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It's No Coincidence That, Without Big Kiwi Steven Adams, OKC Bombed

Steven Adams has missed two games with concussion, and the Thunder have lost them both.

by Ben Stanley
23 January 2017, 10:55pm

© Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

At some point this afternoon, probably not too long before their game against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City's Smart Home Arena, Thunder coach Billy Donovan will sit down and decide whether big centre Steven Adams will get on the court tonight.

Adams has been out of action for a week now, after he sustained a concussion against Sacramento. The 23-year-old Kiwi's absence has been a NBA-mandated one, with all concussed players needing to stand down for at least two games.

Oklahoma City are going to be welcoming Adams back with open arms. The Thunder lost both games he missed with 20-plus point blowout losses to the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors.

While two swallows don't make a summer, and bearing in mind that the Clips and Warriors are top draw teams in the West, the fact OKC bombed in both games Big Steve missed is significant.

Since making his NBA debut in 2014, the Rotorua-born centre has gone from strength to strength as a centre, establishing himself as one of the premier Big Men in the league. Adams' signing of a US$100 four-year million extension proves this, as well as making him the highest paid Kiwi sportsman of all time).

For the season, Adams is averaging around 12 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. In Thunder's first six games of 2017, Adams notched up double digit points five times.

His increased points totals have been the most impressive part of his continued rise this season, argues Niall Anderson, the New Zealand Herald's basketball writer.

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"His usage rate - in layman's terms, the number of plays used by a player when on the floor - is up four per cent, yet he hasn't missed a beat, continuing to score at efficient rates in his expanded role," Anderson wrote.

"On the surface level, Adams has jumped from 8 to 12.1 points per game, and from 6.7 to 7.8 rebounds per contest. His rebounding hasn't much improved - merely a statistical by-product of playing an extra four minutes per game - but his offensive game is evolving.

"Once solely a finisher at the rim, Adams slowly continues to add subtlety and touch to his 2.1m frame - a bonus for a side who are all working harder to get their points."

Star point guard Russell Westbrook has been dominating stats sheets all year, but the last couple of games he has missed Adams' mongrel and stubbornness on defense.

"Defensively, Adams has produced at largely the same rates for a side slightly worse on defence than last year, but still a top 10 unit," Anderson continues.

"Potentially as a result of the increasing league trend of big men moving away from the paint to shoot threes, Adams has tallied more steals and fewer blocks, showcasing quicker hands and reflexes when switching on the perimeter.

"There is little to suggest that Adams' output is unsustainable, outside of perhaps his free-throw shooting. Coming into this season, Adams had yet to record a 20-point outing, but his offensive improvements and increased role have already led to four 20 point displays before the season's halfway point."

With their last two defeats, the Thunder have dipped to sixth in the West. That puts them solidly in the Conference's second tier along with the likes of Utah and Memphis at this point in the season.

Getting the Big Rotorua bloke's body back on the court is a priority for Donovan, and the Thunder, if they really want to be in the mix at the pointy end of the season.

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