Mark Steven Adams’ fifth season in the NBA down as one for the record books. Given a bigger role in the Oklahoma City Thunder’s offence, and anchoring the defence, the big Kiwi went from role player to elite centre in the space of 82 games. And, after the season was said and done, the 24-year-old joined the ranks of elite offensive rebounders, becoming just the 12th player in NBA history to average five or more per game for an entire season. To add to that, he becomes the first player to reach that mark and not average double-digit total rebounds. Oklahoma City Thunder goes up for a dunk. Photo / Getty Images Before the season ended, Adams had garnered praise for Hall of Fame centre Hakeem Olajuwon, who told the Herald on Sunday in February that the Kiwi had earned respect on the court with his standout performances. Read more: Glass act: Steven Adams ‘has earned on-court respect’Steven Adams warrants consideration for NBA’s Most Improved PlayerOklahoma City Thunder take opening playoff match against Utah Jazz “Defensive rebounds, everyone knows he should get them, no problem,” Olajuwon said. “But offensive is more difficult…the other team is trying to keep you off the glass. So to average more than five, that’s very impressive. “The offensive rebound, really, is not yours – they’re supposed to get it…It’s always important with big guys that can give teams, over and over and over, second chances to put the ball back – either put it out or to go up to the basket.” Steven Adams 17-18 NBA season ranking:2nd- Total screen assists (362)4th- Offensive rebound % (16.2)5th- Second chance points per game (4.1)6th- Effective field goal % (62.9)8th-Points in the paint per game (11.7) pic.twitter.com/hGdggOBBPj— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) April 12, 2018 While etching his name into the NBA record books, the 24-year-old also made his mark for his franchise – claiming the record for most offensive rebounds collected in a single game with 12 against the Cleveland Cavaliers in February. On top of the records, the Kiwi finished second in the league in screen assists (362), fifth in second chance points per game (4.1), sixth in field goal percentage (62.9) and eighth in points in the paint per game (11.7). Of players to play 70 or more games in the season, Adam’s offensive rating (team’s points per 100 possessions) of 125 was the fifth best. As a result of his growth, Adams has come into the conversation to win the league’s Most Improved Player award – with ESPN’s Zach Lowe ranking him as the likely runner-up for the award to Indiana’s Victor Oladipo. Adams wasn’t the only Thunder player to make history this season either – with point guard Russell Westbrook finishing the year averaging a triple-double per game for the second straight campaign. Oklahoma City Thunder duo Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams had made NBA history this season. Photo / Getty Images Led by the two standout performers, the Thunder claimed the fourth seed in the Western Conference with a 48-34 record and home court advantage for the first round of the playoffs against the Utah Jazz. The head to head battle between the two teams arguably shapes up as the most exciting series for a spectator with how the sides match up. Steven Adams and fellow star centre Rudy Gobert will go head to head in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Photo / Getty Images Adams will go head to head against Defensive Player of the Year favourite Rudy Gobert – and both will have their hands full on defence as they’re two of the best pick and roll big men in the association. The Jazz strut into the playoffs having earned the label as the best defensive team in the competition – holding teams to 103.9 points per 100 possessions. The Thunder weren’t pushovers at that end though, with the Oklahoma City Side holding a spot in the top 10 defensive teams. The Thunder won the first match of the best-of-seven series on Monday (NZ time) 116-108. Players to average five or more offensive rebounds per game for a season: Steven Adams (2017-18) Charles Barkley (twice) Elton Brand (2001-02) Michael Cage (1987-88) Andre Drummond (three times) Moses Malone (nine times) Hakeem Olajuwon (1984-85) Dennis Rodman (seven times) Larry Smith (three times) Anderson Varejao* (2012-13) Jayson Williams (twice) Kevin Willis (twice) *Anderson Varejao only played 25 of a possible 82 games in the 2012-13 NBA season Steven Adams’ career per game season points and rebounding averages 2013-14 (81 games played): 3.3 points, 4.1 rebounds (1.8 offensive) in 14.8 minutes2014-15 (70 games played): 7.7 points, 7.5 rebounds (2.8 offensive) in 25.3 minutes2015-16 (80 games played): 8 points, 6.7 rebounds (2.7 offensive) in 25.2 minutes2016-17 (80 games played): 11.3 points, 7.7 rebounds (3.5 offensive) in 29.9 minutes2017-18 (76 games played): 13.9 points, 9.0 rebounds (5.1 offensive) in 32.7 minutes Full NBA Playoffs first-round match-upsEastern Conference: Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics v Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers v Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers v Indiana Pacers. Western Conference: Houston v Minnesota, Golden State Warriors v San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trailblazers v New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz. To get the day’s top sports stories in your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here


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