Andrew Mulligan: Why Adams is awesome

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Stats support work of Downunder Thunder.

What do Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook, Lazar Hayward, Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin and James Harden have in common?

Steven Adams, and it's turned the NBA playoff series for the Oklahoma City Thunder against San Antonio.

Here's a brief recap on all those names from 2012, a tumultuous year for the Thunder. After losing the NBA finals, management had an awkward decision to make after Harden, one of their three big stars, turned down a four-year US$55.5 million deal to stay. Instead, the Thunder traded him to Houston in a deal that involved all those other names.

A bench scoring dynamo, Harden's departure was easily the most contentious trade in recent NBA history. Especially when the highest draft pick in the deal turned out to be Adams. Replacing a future All Star with a rookie giant from Rotorua who spent only one year at Pittsburgh University was hard to fathom for Thunder fans.

The fruits of that decision can be seen in the Western Conference semifinals.

Adams has been called Oklahoma's third-best player behind Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant - that's high praise.

In a league that's supposed to be "small ball" dominant, the defence of the Thunder big men of Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter but led by Adams has given them the opportunity to eliminate the 67-win Spurs in OKC this afternoon.

The stats offered by the SportVu cameras are the best indication of the impact Adams is having outside the increased minutes, points and rebounds he's recorded since the regular season.

There are cameras in every arena that track every centimetre of the floor and use image processing software to provide real-time player tracking and ball positioning data.

Adams' data has been telling. Does he run the floor hard? Yeah, he does - he's travelled 3.5km in this season's 10 playoff games behind only Durant and Westbrook who play five to eight minutes more than him.

He's also the third fastest in the team's rotation of players behind defensive small forward Andre Roberson and back-up point guard Cameron Payne; 6.7km/h for all movements on court - he's 2.13m (7 feet) and 115kg.

It's the offensive connections with Westbrook that has made him so effective, too. The pick and roll is now bread and butter for Adams and his point guard, and the beauty has been the timing of the duo and trust the team and coach Billy Donovan now has in him to execute it.

In the five games so far in the San Antonio series, he's touching the ball on attack (54.4 times) as much as Kevin Durant (59.4) and is making more passes than Durant, with only Westbrook naturally making more.

Perhaps the most interesting stat has been the change made by Donovan with Adams on San Antonio's LaMarcus Aldridge. The power forward and future of the Spurs torched the Thunder in the first two games to the tune of 78 points at 75 per cent shooting.

Since the Thunder made the decision to switch Adams to Aldridge from veteran centre Tim Duncan, who's been quiet, Aldridge's form has dropped off. In the three games since, he's averaged 21 points on 22 of 60 (36 per cent) shooting.

That's all based on the decision to not double team the human reactor but instead trust a 22-year-old from Roto-vegas who most Thunder fans thought wouldn't amount to much.

- NZ Herald

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