When the season shut down in March, we turned in our 2019-20 season report card knowing that basketball as we knew it was concluding for a long while. That’s how the NBA handled their 2019-20 awards as well–only counting the games played before the pandemic suspension in awards voting. But basketball did come back, and the Thunder’s players earned bonus points over the final stretch.
Previous Grade: C+
New Grade: C
As one of the most unconventional teams in recent NBA history, Houston posed a similar dilemma to every opponent: how long to play their traditional bigs? Unwilling to engage in small-ball warfare, Billy Donovan opted not to break his regular season rotation and played Steven Adams 30.0 minutes per game in the Rockets/Thunder first round series. While Adams’ averages of 10.1 points and 11.6 rebounds pass the eye test, his presence for Oklahoma City was ultimately detrimental.
In a series that featured three defeats of over ten points, all five of Oklahoma City’s starters posted negative net ratings, with Adams’ -12.0 ranking fifth. The undeniable energy that Adams plays with on a nightly basis is enough to overcome his shortcomings as a player in the regular season, but that impact is mitigated when the stakes are highest in the postseason. Adams lacks two quintessential skills for modern bigs, being a non-shooter offensively and blocking just two total shots over the course of the seven-game series.
Despite his flaws, Adams remains perpetually willing to do whatever it takes to win. Against the Rockets, he averaged 4.9 offensive rebounds a game, essentially stealing over 30 possessions for the Thunder. Despite lacking some of the in vogue skills for modern NBA bigs, Adams remains a winning player because of his relentless effort and positive effect on the locker room.
Adams will bring his winning play–and charm–with him to New Orleans, who saw enough value in the cherished OKC ex-player to pry him away from the rebuilding Thunder over the weekend.