2013-14 Oklahoma City Thunder Player Previews: Steven Adams

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The first-round NBA Draft pick still has a lot to learn, but the rookie center will be a fixture in the NBA for years to come.

(WTLC begins its final preparation for the regular season with our annual player profile previews.  Each player gets a dual analysis as well as a grade of our expectations for each. See the grading scale at the bottom.)

Player STEVEN ADAMS
Position Center
Year in NBA Rookie
Nicknames "Kiwi Phenom"
2012-13 Stats 7.2 PPG,  6.3 RPG, 0.6 AST, 2.0 BLK 1.1 TO
Past Accolades 12th pick in 2013 NBA draft
Injury History None
Contract Status 1st year of Rookie contract, $2.1mm

***

Sarah

Steven Adams will play in the NBA longer than Greg Oden.

I know this because Adams wasn't drafted first overall, his knees aren't giving him trouble and the Oklahoma City Thunder will manage his career a lot better than the Portland Trail Blazers did with Oden. Also, Adams is already starting out on the right foot.

The original plan the Thunder and General Manager Sam Presti had for the Kiwi was for him to mature and learn the game more in Tulsa with the Tulsa 66ers, but clearly Adams has made a name for himself during the 2012-13 preseason.

During the seven preseason games Adams saw action in, the seven-foot rookie put up some impressive numbers.

From Trey Hunter's story, Adams preseason numbers have looked like this:

Granted, most of the teams he faced aren't playoff bound, except for the Chicago Bulls and the Denver Nuggets. On a side note, the Nuggets have been to the postseason 10 seasons in a row, since 2003-04, and are 23-42 overall in postseason play. From 2004-05, the Bulls are 30-35 in the postseason.

Adams probably won't be seeing a lot of playing time during the regular season, with Hasheem Thabeet and Nick Collison being the veterans and also being under contract until the 2014-15 season, but Adams will be OKC's secret weapon.

When Oden was drafted in 2007, he missed the entire season and only had the opportunity to play 82 games total for Portland (2008-10) before they parted ways with him. During his tenure in Portland, Oden averaged 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 22.1 minutes. Comparing that to Adams' numbers, Adams will prevail and be a wonderful asset to OKC.

Grade_bplus_medium

Sherman

Steven Adams has been a breath of fresh air for the Thunder during this off-season, a reason among many that the Thunder's post-season last year ended so abruptly and unfulfilled. There were plenty of culprits for excusing the Thunder's playoff exit, not the least of which was Russell Westbrook's injury. However, if Westbrook had not gotten injured, what would have befallen the Thunder? Would they have beaten the Grizzlies? (There is a strong case for it, since every one of the 4 losses hinged on a few possessions at the ends of games) Would they have beaten the Spurs? Did you watch the Spurs last year?

The NBA has been on a trajectory that emphasizes speed, agility, and refined mechanics, and the Thunder excel at every one of those things, with the exception of the center position. Kendrick Perkins, the bane of many a Thunder fan's existence, isn't so much the cause of the frustration as he is a measure of collateral damage against the league's evolutionary jump. Guys like Perkins don't have a prominent place anymore, with the exception of being a defensive or rebounding specialist that comes off the bench. He has value, but this value has shifted since 2008.

And so we have Steven Adams, a massive guy from New Zealand who was a giant question mark at the draft. He is raw, has much to learn, will fall into the standard rookie trappings of hitting the wall around All-Star break, and he will prove to be a defensive liability against sophisticated offenses like the Spurs and Warriors. However, boy can this guy move.

Adams grew up playing rugby in NZ, and one of the things that has been impressed upon me by rugby guys is that it is the perfect kind of sport to adapt to other sports. The reason why is that it has a strong emphasis on mobility, footwork, and hand-eye coordination. In other words, the exact kind of thing a big man needs in the current version of the NBA.

Because of this, I predict that Adams is going to embark on a season where we see a vastly different player in May that we see today, just as the player we see today is vastly different from the one we saw in the summer league. Adams has a remarkable propensity to learn and improve, almost on a game by game basis. He can't defend LaMarcus Aldridge or Marc Gasol today, but in six months? I'm willing to bet on the kid.

The Thunder are a team designed to play fast. Adams finally gives them a center who can keep up.

Grade_bplus_medium

***

A Player has exceedingly high expectations attainable only if they play to their fullest ability.
B Player has reasonably high expectations that are attainable.
C
Player has moderate expectations which should be met with little trouble.
D
Player has moderate expectations but will struggle to meet them.
F
Player should not be on the Thunder roster.
X
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