Steven Adams had the best game of his young career Friday night, with 17 points on 7-10 shooting, 10 rebounds and three blocks in 30 minutes of action.
The game was Adams' best, but the New Zealand native has been impressive nearly every time he's stepped on the court. He's especially striking when compared to the starter he's backing up, Kendrick Perkins. Perkins has a PER of 5.3 so far this season, per Basketball-Reference, compared to Adams' astonishing 22.7.
Adams is averaging 12.5 points, 12.1 rebounds and more than two blocks per 36 minutes. He's demanding a place in the starting lineup over Perkins, but that won't happen until much farther down the road, mostly because of Thunder coach Scott Brooks' bizarre devotion to Perk.
Adams was considered "a project in every sense of the word," and SB Nation's Jonathan Tjarks — like most other draft experts — said any team that drafts him "should send him to the D-League with eyes wide open. He might not make it back."
Now, Adams is already showing a decent scoring touch, while grabbing a whopping 70.6 of contested rebound chances, per the NBA's player tracking data. That's a huge number, and proof that he's using his superlative length and size to his advantage. That's the ideal package for a center on the defensive end, and especially useful considering Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison — the two bigs Adams plays alongside — are not strong rebounders for their position
Here's the most promising development for Thunder fans: Adams was the big prize in the much-maligned James Harden deal. The Thunder were likely never going to be able to re-sign Harden, but general consensus after last season, when Kevin Martin signed with the Timberwolves, was that the package GM Sam Presti got in return was nowhere near worth it.
Jeremy Lamb has played decently this year, and if he continues to develop, and Adams keeps up his torrid start, this could be another Presti gem.