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A closer look at Jeff Adrien

Jaws dropped when Kevin McHale sent out seldom-used 12th man Jeff Adrien to start the second half last night.  I for one had a good laugh over it with many of you on Twitter.  But the big man’s play was no joke.  Starting in place of an ineffective Samuel Dalembert, Adrien brought the energy that fueled the Rockets to a win in Denver after a very sluggish start, snaring nine rebounds in just sixteen minutes of play.

There were a couple of plays, however, which particularly caught my eye.

The play starts out as a high pick and roll with Kyle Lowry defending against Ty Lawson, and Adrien spying at the top of the key.

Lowry gets picked off and Adrien slides over to cut off Lawson near the paint.

Lawson then tries to juke Adrien in the paint but is completely cut off.

Lawson decides to back out entirely out of the paint to square Adrien up and attack him in an isolation.

Lawson is able to juke Adrien with a shifty crossover and get past him.  No surprise there – Lawson is an NBA point guard.

But after getting crossed over and beat, Adrien is quick enough to recover and fall in step with Lawson.

Look at these next two stills.  Lawson has already started his jump with Adrien still grounded.  But in a nano-second, Adrien is able to leap and challenge, meeting Lawson and blocking the shot.

Here’s another play that shows some more of Adrien’s physical gifts:

Here, when the ball is swung to the shooter, Adrien is still in the paint, defending his man.

In a flash, he has raced to the perimeter to close out on the shooter, contesting the shot, and forcing the miss.

This analysis isn’t meant to imply that the Rockets should no longer pursue Dwight Howard this summer.  It remains to be seen whether Jeff Adrien will remain in Kevin McHale’s rotation or if his insertion last night into the lineup was merely intended to send a message to Jordan Hill.  Regardless, on these cited plays, the big man demonstrated some of what he can bring to the table for the Rockets if given the time.  With quick feet and a quick burst-leap, Adrien can contest shooters on the perimeter while also serving as a last line of defense in the paint.  When you have a big man that can cover long distances to help out others, it adds a lot of flexibility to your defensive schemes.  If Adrien can continue this kind of production, Rockets management will have no regrets in their decision to cut the cord with Jordan Hill.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of www.Red94.net.

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