‘I Feel Like I Am’: Miami Heat Star Boldly Claims Top NBA Award

Bam Adebayo

Getty Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo is in the running for NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

Sometimes if you will something, it happens. That seemed to be what Miami Heat star Bam Adebayo was doing with his post-game comments the other night.

The 6-foot-9 center feels the only reason why he’s not being talked about for NBA Defensive Player of the Year is that people aren’t watching him play. Adebayo scored 20 points, seven rebounds, 10 assists in Miami’s 121-11 victory.

So what, now what? His contributions on the defensive end don’t show up in the box score. The 23-year-old thrives in a Heat system predicating on constant switches, allowing Adebayo to take on the best player on the court whenever he wants to dominate. On the fly.

For example, his isolation defense on Kyrie Irving a few weeks ago when he held the Brooklyn Nets star to zero field goals. Want stats? The Heat has the fourth-best defense in the league when Adebayo is on the floor, per Sports Illustrated, and he ranks third in defensive real plus-minus. Michael Pina wrote the following:

Defensive Player of the Year is usually not awarded to who you’d most want on the ball in a tie game with 15 seconds left in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, but that specific element should be embraced more than it is.

My choice for that hypothetical — or even just any one defender to be on my team in a must-win game — is Adebayo, who’s capable of having as much success on Nikola Jokić as Paul George, Damian Lillard or Zion Williamson. You can count on one hand the number of human beings who can say the same, if there are any.

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Adebayo States Strong Case for DPOY

Adebayo was asked directly if he deserved to be NBA Defensive Player of the Year on Sunday night. He didn’t hold back. He never does.

“Yeah. Umm, I do. It’s one of those things where you got to watch us play to figure it out,” Adebayo said of winning the award. “You know, I float under the radar because I’m not a big name in this NBA. But show my work, it’s uh, somebody will look at me like he’s the Defensive Player of the Year and here’s the reasons why. And that’s the bottom line, and I feel like I am.”

The one-time All-Star held down the No. 3 spot on the updated Defensive Player Ladder on NBA.com. The league’s official website moved Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons up to No. 1, with Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert sliding down to No. 2. They agreed with Sports Illustrated that Adebayo is the “league’s most underrated defender.”

Jimmy Butler Applauds Heat Defense

Jimmy Butler is an elite defender in his own right, so it was no surprise that he credited a renewed commitment to making stops for Miami’s three-game winning streak. The team is desperately trying to avoid the NBA’s play-in tournament and currently holds the No. 6 seed with seven games to go. Butler knows they can’t let their foot off the gas now.

“We’re making shots, but we’re getting stops,” Butler said. “I think whenever we get stops and we’re playing in the open floor, or in transition, it looks like we’re a much better offensive team because we get a lot more easy baskets. And then when we do not get stops, when we’re taking the ball out the net, it gets difficult for us.”


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