When Kevin Durant shut the door on his nine-year tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder to move to the Golden State Warriors, a window of opportunity opened for Steven Adams.

Durant's departure was a mortal blow to the Thunder's chances of becoming NBA champions in the foreseeable future but the decision gave birth to a new era, - with 23-year-old Adams now of increased importance to his team.

During his first three years in the NBA, Adams was never a main option on offence, averaging just five shots a game. However, as the Thunder regress to a middling team, the Kiwi centre now has extra offensive responsibility.

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.


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.

Without the elite scoring of Durant, the Thunder's offensive spacing is cramped, ranking as the second-worst three-point shooting team in the association. That has led to more teams packing the paint on OKC, taking away Adams' room to roll to the rim after setting a screen. As a result, the Russell Westbrook-to-Adams alley-oop lob, which produced an array of highlight plays, has significantly decreased.

To compensate for that, Adams continues to blossom in isolation situations. He is receiving the ball more in the post and the paint, and is using a range of floaters, duck-ins and hook shots to extend his potency around the basket.

He has taken on a bigger role handling the ball as well. Last season, 86 per cent of his touches were immediately hot-potatoed on to a team-mate without dribbling the ball. Now, that figure has dropped, with Adams displaying increasing comfort in attacking off the dribble when given space and time.

Attempting more difficult shots has seen Adams' field goal percentage expectedly drop from 61.3 to 59.5 - still good enough for sixth-best in the league. However, he has made up for that with an uptick in his free-throw shooting, going from a 58.2 per cent shooter at the line to a competent 72.1 per cent.

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. 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.

More career-best performances should be on the way in a season which is ensuring Adams' place as one of the most reliable centres in the league.