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Steven Adams: The $100 million man

Isaac Gray

How much is our local boy-turned NBA star worth?

Being 7 feet tall with long grizzly black hair gives Steven Adams the intimidation factor but to earn big money in the NBA you have to have more to your game than just brutish strength. Adams may seem like a simple kiwi bloke doing his best to make it in the NBA, but dig a little bit deeper into his game and advanced statistics show he could be more than just your average basketball talent.

Steven Adams is in his third year in the NBA with the Oklahoma City Thunder and has become a kiwi icon in the process. Adams’ career averages show in key areas, he doesn’t match up with the the league’s most dominant big men. Players like Andre Drummond, Demarcus Cousins and Deandre Jordan have all earned over one hundred million dollars in their careers by consistently dominating the boards (rebounds), in the post (scoring) and by being rim protectors (blocks).

The stats show Adams is far from the best and even below average in the traditional stats categories. The Thunder’s No 12 has been sheltered behind the likes of former MVP Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Between the two of them they marked up a massive 62% usage rate in the 2015-2016 season. A lack of time on the court and a lack of basketball acumen due to not playing basketball until he was in his late teens has contributed to Adams failing to stuff the stat sheet in his early years in the NBA. Adams has been given a new lease on life with Durant choosing to join the Golden State Warriors in free agency and Serge Ibaka, the teams starting power forward, traded to the Orlando Magic in the offseason. This gives Adams the opportunity to grow in the new look Thunder line-up.

With less than a month until the season starts, Adams can expect his 25 minutes a game and his usage rate with the ball to increase. The result of this could very well be more points, rebounds and blocks, bumping up his basic stat line. Adams hasn’t had the minutes or the touches to match the best centers in the league just yet.

Despite his lack of production in key traditional stats, Adams may be paid like one of the leagues best.  Some nifty advanced statistics show there is more to the simple Kiwi giant than meets the eye.

Offensive rating is a stat that looks at a player’s pure contribution to an offense based on their overall activity (eg: passes, shots made, screens, and offensive rebounds). Adams is third in the entire league for this stat. This is due to his skills as an elite screen setter and high work rate.

Adams is in the top 15 players in the league for Screen Assists. Screen Assists are points scored directly by the ball player off of a screen. His screen setting shown in this video is vital to open up shots for other players.

The ability to be an impact on offense without the ball is a strong part of Adams’ game that may not show up in a traditional stat line. However this is a huge contributor to him being a top 5 NBA  player in terms of offensive efficiency.

He’s also the 7th best statistically in the NBA in the True Shooting statistic. True Shooting measures accuracy when shooting field goals and free throws. This indicates that Adams is a reliable and efficient scorer that deserves to be taking a higher volume of shots, despite averaging only 7-8 points per game.

On the defensive end Adams is in the top 10 for contesting shots within the 3 point line. His length and surprising mobility make Adams an adept shot challenger. His ability to switch defensively onto smaller, more agile players is invaluable in the modern position-less NBA.

The Advanced stats show that, while Adams struggles to match up in terms of traditional stats (rebounds,points and blocks), with more time on the court he could be one of the best centers in the NBA. His performance in this year’s playoffs indicate he is ready for the challenge. The below table shows over an impressive stint in the playoffs, Steven Adams hit career highs in minutes, rebounds and points respectively.

steven adams stats excel

The advanced stats show a side to Adams that few fans have seen and fully appreciated. His league topping performances are catching the eyes of the people who matter; NBA scouts and executives have started to understand just what Adams could be capable of. The question still stands though…

How much is Adams actually worth?…..

The Thunder’s No 12 has developed well over his first three years in the NBA as a non traditional hustling big man. The timing is perfect for Adams’ role change within the Thunder with the vacancies left by Ibaka and Durant  to result in a big contract extension.

The NBA has just restructured their media deal with ESPN for the next decade for 24 billion dollars, which is an 180% percent increase in profits. This will subsequently rise the salary cap that teams can spend on players.

Adams was drafted 12th in the 2013 NBA draft. The big man is in a similar position to the ‘Greek Freak’ Giannis Antetokounmpo who was drafted 15th and CJ Mccollum drafted 10th. Both players had their contracts extended by their respective teams over the American Summer and are both promised to make more than 100 million dollars over the length of the new contracts. Adams may be the next player from the 2013 draft to hit payday.

This season will show just how much Adams is worth in the modern NBA. Despite his potential the Thunder may be unable to sign him based on salary cap considerations. The Thunder just signed star player Russell Westbrook to a 28 million dollar per year extension which eats up valuable cap space for players like Adams, who are vying for big contracts.

Players like Victor Oladipo, Anthony Morrow and Ersan Ilayasova could be re-signed by OKC which would take up further cap room. Enes Kanter, Adams front court partner, is the second highest paid player on the roster, earning 18 million dollars per year. One of the Thunder’s favourite “Moustache Bros’ may have to be traded to balance the books in the Thunder front office.

Adams will end his rookie deal at the end of this season, midway through next year. If the Thunder want to keep him on the roster they will be forced to sign him before then. A contract extension could be beneficial for both parties with the Thunder locking up the young and talented centre for the next four years, ensuring Adams a deal that couldn’t be matched by other teams in the NBA.

Other NBA teams looking to trade for Adams will be doing it in the hope of him joining the NBA elite big men. If Steven Adams’ potential is as high as the advanced statistics indicate then the expectation will be for him to become an All Star at some point in his career.

Steven Adams’ future in the NBA is promising ….

The career timeline of Steven Adams shows he is on track to replicate some talented players statistically. His closest match in playoff averages and advanced stats is Tyson Chandler. Chandler and Adams both have been in the league’s best in advanced statistics.

Chandler has been in the top 5 for Offensive Rating, True Shooting and Offensive Rebounding during his career. Both are well renowned for their sturdy defensive qualities, physical screen setting and work rate on the court.

Chandler has won a championship with the Dallas Mavericks and was voted an All Star in 2013, the same year Adams was drafted. The comparison between Adams and Chandler forecasts success in the big man’s future. Chandler has earned nearly 200 million dollars over his career and at 34 years old is a respected veteran of the NBA.

For Steven Adams, 2017 will be a defining year in his NBA career. The numbers foresee him being a dominant big man and defensive enforcer with his hustle plays and his extremely efficient offensive contribution. How much that is worth to a franchise like the Thunder is up for debate but there is no doubt; if Oklahoma decide to leave the big man off the roster for the future, there will be interest from the rest of the league for his services come the Free Agency period.

stats nba steven adams