OKLAHOMA CITY —
Oklahoma City went with some much-needed size with its first pick of the NBA draft.
The Thunder selected Pittsburgh center Steven Adams with the 12th pick on Thursday night, hoping to add a complementary piece to play alongside stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
The 7-foot Adams played just one season for the Panthers, averaging 7.2 points and 6.3 points per game while being named to the Big East All-Rookie Team.
The Thunder lost in the NBA Finals last year to Miami and had the best record in the Western Conference this season, finishing 60-22. However, Westbrook injured his right knee in a first-round win over Houston, and Oklahoma City was ousted in the second round by Memphis.
Oklahoma City had three of the first 32 picks in the draft, with No. 29 and 32 to go along with the Adams’ pick.
Oklahoma City caused the biggest stir of the offseason a year ago, trading shooting guard James Harden to Houston for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round pick.
The Thunder used the first of those first-round picks on Adams, who averaged just 23.4 minutes per game as a freshman at Pittsburgh. The New Zealand native attended high school in Massachusetts and was a top recruit for the Panthers before deciding to leave college after just one season. Adams is the first Pitt player drafted in the first round since Vonteego Cummings in 1999 and the highest selected for the Panthers since Charles Smith went No. 3 in the 1988 draft.
Adams set the Pittsburgh school record for field goal percentage in his one season, connecting on 100 of 175 shots (57.1 percent) last season. He had career-highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds against Bethune-Cookman and had 13 points and 11 rebounds in the opening round of the NCAA tournament against Wichita State.
Oklahoma City hopes Adams is the perfect addition of size, as well as a long-term scoring option inside to pair with Westbrook and Durant. Westbrook, who averaged 23.2 points and 7.4 assists per game last season, is expected to return healthy before the start of next season.
Durant averaged 28.1 points per game last season, but he struggled at times without Westbrook in the playoffs – where his shooting percentage dropped to 42 percent against the Grizzlies, compared to 51 percent during the regular season.
Adams’ addition could signal a changing of the guard at center for the Thunder, which already features center Kendrick Perkins and drafted the 6-foot-11 Perry Jones III last year. Also, Oklahoma City has three free agents in Martin and guards Ronnie Brewer and Derek Fisher.