Things might not be going according to plan for the Miami Heat so far this season, but center Bam Adebayo is quietly (or, if you live in South Beach, not-so-quietly) in the midst of his strongest stretch of the season.
The big man is finding ways to get involved on both ends of the floor, helping rescue a Heat side that looked completely flummoxed after injuries to both Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro. But like a Phoenix rising from the ash, Adebayo has rescucitated Miami’s season and buoyed it while the team awaits for the return of its stars.
And after Miami’s win against the Hawks on Sunday, Bam revealed the reason for his strong start to the season.
“I’m in a flow. Coach [Erik Spoelstra] is playing through me. He’s letting me get to my spots. That’s what I’ve been working on this summer, just getting in my spots and just being efficient.”
How the Heat Play Through Adebayo
Bam is absolutely right that the Heat’s game is playing through him. Part of that is because, frankly, the Heat have lacked consistency from its star powers this season. Both Tyler Herro and Jimmy Butler, Bam’s co-stars, have missed eight games each, leaving the former Kentucky Wildcat to shoulder much of the productivity load.
As a result, Adebayo’s usage is at 25.3 percent, a career-high that ranks in the 93 percentile this season. While he’s still not developed a three-point shot that many hopes, he’s still highly effective inside the arc, notching 20.5 points per game (another career-high).
Adebayo also remains a crucial part of Miami’s defense. Though the team started off slow (18th-best defensive rating in October), over Miami’s current three-game win streak, Adebayo has anchored a league-best defense. A key reason: defensive rebounding. In October, Miami was the league’s second-worst rebounding team. But in Miami’s last three games, that script has flipped entirely, with Bam accounting for a ridiculous 8.7 defensive boards per game.
It wasn’t long ago that some were criticizing Adebayo for a sluggish start to the season.
Kendrick Perkins: ‘Where the Hell is Bam?’
My what a difference two weeks can make. In the middle of November, Adebayo and the Heat looked entirely lost: from November 14-21, the Heat went 1-4, with Adebayo missing two games. But, in fairness, when he did play, Adebayo looked off. His 22 points and 10 rebounds were empty stats, given his minus-6.7 net rating across that stretch.
The rough showing led ESPN commentator and former NBA player Kendrick Perkins to call out the Heat center.
“Where the hell is Bam Adebayo?…I’m trying to figure out where does Bam stand. I kind of see him playing the same role as a Clint Capela as far as his impact on the game.”
Fortunately, Adebayo has put those inefficiency issues in the rearview mirror. And in doing so, he’s lifted Miami’s ceiling in the process, elevating a club that looked like a potential play-in team two weeks ago to one more closely resembling the #HeatCulture teams we’ve come accustomed to enjoying.