With all eyes on the Oklahoma City Thunder’s big three, Steven Adams has once again slipped under the radar. While Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony continue to build their chemistry with each other, Adams has been far and away the Thunder’s most consistent player this season. If not for Westbrook’s incredible December (27.8 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 10.6 AST), Adams would have been the Thunder’s best player so far as well. Adams impact on the Thunder’s offense and defense this year is not just All-Star worthy, it is 1st Team All-NBA worthy.
Steven Adams is Playing at an All-Star Level
Without a doubt, you can say this is the best season Adams has played in his career. All across the board, Adams is averaging career highs. Points? Career high at 13.4 per game. Rebounds? Yup, 8.8 per game. Field-goal percentage? Career best at 64% right now, third highest in the league behind only Clint Capela and DeAndre Jordan.
Of Adams’ 309 attempted field-goals this year, all but five have come inside the paint, with one of those being a beat the buzzer backcourt shot. That is 85% of his shots. Even more crazier is that 231 of those attempts are inside the restricted area. Most of Adams points will come off lobs or passes from a Westbrook-Adams pick-and-roll.
Westbrook and Adams run pick-and-roll about 30% of the time, which averages 1.19 points per possession. Last year the Thunder ran pick-and-roll for Westbrook almost 12 times per game and it resulted in an ugly .89 points per possession. With poor shooters surrounding Westbrook, teams would pack the paint and cut off the easy lob to Adams.
This year, it is a little different with George and Anthony on the wing instead of Semaj Christon.
Watch as Rockets defenders Eric Gordon and Clint Capela attempt to trap Westbrook out of the pick-and-roll. It is a simple over the top pass Westbrook makes to a wide-open Adams. Ryan Anderson, guarding Anthony, hesitates to help while Trevor Ariza sticks to Paul George and by the time Capela recovers, Adams has an easy bucket over James Harden.
It is a big reason why Adams is averaging a career high nine shots per game. Billy Donovan is still experimenting with all sorts of actions involving Adams off-ball screens as well.
Adams starts to set an off-ball screen for George, but instead turns to the basket. Julius Randle expects George to come off the screen, not anticipating Adams catching a lob from Westbrook. Tyler Ennis is hugging Terrence Ferguson on the wing and Kyle Kuzma is caught in no-mans land.
In crunch time, the Thunder absolutely love to run a Hawk set. In this situation, Anthony will screen for George and then screen for Westbrook while George cuts down the baseline. Adams and Grant both set a screen for George. Westbrook can either kick it to George or Anthony, who pops out to the three-point line. Adams again screens for George. Even for average defenses it creates total chaos.
George’s defender, in this case C.J. Williams, has to duck through four screens on this play. There is a million scenarios that can play out on this possession, including George finding Adams who can put up a wide-open floater or fling it to a wide-open Carmelo Anthony on the wing for three.
In the last 12 games, in which the Thunder have gone 10-2, Adams has the highest offensive rating in the NBA at 123.3 of those playing more than 15 minutes per game (Anthony, Westbrook and George are all top five as well).
Adams rebounding has also been ridiculous, especially on the offensive side. He leads the league in offensive rebounding percentage at 17% and pulls down about five per game. Watch him get this rebound from DeAndre Jordan, who by the way leads the league in rebounding and is only behind Adams in offensive rebounding.
Not Just Offense
Adams impact on defense is also a reason why the Thunder have started clicking. The lineup of Westbrook/Roberson/George/Anthony/Adams has a defensive rating of 96.3. This is the best in the league for a lineup that qualifies and has played over 270 minutes together.
The Thunder are only gaining more chemistry each game and becoming more dangerous with it. Westbrook has returned to his MVP form and the pick-and-roll with him and Adams have never been as deadly as it is now. Donovan will continue to find ways to use Adams as a screener, breaking down defenses and creating havoc all across the floor. The Thunder are coming together nicely, and Adams is right in the middle of it.
OKLAHOMA CITY, USA – OCTOBER 9: Steven Adams #12 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in action during the fourth quarter of a NBA preseason game at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on October 9, 2015 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo by Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)