OKC Thunder: Steven Adams' foul shooting improves, but there's a catch
Steven Adams is making his foul shots, and there is joy in Mudville. In the first two games since the all-star break, Adams made five of six foul shots against both Denver and San Antonio.
And Adams is maintaining a long trend. Starting with December 29 in Toronto, a span of 26 Thunder games, Adams has made 57 of 78 foul shots, a percentage of .731 that is a little below league average but is cause for celebration in the streets of OKC.
Adams is a career 55.9 percent foul shooter, which is alarming for a guy who plays a lot (27.1 minutes a game this season; 26.9 minutes a game for his career) and gets to the foul line a reasonable amount (3.1 attempts per game this season, 3.0 for his career).
So increased foul shooting percentage from Adams is a Thunder blessing. But you can’t count on it.
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Adams is a streak shooter on foul shots. We think of streak shooters as 3-point marksman, or even mid-range guys, who get hot, make a bunch, then cool off and miss a bunch. That’s exactly what Adams does, from the foul line. And always has.
Here are Adams’ foul-shot percentages year by year:
2013-14: .581 (.348 in the playoffs);
2015-16: .582 (.630 in the playoffs);
2016-17: .611 (.364 in the playoffs);
2017-18: .559 (.692 in the playoffs);
2018-19: .500 (.375 in the playoffs);
But Adams is not the kind of foul shooter who makes three of five one game and one of two the next, then repeats that kind of mediocrity over and over. Adams has wild swings.
In the Thunder’s first 14 games, Adams made just eight of 27 foul shots (.296). But over the next 10 Thunder games, Adams made 27 of 36 (.750). Over the next seven games, Adams made just six of 18 (.333). So through 31 Thunder games, Adams had made 41 of 81 for 50.6 percent.
But now, over the Thunder’s most recent 26 games, Adams has made 57 of 78 for .731.
And that’s been his typical performance for much of his career.
In fact, last season, Adams was the reverse. Sort of acceptable early, inconsistent middle, terrible late. First 21 games: .524; next 10 games, .613; next 9 games, .400; next nine games, .710; next 34 games, .356.
And Adams also got progressively worse in 2017-18. First 17 games, .714; next 26 games, .629; next 39 games, .494.
2016-17 also ended poorly: first 16 games, .881; next 14 games, .574; next 18 games, .721; next 34 games, .492.
This time, Adams has reversed course. His shooting better as the season hits the stretch run. Hopefully, it continues. But you better not count on it. The one thing we’ve learned about Adams’ foul shooting is that it’s like the Oklahoma weather. It always will change.