2020-21 New Orleans Pelicans Player Review: Steven Adams

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Largely speaking, the Pelicans got exactly what they would have expected from Steven Adams statistically in the 2020-21 season. While the raw numbers took an expected dip as he entered a front court with two All-Stars in Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, he was still the brute force in the paint that anchored the boards and finished around the rim.

The problem, though, is that may not be what the Pelicans need long-term out of a center next to Williamson and Ingram moving forward. Adams may have anchored the team, but the team may not need an anchor.

Thus, Adams becomes part of the number of questions to answer this offseason for the Pelicans.

Stat of the Season

61.4%.

While his field goal attempts went down, Adams had one of the most efficient seasons of his career, shooting 61.4% from the field, the second-best mark of his career.

Notable Exit Interview Quote

On team’s improvement in the second half defensively…

“I feel we did start seeing a lot more consistency with rotations. And this just comes down to players prioritizing different threats, not being bamboozled, if that makes sense, by smoke-screen plays, allowing them to actually react to the actual threat. That’s a really big part.”

Overview

The Pelicans had plenty of confidence in Adams’ fit with the roster, so much so that they gave him a two-year, $35 million extension before he even stepped foot onto the court. That, though, did not prove to be money well-spent this season.

Adams was more or less a neutral player this year, finishing with a minus-0.1 net rating. With Williamson and Adams in the paint, the Pelicans ranked second in the league in points in the paint, first in offensive rebounding and second in rebounding percentage.

That, though, was not a successful identity for the Pelicans in 2021. In an era where 3-pointers are shot at an unparalleled rate, building a roster based on bruising play in the paint was one of the critical flaws of the Pelicans.

So, while Adams was not a negative player individually, the way he forced the Pelicans to play led to negative results.

Outlook

Adams represents a huge swing and miss last offseason by the Pelicans. Neither Adams nor Bledsoe could help the franchise take a step forward. That so much money is committed to those two players – $35.1 million next season and at least $21.7 million in 2022-23 – spells all sorts of problems for New Orleans.

Add in the fact that both Jaxson Hayes and Willy Hernangomez were roughly as productive, and sometimes even more, as Adams at drastically lower costs this season and the questions of whether Adams’ future is in New Orleans.

He still has value. If he were on the open market this offseason, his contract would likely be in the neighborhood of the one he is under the next two seasons. But finding a willing trade partner will be a difficult task this offseason.

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List

5 questions for the New Orleans Pelicans heading into the offseason