The Miami Heat have been a revelation in the NBA this season as one of the top teams in the league after signing Jimmy Butler this past offseason, but there’s been another key factor in the Heat’s rise back to the top tier of the Eastern Conference and his name is Bam Adebayo.
Through 49 games this season, the Heat sit 19 games over .500 at 34-15, tied for the third seed in the East with Adebayo having his breakout season while being selected to his first All-Star Game as a reserve.
The former Kentucky big man is averaging 15.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks per game, while posting career-highs so far in player efficiency rating (20.6), total rebound percentage (16.9), block percentage (3.3), offensive win shares (3.8), win shares per 48 minutes (.186), box plus-minus (5.1) and value over replacement player (3.0).
Only Butler’s +9.4 plus-minus rating per 100 possessions is better than Adebayo’s +7.1 rating among players that have played more than 42 minutes this season. (Looking at you, Dion Waiters.)
“Bam, I see the things he’s doing – they’re taking him to places we didn’t have time for,’’ Kentucky coach John Calipari said to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel back in January. “I used to see him in the open court, and I’d shake my head at what he could do. But he first needed to learn to play 7 feet in [to the basket]. That’s all we did with him. He first needed to learn to play the pick-and-roll.
“That’s we worked on. And he worked hard. Now, what they’ve done in Miami, oh my gosh. Knowing his skill set and seeing they said, ‘You can guard five positions’ — that’ll make you an All-Star. Now he’s one of the better players in the league at that [center] position because he’s a playmaker.”
In Monday’s 137-106 rout of the Philadelphia 76ers — their 22nd win in 25 home games this year — all it took was just one defensive possession to see what kind of value Adebayo brings to this Heat team.
Watch Bam just totally ruin this 76ers set. pic.twitter.com/wzmka5uPN9— Couper Moorhead (@CoupNBA) February 4, 2020
This possession is even more impressive when you look at the box score and see Adebayo racked up 18 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists (!) with no turnovers (!!) in over 35 minutes of game action.
Bam Adebayo— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) February 4, 2020
18 pts (8-15 FG)
Game best plus/minus +29
35 minutes pic.twitter.com/tcELBsus8D
Monday marked the fourth time this season alone that Adebayo dished out 10+ assists in a game. That’s absurd when you find out that in the history of the Miami Heat franchise, only two other games have occurred where a center dished out 10 or more assists in a game.
When you also see that Joel Embiid, who has recently returned from a gnarly hand injury, had his typical night of big-time production of 29 points and 12 rebounds on 9-of-14 shooting and the Heat still won by 30+ points, it makes what Adebayo and the Heat are doing all the more impressive.
(He’s still the dunker that you loved and remember at Kentucky and against the Sixers earlier in the season nonetheless.)
(And, he might actually be able to fly.)
Adebayo was a better passer than given credit for during his time at Kentucky, but what he’s doing during his time in Miami is nothing short of impressive. He’s becoming of the best big men in the league on both ends of the floor on one of the league’s best teams.
Add in Tyler Herro’s arrival this season and it’s hard for a Kentucky fan to not want to see the Heat make a deep run in the postseason. They’re 3-1 against Milwaukee, Toronto and Boston up to this point and officially clinched the season series tiebreaker over Philadelphia after Monday’s win.