Since joining the crew here at Welcome to Loud City I have had a lot of fun perusing the archives and I found this while researching this post:
November 13, 2013
...Which brings us to our young Kiwi Phenom, Steven Adams. The 7 footer came to the U.S. as a rugby player in an NBA body. He entered the league with only a year of college under his belt, but the Thunder saw fit to take him at #12 (in the 2013 NBA Draft). Knowing how the Thunder like to stash their rookies away in their D-League team in Tulsa, honestly nobody expected to see the unproven Adams dressing with the Thunder on a consistent basis.
Fast forward a couple weeks and 6 games and Adams is throwing up a double-double and has Thunder fans actively calling for him to supplant Kendrick Perkins in the starting role. Hey, whah happen?
Aside from Perkins' well-known 'issues,' what we have seen from Adams has been remarkable because he is acquiring basketball knowledge and converting it into practice at a remarkable rate. I have watched the rapid progression and I have a completely unproven theory. I am friends with a Crossfit trainer who used to coach rugby in his native New Zealand. I asked him about Adams and how he might fare once he got into the NBA, and my friend said that rugby is one of those sports that is well suited to enable top flight athletes to learn new sports because of its emphasis on mobility, hand-eye coordination, footwork, and team coordination. This is my working theory because everything I've seen from Adams supports my buddy's declaration. Most importantly, Adams has much greater mobility than Perkins, so Adams combines all of those physical traits with the ability to operate at a speed and agility closer to what Westbrook and Durant need. The result has been exhilarating to watch because Thunder fans may finally have a big man who can keep pace with the offense while still playing solid defense. He still has a long way to go, but for what the Thunder need, I think he will get there, and maybe sooner rather than later.
Those were our own J.A. Sherman's words in an interview with Clips Nation's Questionable Blogger, Steve Perrin a mere six games into Steven Adam's NBA career.
Perhaps SBNation should do a similar commercial for Sherm because his theory concerning Adams is paying dividends for the Thunder today.
After watching Adams post a career high 11 points in a quarter while blocking 2 shots and grabbing 3 boards in the third frame of the Thunder's recent win at Dallas, I thought now would be a good time to revisit the big Kiwi's stat board.
(all stats courtesy of basketballreference.com)
Possibly the most fascinating aspect of the numbers we are looking at here is the fact that Adams didn't pick up the game until he was 14. While the vast majority of NBA players were honing their shot or ball handling skills at a young age, this Thunder big man was fixing tractors, tending farm animals, and working in the fields.
That's a fact. NewsOK's Jenni Carlson reported in May, 2014 that Adams once dreamed of becoming a farmer. He loved the idea of working all day while learning new things and that mentality has served him well in his basketball career. The obvious difference being that rather than cultivating the soil, Adams has been cultivating his on-court skill set... and reaping a good harvest.
In each of Adams' first 3 seasons, his TOV% (turnovers committed per 100 plays) has improved and his .619 TS% (true shooting) is second only to Kevin Durant's .634 on the team, fourth among NBA centers, and 8th overall in the league. His free throw percentage has also improved every year. While still a work in progress, Adams' current 60% rate is a vast improvement over the 44% he shot from the charity stripe in his one season at Pitt.
One particular stat that pops out for Adam's this season is his current 123 Offensive Rating. Best on the team and third highest in the NBA.
On the defensive front, Adams is learning how to play solid defense AND stay on the floor at the same time. While looking over the adjusted numbers, I got a chuckle when I realized that this is the first season in Adam's career in which he could have actually averaged 100 theoretical possessions without fouling out and only the second season he could have averaged 36 minutes of playing time.
The question of whether Steven Adams can succeed in the NBA is answered, he can. Sherman's "unproven theory" is now fact. The only question remaining now is just how good the 7 footer might get.
To answer that question I have an "unproven theory" of my own... actually it is more a prediction than a theory...spoiler alert, it's bold.
Somewhere in the past few decades or so, twenty has somehow become old. In the most recent draft, it was explained to me that a 19 year old player was deemed more valuable than a 20+ year old player because they were still developing and not as close to their peak and considering that most potential NBA draft prospects start playing basketball before the age of 10, and in most cases earlier, it makes sense.
Steven Adams hit the 2013 draft as a 19 year old, a very young 19 years old. I say that because he didn't pick up the game until age 14. Fortunately, his start was under the tutelage of a good coach at Wellington and not somebody's Dad that got stuck with the task of chasing a bunch of 6 to 10-year-olds around the gym, a major plus in Adam's favor. I don't think you can truly quantify the value of being taught a skill the right way from the beginning but the simple fact remains that Adams is not that many years removed from said beginning. Granted, he has been in the NBA for almost 3 years, but he is still raw.
His talent and athleticism are obvious. Now add the fearlessness born from being the youngest of 18 very large siblings, the overall skill set gained from growing up on a rugby pitch, and a farmer's love of hard work to a player that is still as green as an Irish shamrock and what you have is a someone you could potentially build a team around one day.
In the words of Fox Sports Brian Davis, "Nuthin' you can do about that... NUTHIN' you can do about THAT!"
There is some seriously untapped potential going on here....
Seriously untapped. And he just keeps getting better. And better. Just give him the rock.
Ready for that theory, excuse me... prediction? Well here goes.
In my opinion, barring major injury, Steven Adams will be one of the best two-way centers and sought after free agents in the NBA in the next 5 years.
All it will take is time and hard work.