HomeSportsNBA Playoffs: The Rise Of Bam Adebayo

NBA Playoffs: The Rise Of Bam Adebayo

Pay attention to Erik Spoelstra’s news conferences long enough, and you’ll find yourself picking up on a few words that come up over and over again. “Spoisms” Some have called him

“Clashes” and “Multiple Attempts,” “Get to Our Game” and “Ignite,” a killed others: they are turns of phrase that are one of the games best head coach and most meticulously observant strategist It tries to express exactly what he wants and values ​​— what he’s looking for and feeling, what he’s looking for from his Miami Heat.

A spoof uttered multiple times during Miami’s second-round series against the New York Knicks, and it extends far beyond that? “Whatever is necessary. Whatever is necessary.” It’s the mantra of adaptability, perfect for the utilitarian environment of the NBA playoffs, where the level of competition is too brutal to be of value to what you’re willing to do in pursuit of a W.

It’s a hand-in-glove fit for the wannabe hard-nosed “Heat Culture” that has defined the franchise since the time of Pat Riley went south for the summer and never came back, It’s the North Star of a Rooster, a trait you’ve surely heard by now league-high nine undrafted players — people who have dug their careers out of the mud, earning their way into rubbing (and sometimes exchanging) elbows with highly unlikely prospects through sheer persistence and competitive will.

Perhaps this is the reason why Spo loves Bam Adebayo so much.

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) brings the ball up the court in the first half of Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics on Wednesday, May 17, 2023, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

There are players in the NBA who can guard star-level offensive talent at all five positions, and toggle between a handful of defensive schemes—switching, dropping, blitzing, icing, show-and-recover, zone, You name it – without missing a beat. Have players who can bring the ball up the court and initiate offense, serve as an offensive hub with the elbow, work either end of the pick-and-roll, splash midrange jumpers Can do and go downhill to attack the rim. There are players who can control the game without putting up crooked numbers, and there are players who can put up crooked numbers when they need to.

there are not many players who can All Although. One of them is the name of Jimmy Butler, whose dominance this entire season has seen only one (and probably ) Best two-way player in the game. Adebayo, however, is proving that he is something else – a tireless standard-bearer ready and able to give the Heat whatever is needed on any given night.

“Whatever I said about Jimmy, you say about Bam,” Spoelstra told reporters After being captured by Miami in Game 1 in Boston, the Heat were set on their way to completely crushing the Celtics during these conference finals. “Because he does it on both ends, and he’s not defined by that last number on the box score.”

That last number — the digit column — is what many observers look at first. Adebayo’s production in that area rarely comes off the page: He’s scored 30 or more points. 20 times in 478 career gamestopped by 40 marks Only onceand averaged only 20 points per game for the first time In this weather, This has, at times, triggered grumblings from fans and pundits alike, wondering why a player with such an obvious physique and athletic equipment does not dominate offensively in the same loud and clear way that other superstar centers do. Has been for years.

Rather than questioning why Adebayo isn’t dominating interior defenders on his way to 28 points per game, perhaps we’d be better served considering that a draft prospect is rated as one by many evaluators. “Energy Big Man” Together “Rough” Offensive Play Someone who needed to “learn to play within his skill set” has transformed over six seasons into a player who was able to do it all with the ball in his hands:

“I understand the narrative (about Miami turning undrafted players into rotation contributors), but some of our best player development projects involve a lottery,” Spoelstra told reporters before game 1. “You could make a case that Bam is the best example.”

You can see it in the way Adebayo’s usage rate has increased year after year. As a rookie, when he was primarily a catch-and-dunk finisher coming off the bench behind Hassan Whiteside, it shot just under 16%. Two years later, when he stepped into the starting lineup at 4 before making the full-time move to center that helped Miami steer through the bubble, it broke 20% — Spoelstra’s young big man’s ability to handle Evidence of increased ability greater playmaking workload.

“He’s Undercover,” Spoelstra told ESPN’s Zack Lowe during that season. “The only way to get better is experience. I want him to be a different player six weeks from now, three months from now. And then I’ll move the goal post again.”

Adebayo earned his first All-Star and All-Defensive Team selections that season, establishing himself as the second best player on the team that made the Finals. The exploration has continued ever since: this season, his Second All-Star campaign, Bam’s usage exceeded 25%, and he trailed only Butler and lead ball-handlers Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro in the heat. touches per game,

You can see it in Adebayo’s confidence in what he has worked on his shot, especially short jumpers against the drop coverage that defenses will give him in favor of protecting the rim and sticking close to the arc. I wrote in what quickly became a ridiculous preview of the Bucks-Heat that Adebayo struggled with those shots against Milwaukee in the 2021 playoffs, but would lead the NBA in shots took And made In the paint but outside the restricted area during the regular season. This has largely held in the postseason, with Bam comfortably stepping into those looks and shooting 44% on them.

“I’ve gotten a lot better since last year – reading, being aggressive, knowing when to score,” Adebayo Said After Game 1 of the Conference Finals. “Throughout the game, I think I’ve gotten better. So I’m playing differently than last year.”

He also goes big when it comes to creating his own looks. Adebayo has regular seasona career-high, and has maintained that level of rim pressure in the playoffs, responsible for the attacks in isolation about 12% of their offensive assets This season, up 2.5%, according to Synergy Sports first season, A career-high 39.9% of his field goals this season were helpless10% more than that rookie campaign,

That comfort was on display in Game 2, when the Celtics were burned by bringing in extra help. Servant And adebayo In Game 1 – decided to dial back the pressure, stay at home on Miami’s shooters and force the Heat’s stars to cook in a head-to-head. Jimmy scored 27 points on 12-for-25 shooting with six assists.

So did Bam, who repeatedly attacked the paint en route to drawing nine fouls and shooting a season-best 8-of-8 at the foul line. He also dished out nine assists—six of them to Duncan Robinson—against a Boston defense often content to allow him to survey the floor from the top of the key. He finished with 22 points, with the last two coming after briefly dropping Al Horford for an offensive rebound and a last-minute putback dunk:

That aggression and physicality carried over into the destruction of Game 3, in which Adebayo attempted only five field goals in 25 minutes, but he still made Boston’s defenders — whether Horford and Robert Williams III — straight matchups. Be it, or wings like Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum on Switch – feel the full weight of his presence:

“Spo Gave Me The Ultimate Clarity: ‘Be You’,” Adebayo told reporters After Game 2. “For me, it is quite simple. He wants me to be aggressive and he wants me to score.

However, there’s just that: while Spoelstra wants Adebayo to be offensive and score, he also wants — Miami, too. Requirements Everything else he can do.

box out This effectively neutralized the Knicks’ fiery offensive rebound in Round 2. Held opponents to 9-for-38 shooting in the fourth quarter in this postseason. Robinson’s ability to help unlock the dribble handoff that was once a key part of the Heat’s offense has waned. frequency Above Last Three Year and he is roared back with a vengeance against the Celtics.

Pushes to prey on the early offense of end-to-end transitions. The ball-the-ball-up possession lifts the rim protector out of the paint late and allows Miami to move Butler and Lowry off the ball, where their screening and cutting can scramble the coverage. Thread-the-needle finds from high post, and smart reads from double-teams that a “phenomenal passerby” Putting two on the ball needs to make the defense pay to nail it. (Why Lori’s bulging eyes,

Butler’s propensity for turning crunch time into an opportunity to rip out face-melting guitar solos earned most of the headlines during Miami’s playoff run. But without Adebayo providing the steady backbeat behind Jimmy’s flamboyant talent, the Heat would not be here.

“He’s going to have to get his fingerprints taken on this contest,” Spoelstra said during the Knicks series. (There’s another sarcasm.) “And the way he does it is very similar to the way Jimmy does it. … He has big challenges – being able to defend everyone, anyone, and all plans to be, and then offensively, you know, all the scoring, the convenience, all that. But that’s what he wants.”

To whom much is given, much is needed. Adebayo’s ability to provide it — whatever is needed, whatever is needed — is a big reason why Miami’s win is one win away from bringing one of the most surprising postseason runs back to the Finals in NBA history.



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