Even though they lost one of the best players in the NBA to free agency, the Oklahoma City Thunder know that they need to keep what remains of their core together if they want to stay competitive. The team took another step towards that goal on Monday when they signed their starting center to a contract extension. Steven Adams has been inked to a four-year deal worth approximately $100 million, as reported by CBS Sports.
At just 23 years of age, Steven Adams seemingly came out of nowhere and developed into one of the best centers in the NBA. It is hard to receive any spotlight when you are playing with the likes of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, two of the most dominant basketball players on the planet, but Adams managed to do just that by being a superb player on the court.
Steven Adams said his first big purchase came yesterday: A new phone. Dropped his old one in a cold tub: pic.twitter.com/3mSn8fdkez— Erik Horne (@ErikHorneOK) November 1, 2016
Steven Adams has also proven himself to be an unselfish team player. The 7-foot, 255-pound center is willing to do whatever the Oklahoma City Thunder coaching staff has asked of him. Adams understands the concept of team defense. He also does not need the ball much on the offensive side of things. That is a good thing when you are playing with someone that needs the ball as much as Russell Westbrook.
Even before the big contract extension, there was more being expected of Steven Adams because of recent departures.
With Kevin Durant walking away from the Oklahoma City Thunder in free agency to join the Golden State Warriors, other players needed to pick up the slack to help make up for his offensive production. Though he will try his hardest to do so, it does not behoove the franchise if Russell Westbrook is trying to score 50 points a night. The dynamic point guard is currently averaging 38.7 points a game, something that cannot last an entire NBA regular season.
Another big departure for the Oklahoma City Thunder was Serge Ibaka, who was traded to the Orlando Magic. For the longest time, the 6-foot-10 forward the defensive leader for the team. Ibaka excelled at shot blocking and rebounding. Steven Adams is not nearly the rim protector that Ibaka is, but he can still have an impact on the defensive end.
In addition to signing Steven Adams to a contract extension, the Oklahoma City Thunder also locked up Victor Oladipo, whom they acquired during that Serge Ibaka trade, to a four-year deal worth approximately $84 million.
With big contracts being handed to Russell Westbrook, Victor Oladipo, and Steven Adams, the Oklahoma City Thunder do not have enough salary cap space to sign a big-name free agent next summer. They would need to make several transactions to clear up some money. However, management also understands how difficult it is to convince top-level NBA free agents to move to the state of Oklahoma.
Blake Griffin has long been rumored as a potential free agent target for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He played college basketball in the state. Plus, the Los Angeles Clippers are rumored to consider blowing up the roster if Chris Paul, Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan cannot overcome the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Playoffs this season.
Pairing up Russell Westbrook with Blake Griffin might restore some of the faith that the Oklahoma City Thunder fan base lost when they witnessed Kevin Durant shockingly leave the franchise. It might not bring an NBA Championship to the state, but it would keep them in the conversation every season.
An NBA Championship seems out of reach right now, but the Oklahoma City Thunder made a step in the right direction by keeping Steven Adams around.
[Featured Image by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images]