Dec 25, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) warms up prior to action against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
For the Oklahoma City Thunder, a lot of talk this season has focused on who the franchise could add as a second scorer to replace the departing Kevin Durant. But could the man with the potential to fill such a void already be on the Thunder’s roster?
Whether it be an incoming traded player, more minutes for Enes Kanter, or simply the potential of Victor Oladipo, there have been a lot of suggestions for how the Thunder can fill the scoring void left by the out-going Kevin Durant.
Sam Presti has opted not to make a big play in the trade market thus far to replace the 2014 MVP winner, but do the Thunder now need a second scorer? Or could Steven Adams be the second scorer the Thunder need?
The big Kiwi has been slowly improving his game year-to-year, something which has also correlated with the growing number of minutes he’s averaging per game. Having previously averaged around 25 minutes per game across the past two seasons, Adams is now playing just shy of 30 minutes per game.
The resulting effect has seen Adams points per game average shoot up now to around 12.4, however that doesn’t tell the full story. Over his last 19 games, Adams has shot single figures on just four occasions, and since the start of the year has averaged 16.8 points per game.
However, in taking more shots, Adams hasn’t lost his clinical touch. In comparison to last season, Adams is attempting three more field goals per game with an exact stat of 8.3 attempts in comparison to 5.3.
In turn, the long-haired man is now converting 5.1 field goals per game in comparison to the 3.3 of last campaign – this leaves him with a field goal percentage of 60 percent.
This month he has pitched up a shot conversion rate of 72.5 percent, having dispatched an average 7.4 shots off 10.2 attempts. That is the highest FG% of any player in a month since the 1983-84 season, per StatMuse.
Jan 4, 2017; Charlotte, NC, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams (12) walks down the court after being called for a foul during the second half against the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center. The Hornets won 123-112. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Thriving under the responsibility
Last season, Adams was the fourth biggest voice in the OKC dressing room. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were the stars of the show, and supporting them as the more defensive linchpin was the also long-serving Serge Ibaka.
All save the former have now left, pushing Adams right into the fore-front. Alongside Russ, the 23-year-old is the only man to be playing in the same role in the starting five that he did last season, when you consider that Andre Roberson made the switch from shooting guard to small forward.
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What’s more, in November Adams agreed to the most lucrative contract ever signed by a New Zealander. As of next season, presuming nothing serious changes from this point, Adams will be the Thunder’s second-highest earner with a 2017-18 salary of around $22 million.
Despite this, Adams will only continue to mature as a player. He’s an old 23 too, having joined the league after only recently hitting his 20th birthday. He’ll comfortably hit 300 regular-season games for his career by the end of his year’s campaign.
Last season, the Kiwi gained a reputation as a defense-first center, which obviously drew the contrast between himself and back-up center Enes Kanter.
During the Western Conference final-reaching campaign, Adams scored nearly 72 percent of his field goals from within three feet of the bucket. However, this season has witnessed a slight change to his game. This time around just 56 percent of his buckets have come from that close, with nearly 39 percent now coming from between three and ten feet out.
It’s that change to his game that makes Adams much more dangerous offensively. Specifically, it’s that which makes Adams a viable option for the Thunder as their second option on scoring behind Westbrook.
The Thunder are only down by three when you compare their points average as a team between this season and the campaign before, with the Thunder currently boasting 106.9 per game in comparison to 110.2.