Steven Adams: New, Improved and Here to Stay

Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports /

During the 2015-16 postseason NBA fans around the world were introduced to Steven Adams. At first glance he may look like the farthest thing from a basketball player, with his long ponytail and signature mustache, but don’t let it fool you.  Adams is definitely a basketball player, and one you should get used to.

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What Adams did for the Oklahoma City Thunder during the regular season was great; he played some solid basketball during that time. The New Zealander averaged 8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while shooting 61 percent from the field, making him a solid post presence on both ends of the court in today’s NBA. Along with all that, Adams also brought his personal brand of intensity and passion to the court every night,  which makes him the kind of player that you love to play with but hate to play against.

Something about Adams changed in the postseason though. Fans watched his game evolve in multiple areas. He went from a role player that is nice to have on the floor to a key player that was almost impossible to replace.

Adams’ Offense

Steven Adams
Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports /

Before the postseason you could count on Adams to two things consistently on offense: 1.) Finish pick-n-roll plays with ferocious dunks, and 2.) Grab offensive rebounds and get easy second chance points. During the postseason though Adams became a low post machine. Teammates were looking to get him the ball in the paint and he was using post moves to score regularly. It was definitely a welcome sight for Oklahoma City fans everywhere.

His numbers reflected this improvement. His shooting percentage remained at 61 percent, but his scoring average went up to 10.1 points per game. His free throw percentage even went up. He went from making only 58 percent of his shots from the line to 63 percent. He became someone that demanded some attention from opposing coaches and players.

Adams’ Defense

Steven Adams
Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports /

Adams has always been known for his ability to be a brick wall in the paint. He is the type of player that others think twice about challenge on their way to the basket. He’s also always been a very solid rebounder. When the postseason came along though Adams found himself guarding every position all over the floor. In the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors he was tasked with guarding Stephen Curry quite a bit. He showed that he could hold his own against smaller players, even blocking a couple of Curry’s “unstoppable” jump shots.

Much like with his scoring Adams also saw his rebounding totals go up from 8.6 per game to 9.5. He was suddenly producing double-doubles on a nightly basis. This is a trend that you can expect to see continue next season since Adams will likely only improve at this point.

Adams’ Toughness

Steven Adams
Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

If you tuned into any of the seven games of the WCF against the Warriors you probably saw Adams take an absolute beating, from taking shots to the head, to getting kicked in the groin, to having his shoulder nearly dislocated. There were plenty of plays that would have likely rattled the typical player, but not Adams. Throughout the postseason he showed incredible toughness and control. He never let himself retaliate and just let his game do the talking. It was something that you just had to appreciate.

Don’t get me wrong, he has always been a very tough player, but what made this different is that he seemed to feed off of it. He was being attacked down low consistently, yet he still managed to hit more shots, grab more rebounds and even hit more free throws while all of this was going on. He showed a new level of focus and confidence that Thunder fans hope is here to stay.

What to expect from Adams

What Adams did over the Thunder’s 18 game playoff run was impressive. It showed a very bright future for the young Thunder center. While 18 games may not seem like enough to determine if this level of play will continue, I think it is. These games were against some of the best teams in recent NBA history. If Adams could hit his stride against them then he can do it against anyone. Fans should expect the Steven Adams they fell in love with during the playoffs to be here to stay.

Next: An OKC fan's guide to the Finals