In the wake of Steven Adams’ concussion, Thunder fans are quickly learning the value he brings to the court. The biggest story seems to be the absence of his defense, which was very noticeable when Raymond Felton got to do whatever he wanted against OKC. What might be just as important is his offensive impact. Adams has clearly improved his offensive game on the block with his floaters and hook shots. Also his ability to finish alley oops is a huge part of the Thunder offense. Something Donovan has unlocked in the past few weeks is Adams on the fast break.
Adams is 6th among centers in fast break points on the season, according to NBA.com (Trailing only Towns, Capela, Drummond, Mason Plumlee, and POINT KANTER). In the month of January Adams has improved on that. He averaged 2.3 fast break points per game, tied for 1st among centers. Along with his fast break points increasing in January, his scoring average (13.3), true shooting percentage (66%), assist% (9.1), and Net Rating (5.2) are all the up. The one stat that has decreased is his rebound percentage, down 5%.
With Adams rebounding down, it would make sense for the Thunder’s rebound percentage to be down as well. Their rebound percentage is actually higher in the month of January (51.7 and 9th in the NBA) than it was in November (51.5 and 4th), but it is significantly lower than December (53.4 and 2nd).
What has increased over that time is fast break points. Here is the breakdown month to month:
November: 16.7 FBP per game, 3rd in the NBA
December: 14.9 FBP per game, 8th in the NBA
January: 21 FBP per game, 2nd in the NBA
If OKC is going to have a successful offense they need to get out on the fast break, and Adams has helped unlock some of that. Their offensive rating has increased from 104 in November to 107.1 in January, and some of that is OKC has been able to get easy points on the break.
Here are some examples of how Adams has impacted the fast break for OKC. (Shoutout to my friend @MikyBerra for the video help)
In this clip, once the ball falls through the hoop Adams takes off. He noticed his man, Deandre Jordan, can’t catch him. With Russ as the man leading the break it’s an easy 2 points. (When I say easy don’t underestimate how hard it is for a 7 footer to catch and finish like that on the run…. He is special)
The next clip is a sneaky Adams fast break. Marc Gasol tracks with Adams all the way down the court, so it seems there is not an opportunity for fast break points. Adams slyly gains position on Gasol, and the fast break creator, Russell Westbrook, finds Adams for an easy 2 points.
In the third clip, the Thunder are going big while the Nuggets are small. This unlocks an advantage you wouldn’t normally think of. Donovan wants Kanter to stay close to the bucket and Adams to defend the perimeter. When Adams contests Wilson Chandler’s 3, he doesn’t stop, but keeps running up the floor. Fast break monster, Russell Westbrook, identifies the easy mismatch Adams has in the post against Chandler… Boom. Money. Easy layup.
Similar circumstance here. Adams left guarding Carter-Williams on the perimeter, but that small big mismatch turns against the Bulls fast. After the contest and rebound Adams takes off down the court with only MCW to defend him. This time Oladipo recognizes the advantage and Adams finishes with an easy jam.
The way the Thunder are currently constructed they need to get a lot of fast break points to win. In the month of January he is 3rd on the Thunder in fast break points per game at 2.3, trailing only Russ at 7.2 and Oladipo 4.2. The Thunder need Steven Adams back badly, not only for his defense, but for ability to finish on the fast break.
(All stats are from NBA.com)