During the pre-game and halftime episodes of TNT’s Inside the NBA coverage of the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs game on March 9, Kenny Smith called for teammates of Russell Westbrook to step up. Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo have apparently heard the call and responded.
In the Thunders last 4 outings, the pair have combined for 129 points, or 32.2 ppg. Their efforts have produced 28% of the team’s total offensive output and, as Smith predicted, made Westbrook’s job much easier.
During this 4 game stretch, Westbrook has racked up 4 triple-doubles, including a 24/16/10 effort in the Thunders decisive and much needed 21 point road blowout of the Toronto Raptors. A solid win and another step in the right direction for a young Thunder squad that has struggled on the road against playoff level competition all season. Adams and Oladipo contributed 33 points to the Thunder’s 123 point effort.
Oladipo’s comments after the game in Toronto:
Victor’s response in the interview that he feels comfortable within the Thunder offense is backed up by his recent output. His four game twenty-plus pts/gm streak is the longest of the season, and if he can maintain anything close to the 56.6% overall shooting clip he is enjoying, including a gaudy 70.6% stroke from 3 during this upswing, it would make he and triple-double machine teammate Russell Westbrook one of, if not the most dangerous back-court tandem heading into the playoffs.
Westbrook talks about Victor’s recent outburst:
The attention Victor is drawing from opposing defenses has freed Westbrook to ramp up his effort to get other Thunder players involved and helped pave the way to Russell’s 4 game TD run. With #34 now in the bank, Westbrook is on pace to record 42 triple-doubles for the season and break Oscar Robertson’s 55 year old mark of 41. A record considered by USA TODAY Sports, Bleacher Report, and others as one of the all-time unbreakable records. Per Complex Sports:
1961-62 was a crazy year in the NBA. Everyone essentially stopped playing defense, which meant that the number of possessions each team had per game went through the roof. Beyond Wilt Chamberlain, few benefited more from this offensive boom than Oscar Robertson, whose triple-double average was surely buoyed by the fact that the team points per game average that year (118.8) was the highest in the history of the league. Because we'll never see such little emphasis placed on defense again, the likelihood of a player being able to sustain that kind of output for a whole season is also pretty low. If LeBron can't do it, no one will.
The King is currently enjoying the highest number of triple-doubles in his career, 10, and he is surrounded by a reigning NBA Championship team including 2 NBA All Stars. Westbrook has 34, and doing it with no All Stars and a bunch of kids, one of which is Steven Adams.
Adams is averaging double-digit scoring for the first time in his career. After his ten point effort against the Raptors, he has now reached or surpassed the decade bar in 41 contests this season and is on pace to finish the season at 52. Clearly 2016/17 has been Adams’ most productive offensive season to date and the Thunder win almost 70% of those games in which the big Funake contributes 10 or more to the cause.
Watch Adams against the #1 rated Spurs defense:
Defensive anchor may always be the job title on Adam’s business card, but the uptick in his offensive production has not gone unnoticed, and additional playing time has been the result. With 16 games remaining in the season Adams is just 9 minutes under the 2014 minutes he logged last season and seeing the floor an additional 5.2 minutes per game.
Along with an improving scoring touch, Adams has seen his PER rating steadily increase throughout his career as well. The PER for an average NBA player is 15. Adams surpassed that mark last season at 15.5 and improved to 16.8 this season. Improved free throw shooting and the eventual development of a jump shot should keep that stat growing in the future.
Now that Adams and Oladipo have stepped up, the next step it to keep it up. Their +6.7 pts is the highest on the team among 2-man combinations that have logged more than 1000 minutes together this season and that number has been even higher since March 9. When they are on, they combine to replace Kevin Durant’s 28.2 pts/gm and allow Westbrook the luxury of having two options to get it done and when they combine for 30 points as in these last 4 games they bridge those final 3 points between last year’s offensive output per game and this season.
Alex Abrines should be Donovan’s next target in the step-up challenge. The Spanish rook has very quietly slipped into the team’s number 4 scoring spot in both the 36 minutes and 100 possession adjusted stats and is becoming more and more confident with each passing game. With a shooting stroke so soft and seductive that JA Sherman is convinced his wife would understand him dating it, and bolas the size of church bells when the time comes to take the shot, Lobo Adolescente has earned a spot in the regular rotation.