The Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo has evolved into the newest Jedi within the NBA, using the force of the basketball God’s to impose his will on all in front of him. Bam has become a rising star in the league, embodying the modern center position.
The modern center position is vastly different from what it was a mere five years ago. As the league has moved away from inside-out basketball, the big-men have been required to operate further out towards the perimeter – ideally outside of the break if they’re reliable enough from deep. Rather than posting up on the low block, bigs are now expected to operate predominantly out of the pick-and-roll, offering vertical spacing as they roll towards the rim.
On the defensive end, their remit is still quite similar. Grab boards, block shots and deter interior drives, the major change to their job role in this instance is the ability to switch onto smaller players. Successfully switching onto forwards requires greater mobility than their predecessors usually possessed, while also making their defensive responsibilities an exceedingly difficult task. Now big’s are required to not only operate as the last line of defense, but they also need to be a deterrent from as far out as the three-point line.
Bam has developed into the poster boy for modern-day NBA centers this season, mixing his athletic rim-running with explosive defense. Over 65 games this year Bam has increased his blocks per game to 1.3 according to basketball reference, nearly doubling his production from just one season ago. Rebounding has also been another area of growth on both ends of the floor, pulling down eight boards on the defensive end and two and a half on the offensive end. When totaling those rebounds, Bam is pulling down 10.5 per game, which is 3.2 per contest more than last season.
Blocking shots and glass eating has seen Bam continually get minutes on the floor, earning the starting role following Hassan Whiteside‘s trade to the Blazers during the summer. Offensively he has taken a similar jump in production, pulling his scoring average up to 16.2 per contest. That scoring output, when combined with his rebounding numbers, has Bam averaging a noteworthy double-double on the season.
Adebayo’s impact on offense stretches further than just scoring however, he has become a respectable distributor from the post and can extend that talent all the way out to the top of the key.
Here Bam has the ball towards the low block, showing intelligent patience as he waits for the first cutter to pull the defense out of position. As that happens there is a clear path for the second cutter to drive to the hoop, allowing Bam to feed him the rock without much defensive resistance.
When he’s playing higher up the floor, Bam is incredibly adept at running dribble hand-offs (DHO’s) to free up one of Miami’s abundance of shooters. The idea of the DHO involving Bam is that once he hands off he screens the on-ball defender, he provides the shooter with the adequate spacing to get off a high-quality look.
This evolution as a playmaker directly correlates with Bam’s improved scoring numbers. Defenses are subsequently forced to play him high, presenting him opportunities to slip when defenders bite on screen fakes.
Outside of the “eye test” and box score improvements, Bam has been a revelation when looking at the advanced analytics. Cleaning the glass has Bam ranked in the 98th percentile amongst bigs for assists, showcasing the skills he developed during his formative years when he played the point, setting his teammates up on 23.2 percent of his passes.
The 22-year old, while improving, does still have areas where he can and likely will improve. The most glaring area of development has to be his three-point scoring, only then will he reach the highest echelon of NBA players. In a league that is so heavily predicated on spacing across the floor from every position, Bam survives playing high due to his passing ability reminiscent of Draymond Green. If Adebayo adds a deep ball to his arsenal he will give the opposition nightmares and find himself as a focal point on scouting reports.
Currently, he’s only shooting the three at a seven percent clip, going 1-for-13 over the season. Shooting only 13 three’s over 65 games is a ludicrously small sample size for this era of basketball, and displays a lack of confidence when attacking outside the break. Lacking in something so imperative can actually be a positive at this young age though, as it will serve as a reminder that improvements must continue to be made.
Bam is a true candidate for the most improved player this season, he has answered every question asked of him since taking the starting role for Miami. Mixing ferocious defense with spellbinding passing and bone-breaking offense, Bam has developed into a premier big man in the NBA. When that three-ball gets added to his arsenal, the whole league will be on notice.
Until then, Bam is doing enough for teams around the league to be casting envious eyes in Miami’s direction.