Mid-Season Grade: B+
Reader Grade: B (53% of votes)
In a year Thunder fans met and were introduced to new players like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chris Paul, and Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams was the constant: everyone knows and loves the Big Kiwi.
His game, and media charm, remained as dependable as always while the cast of characters around him spun in every direction. This season also confirm another thing: how very health and rest reliant Adams is. Credit goes to Billy Donovan and Nerlens Noel for minimizing the need to wear Adams down despite his legitimate tough-guy desire to play through pain. After missing a mere twelve games over the last four seasons, Adams skipped six 2019-20 contests through 64 games. His 27 minutes a was lowest among Thunder starters and in the bottom-20 for all NBA players with more than 40 starts.
Adams remained a steady contributor–an efficient double-doubler quarterbacking a top-10 defense–but did not eat up the extra opportunities created in the Great OKC Turnover of 2019. Now out of the triple-double orbit, he grabbed a few more individual rebounds per-36, but his team-first playstyle and personality were never going to transform into another “Now I Do What I Want” campaign in the wake of Russell Westbrook and Paul George’s departure.
If only his contract matched that team-friendliness. In a year in which the Thunder flouted traditional lineup construction by running three point guards in the league’s best grouping, having a non-shooting center making $25 million is as jarring as ever. Adams was an important part of that world-beater lineup, to be fair, but the team’s best units were not dramatically worse when swapping Nerlens Noel in for Adams. As Justin Hickey noted at mid-season, the value of being the perfect role player for a team is mitigated by having a star’s salary that crowds the cap sheet.