The Oklahoma City Thunder aren't a big-market team that can lure high-priced free agents, so they have to rely on the draft to build their roster. Luckily, their general manager Sam Presti has been phenomenal on draft nights. After three weeks of the season, it looks like he's added to his impressive resume with the selection of Steven Adams in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Those are some of the picks that have panned out for the Oklahoma City Thunder, and Steven Adams is poised to be added to that list.
When the Pittsburgh product went off the board at the end of the lottery, many liked the fit with the Thunder but wondered when he would actually begin to contribute.
Many experts had labeled him as a raw project with high upside. Nine games into his NBA career, he's showing that his upside isn't so far into the future, and he's exceeded everybody's expectations—even those of his teammates.
It's only been three weeks, but Adams looks like one of the steals of the draft.
There is still a lot of room for development and he has experienced some growing pains along the way, but Adams is already the best center on the roster.
For a pick that was expected to only make a contribution in the future, he's become a valuable member of the rotation and a big part of the Thunder's playoff goals.
Two-way big men are a rare commodity in the NBA, and Adams can develop into that diamond in the rough. He has shown off a soft touch around the rim, the ability to run the floor well and good hands, which allow him to make tough catches and finish plays at the basket.
His offensive game will grow, but he's already a much better scorer than Kendrick Perkins. He looks more polished than Perkins, and the metrics from SynergySports support that notion.
|Steven Adams vs. Kendrick Perkins Points Per Play (PPP)|
|Player||Pick-and-Roll PPP||Cutter PPP||Offensive Rebound PPP||Transition PPP|
He's not yet a player that head coach Scott Brooks will call plays for, but Adams has been effective in transition and working off the playmaking abilities of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Furthermore, he hasn't turned the ball over, which is usually a concern for rookies. He's only averaging 0.4 turnovers per game compared to 1.6 for Perkins despite playing similar minutes.
According to SynergySports, only 6.7 percent of Adams' plays end in a turnover, while that number jumps to 32.4 percent for Perkins.
What he does on the offensive end is a nice bonus for the Thunder, but the important thing for their future is how good he has looked on defense and on the glass.
When opponents try to post Adams up, they're shooting 28.6 percent from the floor and scoring 0.6 points per possession. Defense is Perkins' forte, but he's allowing 50 percent shooting and 1.14 points per possession on post ups.
It's not just the numbers either, as Adams passes the eye test. He's been physical and active on defense, giving the Thunder a spark on numerous occasions.
Additionally, Adams has been a good rebounder—especially in traffic. According to NBA.com, he's grabbing 68.1 percent of contested rebound opportunities, which is the third-best mark in the league for players averaging over 10 minutes per game.
His combination of scoring ability and rebounding led to an impressive outing against the Detroit Pistons when he recorded the first double-double from an OKC center in one-and-a-half years.
It's still very early in his career, but all the signs from Adams have been extremely promising. He hasn't had the minutes to put up impressive numbers like some of the other members of his draft class, but he's looked like one of the best rookies in this young NBA season.
He's already averaging more minutes than Perkins, so hopefully Coach Brooks will give him more opportunities to build chemistry with his teammates.
We won't be able to properly evaluate the draft class for another few years, but Adams could easily be the best player to come out of this draft.
An athletic 7-footer who is a physical presence in the paint on both sides of the floor?
He might not just be the steal of the draft. He could be the piece that gets OKC over the hump.
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