On a roster loaded with ripe talent, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Steven Adams began to flash glimpses of excellence in the 2014 NBA Playoffs. Adams, a 2013 first-round draft pick of the Thunder, grew up in New Zealand before heading to the Pittsburgh Panthers for only one season of college ball. Adams saw minimal playing time in the beginning of the season but quickly earned his spot in the rotation for OKC. He didn’t often disappoint.
Though his numbers won’t and don’t scream “All-Star,” his intangible contributions serve much more important that his statistical production. In the playoffs, Adams’ field goal percentage increased by almost 20 percent, though he only averaged 3.9 points per contest in the three rounds of playoff action. During that time in which OKC sent an amber alert out for Kendrick Perkins — who contributed the most putrid playoff performance of all time — Adams blossomed into the physical enforcer who knows what basket his team is shooting at, something Perkins seemed to be unable to master. He banged bodies with Zach Randolph, Blake Griffin, Tim Duncan and stood toe-to-toe, challenging and respecting these greats at the same time.
It took Adams quite some time to be given the opportunity to show off his talents, but once that chance was given, he took immediate advantage. He brings a level of toughness that they previously lacked. Serge Ibaka, though he may the strongest, isn’t the most physical of big men. He prefers to score his points outside of the paint having perfected that 16-foot jumper. Kevin Durant is sometimes classified as a finesse player because of his size (or lack thereof), but he is simply one of the best shooters in the world. He doesn’t need to be physical.
Seeing Adams on the floor of the 2015 NBA All-Star game may be a long shot because of how many potential All-Stars OKC has. Durant and Russell Westbrook are locks to make the squad, while Ibaka is a likely favorite to make a first time appearance after three consecutive first-team all-defensive team selections. Jeremy Lamb is also sure to make a push after likely sliding into the starting shooting guard role.
Adams will have to produce at a higher level numbers wise and continue his physical imposition in order for the Thunder to be successful once again. I see Adams playing close to 30 minutes per game and increasing his numbers across the board. He’ll be more confident, and confidence almost always leads to better performance. With the NBA superstars surrounding him, earning an All-Star invitation may be a tough task, but Adams has the skill, mindset and opportunity to contribute enough to be selected for that honor.