According to the Oklahoman newspaper, Steven Adams has participated in most of Tuesday's practice although it is unlikely for Adams to play in Wednesday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers. Eventually Adams will return to play and will most likely re-acquire his starting spot from Enes Kanter, the big man acquired from the Utah Jazz who has played so impressively. However, is it worth it to place Adams back in his starting spot, given how impressive Kanter's performance is so far?
My mate Marine Mangiaracina thinks Adams should start over Kanter and she provided 5 reasons about that matter. Here are 5 counterpoints that support Kanter starting over Adams.
Before digging deeper, let me start first by presenting an essential statistics of Adams and Kanter as well as a comparison between how does Kanter and Adams perform statistically when they are on the floor with Ibaka.
Points per game: 14
Rebounds per game: 8.1
Blocks per game: 0.3
In wins: 13 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 0.1 blocks per game.
In losses: 14.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 0.4 blocks per game.
Last 10 games: 15.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 0.2 blocks.
In March: 16 points, 15 rebounds, and 0 blocks.
During Adams absence: 15.8 points and 10.2 rebounds. (Notched double-doubles during three of five starts in Thunder uniform)
Points per game: 7.4
Rebounds per game: 7
Blocks per game: 1.2
In wins: 7.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1 blocks per game.
In losses: 7.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game.
Last 10 games: 5 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
In March: Injured
Just by looking at these statistics, we can easily identify that Kanter is way better than Adams in the offense and rebounding.
1) Kanter/Adams and Ibaka Duo
Per Darnell Mayberry, the Oklahoman:
"The Ibaka-Kanter tandem has scored 117.5 points per 100 possessions, while allowing just 98.1 points per 100 possessions. That plus-19.4 net rating is tops among all Thunder duos that have played at least 100 minutes. By comparison, albeit penalized by a much larger sample size, the Ibaka-Steven Adams combination has a net rating of plus-2.6, scoring 103.8 points per 100 possessions and yielding 101.1 points per 100 possessions. ''
2) Kanter is not a bad defender
I admit that Adams is the better defender. However, Kanter defensive abilities do not impact the Thunder as negatively as we might think, as the Ibaka/Kanter statistics prove that. Individually, he had good games against big men such as Jusuf Nurkic and Roy Hibbert, but in his next match ups against Al-Jefferson and Alex Len when OKC played the Suns and the Hornets in February, he did seem to struggle. Al Jefferson managed to score 12 points on him on one-on-one or pick and roll situations where as Len finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks while shooting 54% from the field.
However, if we look at the following match-ups from another perspective, we will be able to notice that Kanter's performance was even against Al-Jefferson and Len. He finished with a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) shooting 44% from the field in return and against the Suns, he shot 54% from the field on Len as well and finished with 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 block.
In contrast, while Steven Adams would likely defend such big men better than Kanter, his offensive limitations could turn him into a net negative. Kanter is way more balanced both offensively and defensively.
3) Starting line-up needs to be upgraded offensively
With Kevin Durant being sidelined due to a foot injury, Russell Westbrook needs offensive minded players beside him on the court for the Thunder offense to work effectively. Despite Ibaka's dependable offensive ability, he's is still mostly one dimensional and cannot create his own shot. If Adams is on the court, that is two post players who rely exclusively on the playmaking ability of others (to say nothing of Andre Roberson's offense). By contrast, Kanter can receive the ball in a number of positions on the court and produce a good shot with his own abilities.
Which begs the question - should Kanter stay in the starting lineup even when Durant returns? I believe so, and it is because Roberson is still starting games. Playing 3 on 5 offensive basketball creates a large hurdle against the NBA's best teams. Beside that, Kanter and Westbrook has established an impressive chemistry so far which we've seen through their pick and rolls. This expands the team's offensive style of play as we rarely witness the Thunder playing playing based upon such plays and formations.
4) Secondary unit (Bench)
Kanter playing with Nick Collison and DJ Augustin appears to be ideal since all of them are willing passers who understand their roles. This type of bench is very good offensively, but is weak defensively. Especially with Mitch McGary's contribution, they have more than enough offense, and need some defense to counterbalance the other team. Other than that and most importantly, the bench isn't going to play for a lot of significant minutes, so placing Adams on the bench will be in the Thunder's favor.
5) Adams and Roberson off-court friendship
Scott Brooks describes Kanter this way:
Reporter: "Kanter's adjustment overall so far, coach. Do you think he might be one of the key players for Oklahoma in the future?"
Brooks: I like his spirit. I like his competitiveness. I like the way he interacts with his teammates. Guys really enjoy getting to know him, and we understand what he brings to our team.
Adams and Roberson are good friends, and they should play together. I agree! It should just be on the 2nd unit!