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In defense of Steven Adams

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It’s an indefensible position, and you should be ashamed.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

In the not-so-hard-to-find corners of Thunder Twitter, a new refrain is being shouted from lonely rooftops: that Steven Adams is a poor defender, and he is to blame for some recent Thunder losses.

Of course, it feels great to get attention and gain invaluable internet points, but sensationalizing, overreacting, and throwing a fit so people turn their digital heads in your direction is lazy. It is the same as a child tossing spaghetti off the edge of their high chair and looking to their parent to make sure they saw. It is useless, not helpful, annoying, and incorrect.

Yes, sometimes being right necessitates that you are boring. This is the antithesis to NBA Twitter’s hot take culture.

There is little to any basis to any claim asserting Steven Adams is a poor defender.

Is he perfect every play? No. No one is. Is he far above average on the majority of plays? Yes, without question. Here’s a short list of his defensive achievements this season:

  • 12th in the league in steals
  • 11th in the league in defensive win shares
  • 6th in DRTG for starting centers (those who play over 25 mpg)
  • On shots at the rim, shots beyond 15 feet, and 3 pointers, opponent’s FG% drops when Adams guards them.

Here is his defensive play type table from Synergy:

So yes, to everyone who says Adams is a poor defender, you’re correct once every 100 plays when he defends handoffs.

Defense is a real fickle thing to measure with numbers and is always best served with the eye test, so let’s watch the man play.


This is better than textbook defense. They don’t write textbooks this good. Adams does not overcorrect, and he is not beat. He is in the perfect position the entire time and doesn’t let a human of equal size push him around. His physical strength is one of his greatest defensive assets.

Those committed to the cause of propagating the lie of defensive deficiency from Adams will say, “Oh but that’s a big slow big!”

I know. That’s why I will show you this:

It’s perfect. He switches at the perfect time, taking the perfect angle, and doesn’t foul. What more do you want?

To have a big man the defense cannot switch onto to pick him apart is a commodity few teams enjoy. Please understand this.

Still, someone will respond and say “Well yeah, he’s 5 times as strong as Derrick White, so he’s gonna cause problems.”

To those people, I will show you this:

What more do you want? Nurkic is one of the only bigs in the league in Adams’ ballpark of strength, and Adams sons him to death right here. It’s embarrassing.


For every above example, there are hundreds more.

There is no case for Adams being a poor defender. Few things are absolutes with the Thunder. For different parts of the season the team has been the best defense, best offense, and best 3-point shooting team, and all those superlatives wax and wane unpredictably.

As everything revolves around him, one thing remains staunchly predictable: Steven Adams is a good defender.

The numbers support it, and his game supports it. You can point to individual players putting up big numbers against Adams, and I will happily remind you that you can play great defense and still lose your matchup. Some people just hit. It happens, and it’s outside of your control.

I know the Thunder are in a downward trend and we’re all upset. Point at anything you want, but don’t point it at Adams’ defense. That ain’t it.


Is Steven Adams a good defensive player?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    He’s one bad mother
    (165 votes)
  • 6%
    Shut your mouth
    (25 votes)
  • 47%
    You’re damn right
    (171 votes)
361 votes total Vote Now