumper. He was getting to the line in the post and hitting his free throws. He was running the floor for easy finishes.

Who was this guy?!

As the fans started cheering for him, so did the bench. He had a dream rookie sequence (:22 seconds into the video above), dunking on one end from a good pass on the break, while then coming back to make a huge block which got Steph Curry spinning his towel in support.

Was this for real?

He was playing hungry like he had something to prove while the players around him were collecting paychecks. He even earned himself a post-game interview and a handshake from Warriors ownership on his fourth quarter performance.

Season Review

Would any of those bright spots be sustainable? Well...no.

McAdoo still found himself at the end of a very long bench behind All-Stars like David Lee and contributors like Mo Speights. He would average 4.1 points per game in 9.1 MPG to finish the season, mostly mopping up in 4th quarter situations. Steve Kerr did shuffle him into a few first half appearances, often calling on McAdoo when he felt the team was being out hustled on the floor. Along with Leandro Barbosa, he represented instant energy — like a shot of Red Bull or 5-Hour Energy, McAdoo on the court meant players were running just a bit faster, and crashing around just a bit harder.

McAdoo put up his season-high on March 13th in a loss on a resting day in Denver when he played almost 28 minutes while most of the starters watched in street clothes. He would bounce around with inactivity depending on the matchup, trading places with Justin Holiday in street clothes whenever the team needed big bodies.

His per36 minutes stats look fantastic on paper - 16.3 points and 9.7 boards, to go with 2.4 blocks. He even saw playoff and even finals minutes, coming into Game 4 in Oakland, proving to be another tool off the Warriors bench for Steve Kerr (and threatening Shawn Marion for more more minutes played in the 2015 finals).

He would get most of his minutes running with the fourth quarter closers, where he continued to show great energy around the rim. His issues? Fouling - he averaged 5.5 fouls per 36 minutes. He also cooled off from the line, dropping down to 56%, which is not good for a player who finishes softly in the paint on more agility than strength. His advanced stats look promising any way you look at them - a solid win share to go with efficient usage and general filling of the box score.

So why can't James McAdoo get more minutes on the court?

According to Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report back in 2014, McAdoo's problems in college seem to now reflect his problems in the NBA:

"[during his junior year] With extra touches in the offense and plays designed for him to create, McAdoo has struggled mightily with decision-making, shot selection and efficiency overall. Despite his 6'9" size and wide-receiver-like athleticism, he shot just 44.5 percent from the floor as a sophomore and 45.8 percent as a junior... While there was likely hope he could develop into a small or combo forward, his inconsistent jumper, lack of range and limited off-the-dribble game pretty much kills that thought... McAdoo struggles playing through and finishing after contact, a bad sign for a forward who isn't much of a threat from outside.. Just like that, McAdoo's pre-NBA label, which used to read "versatile," has gotten flipped upside and now says "tweener" in bold font."

Wasserman has it completely right, and watching McAdoo play, its easy to see why.

His complete value is within 5 feet of the rim as a finisher or scrapper. He will need to continue to develop a jump shot and extend his man from the basket to be considered an offensive threat and retain more minutes.

When he is the fourth or fifth option on the floor, he can sneak behind players and outrun his man to create offense. But when isolated, he is not big enough to establish position and create interior offense on his own. Can he become another stretch four for the Warriors to create space? Mo Speights has created minutes for himself in the same position, defining himself as a pick-and-pop master. McAdoo will need offseason training with the team to work on his touch from 10-15 feet to help his value. He cannot contain Centers in the post with his size and strengh, and the modern day "four" in the NBA must be respected for his range especially when you have an anchor in the paint like Andrew Bogut or Festus Ezeli.

2015/2016 Season Outlook

The Warriors used the 30th pick in the NBA draft to possibly get a better version of McAdoo in Kevon Looney. Both play in the same general space on the floor, and both players are pegged with the same general issues in their game, except for Looney has shown potential for range. The dream is that McAdoo will continue to develop his skills and "red shirt" for this Warriors squad in a way we have been unable to do in years past. No longer do the Warriors command immediate participation from rookies - instead they can allow for time spent on the bench and with the second team to develop out the feel for the system.

McAdoo's advantage over Looney is that he has a full calendar year in Steve Kerr's offense at both Santa Cruz and for the big boys in Oakland. McAdoo's familiarity will give him the advantage, and should allow Kerr to pencil him for playing time once the season starts. But it's his job to lose — if the Warriors would have signed David West, McAdoo might have been the odd man out. But in the same breath, with the David Lee deal, McAdoo could find himself with an expanded role which he could earn with a great Summer League showing.

My guess? I'm not 100% sold on him and his chances on this team. He reminds me of an Anthony Tolliver — a guy who did a few things particularly well who found himself a spot on a lower quality team being asked to do more than he was capable of. The Warriors have the benefit of controlling him at this point like a great player stashed deep on a practice squad, but the depth in Oakland and the recent draft make me think McAdoo's time with the team will not be long.

I'll be paying attention to his Las Vegas stats to see how he shows up and dominates lesser talent, as he should be refined enough at this point to stand out over rookies and lesser talents. I'd be happy to see a few more highlight videos like above, with some coming in crunch time NBA minutes.

For McAdoo's sake and the Warrior's sake, we will be cheering for him.