Analysis: Another double-double in a winning Oklahoma City Thunder performance confirms it - Steven Adams is as important to the NBA side as their 'big three.'
The Kiwi big man posted 15 points with 10 rebounds over 38 minutes in the Thunder's 112-107 win over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday (NZ time), with the Oklahoma City side winning their fifth game on the trot.
Since returning from a two-game absence due to concussion, Adams has picked up right where he left off in the post for the Thunder and the win over the Rockets - who at the time were leading the Western Conference - shows they're capable of better than their 19-15 record suggests.
And, as the past four matches have shown, Adams could be a vital key to the Thunder's championship hopes, despite his role not being that of a traditional big man.
Now in his fourth season in the NBA, the 24-year-old has played in 29 games during the campaign for 15 wins and 14 losses, while the Thunder have won four of the five matches he has missed.
But those lines are misleading to the impact he brings to the team.
Lining up with reigning league MVP, superstar forwards Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, and defensive guard Andre Roberson, you won't find Adams breaking any records for defensive rebounding.
On the defensive end, he provides a presence - he blocks shots and once his feet are set he's near impossible to move. He doesn't allow easy baskets, and can trust his team-mates will be there to collect the rebounds at the defensive end.
While many of the 'elite' starting centres around the league average about seven or more defensive rebounds per game, Adams averages below four - which puts him outside the top-100 in the category, behind a number of big men and guards alike.
Where Adams' impact is most notable is on the offensive end of the court. While Anthony and George stretch the floor, Adams' pick-and-roll game has improved in strides this season, setting him on track for a career-best year in scoring.
But it might be his offensive rebounding prowess that makes him so valuable. Adams leads the league in offensive rebounds per game, averaging about six. In a team of jump shooters, having a good offensive rebounder is vital to success.
Put it this way - with someone like Westbrook who misses about 12 of his 20 average attempts per game, or George who misses about 10 of his 17, someone needs to be there to clean up and salvage points from the possession. No team wants to go one-and-done on a missed shot, and Adams does his best to make sure the Thunder don't.
Because of this, he has an offensive rating (team points per 100 possessions) of 128 - the third best in the NBA.
As the Thunder look to finally be clicking and on a charge up the stadnings in the Western Conference, Adams' health and consistency could end up being the key to Oklahoma City's hopes of returning to the NBA finals.