Through seven games, Kentucky has only played one relevant name this season, and we’re still not sure how good Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans are going to be with former UK target Miles Bridges leading the charge.
In their 69-48 victory over the Spartans, Edrice “Bam” Adebayo had six points, five rebounds, five turnovers and four fouls in just 26 minutes.
Adebayo looked like a manchild that was still trying to find the comfort needed on the floor as a big man, along with the fact that the officials just didn’t understand how to call the game with a 18-year-old that weighs 260 pounds and looks like Dwight Howard’s younger brother.
But, ever since those first three games that included the struggles Adebayo had, he’s been every bit as advertised.
In the four games (all wins for the ‘Cats), Adebayo has averaged 13.3 points and nine rebounds per game, including a 15-point, 12-rebound double-double against UT-Martin. He’s scored in double figures in all four games, along with making 72.2 percent (!) of his free throws and shooting 60.6 percent from the field.
What’s changed for Adebayo since a bit of a slow start? Let’s take a look at some different factors that has made Adebayo such a problem for teams.
Don’t underestimate Bam’s passing
OK, so Adebayo only has eight assists in seven games. But, Adebayo wasn’t brought to Lexington to pass the ball.
However, he does pass the ball on occasion in the half-court.
And, not only can he pass the ball, he’s good at it, too.
When the Arizona State defense collapsed hard on Adebayo in the latest beatdown for the ‘Cats, Bam stayed cool, kept the ball high and found Derek Willis for an easy deuce at the rim.
On the first possession of the Arizona State game, the Sun Devils doubled Adebayo, and Bam made a good skip pass to the right corner and the returning Isaiah Briscoe handled the rest with a dish to Malik Monk for the first points of the contest.
Here’s some more big-to-big passing with Adebayo and Wenyen Gabriel this time from the UT-Martin game, which led to free throws for Gabriel off a great look from Bam.
The assist totals won’t show it (nor do they need to), but Adebayo is calm when the defense collapses on him. If he’s in trouble, he looks for an open man and has no problem doing it.
Altering shots (without fouling) are just as good as blocks
Adebayo has 11 blocks in seven games so far, but the amount of shots he’s altered is a relatively high number.
(You can also get a look at his soft touch on the jumper from the nail in this sequence, too.)
During this possession against Arizona State, Adebayo gets switched on a smaller guard. He uses his size and feet to move well on the perimeter and alters the layup attempt without fouling.
(Note: Adebayo had 10 fouls in the first three games. He’s had seven in the last four games, including none against UT-Martin, so he’s getting there.)
But of course, there are those drives that he actually gets his hands on, and it doesn’t end well for the opponent.
It’s not just the dunks
It’s not just dunking for Adebayo.
(The dunks are cool, though.)
The dunks will take the headlines, but what hasn’t been talked about Adebayo is his offensive game as a whole. He really fought for good post position here, and made a great dropstep to the baseline for the slam.
Adebayo has such a good touch around the basket over both shoulders, and his jumper (as noted earlier) looks really, really good for a kid his size.
It also helps him and the ‘Cats that he’s rebounding 16.3 percent of the chances he gets when he’s on the floor; the second-best mark on the Kentucky roster behind Isaac Humphries’ 24.7 percent (in 86 less minutes).
Just like the ‘Cats in the coming weeks, we’re going to find out how good Bam really is
In a span of 18 days during the month of December, Kentucky will play against the likes of UCLA, North Carolina and Louisville.
No team that the ‘Cats have played in the first seven games has the talent that those three teams will have. Lonzo Ball is a star in the making, Kennedy Meeks has come a long way since trash-talking the Harrison twins before the McDonald’s All-American Game a few years back, and Louisville will provide a similar challenge of a frantic Yum! Center for these ‘Cats that will be similar to a few years back with the 38-1 team.
These teams also have big men that can compete with Adebayo. I know it appears that not many guys can because Bam is so freakin’ huge, but these teams are good and they’ll give Adebayo and Kentucky all they can handle.
If he’s the Bam from the Michigan State game, Kentucky may struggle and he’ll be sitting next to John Calipari for a while.
If Bam is the Bam that’s dominating both windows and maintaining his activity on both ends of the floor, Kentucky will have a great chance to get through the difficult month of December unscathed.
(Stats via Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.)