Thunder center Steven Adams spent much of the months of June and July having his name batted around in trade rumors as the ramifications of Oklahoma City’s disappointing back-to-back first-round playoff exits and whopping payroll set in. It was Russell Westbrook and Paul George, however, who were dealt away with Adams remaining put in OKC.
For now, at least. This week, Adams confessed that the stream of rumors bothered him. But he also acknowledged that they’re far from finished. While there has been a focus on what the Thunder plan to do with point guard Chris Paul, Oklahoma City has been trying just as hard to find the right trade for Adams.
Just as with Paul, though, the Thunder have two problems in moving Adams: The price is too steep and his contract is too hefty. The added issue of Adams’ fit in the modern NBA—he has attempted seven 3-pointers in his career and made zero—complicates matters.
Sources told Heavy.com that the Thunder are seeking a draft pick, a young player and salary relief for Adams.
“They set the price too high,” one league executive said. “That’s what you’d expect and maybe it will drop as the year goes on. It’s tough to take on his contract (two years, $53 million remaining) and give up picks and players. Most teams are pretty well set at the center spot now, you have a big guy and you have your small lineup. You can’t just take on a contract like that. There isn’t a big number of teams who could take him.”
It’s possible, though, that Adams will bolster his value playing in OKC’s new offense, which will be less reliant on the fast-break play that Westbrook needs and more focused on the half-court. Working in pick-and-rolls with Paul could mean more scoring for Adams, who averaged 14.9 points last year.
Kings Previously Among Favorites for Steven Adams Trade
If there is a team that is a favorite to move for Adams, sources said, it would be Sacramento. The Kings had interest in Adams before free agency began and discussed a potential deal with the Thunder. The talks did not get very far, however. Oklahoma City had eyed one of Sacramento’s young shooting guards, Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic. Sacramento also has forward Harry Giles, who could blossom with more playing time.
Back in the summer, the Kings wanted a tough-minded interior big man who could defend the paint and take some pressure off forward Marvin Bagley. They also wanted a pick-and-roll partner for budding point guard De’Aaron Fox, whose 6.6 points per game in the pick-and-roll ranked 16th last year. Adams would fit that bill.
But the Kings felt they got a more affordable version of that in free agency, signing Dewayne Dedmon to a three-year, $40 million deal. Adams averaged 1.16 points per possession as a roll man in the pick-and-roll for the Thunder last year, which is very good. But Dedmon averaged 1.28 points per possession in those situations.
That’s been enough to cool discussions of Adams to Sacramento.
Mavericks, Celtics Had Interest in Steven Adams
The Mavericks have been linked to Adams, too, but a deal never gained traction there. The Mavs don’t have the young assets the Thunder want and have already dealt away their 2021 and 2023 first-round picks, meaning they can’t trade a first-rounder until 2025.
The Celtics, too, were connected to Adams in trade rumors, but Adams’ salary makes him an unlikely fit. Boston likely would have to build a deal around Gordon Hayward for Adams and neither side has much interest in that. Interest from the Spurs, another team linked to Adams, has been tepid, too.
The expectation remains that Adams will be traded this year. With the season set to begin in just 20 days, potential deals for Adams are not expected to take shape until December or so, after teams have an opportunity to evaluate their rosters as they stand and after the Thunder possibly cut their asking price.
Adams has had to deal with rumors all summer. He’ll have to deal with more.