How Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo can earn minutes this season

TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 11: Bam Adebayo. (Photo by Brian Babineau/Getty Images)
TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 11: Bam Adebayo. (Photo by Brian Babineau/Getty Images) /

The Miami Heat’s rookie is looking to break into a crowded frontcourt rotation, and he can do it with his defense.

We don’t know a lot about Bam Adebayo just yet, as it appears that the Miami Heat are still searching for a role for their prized draft pick.

Relegated to garbage time minutes at the end of preseason games, playing alongside camp hopefuls and journeymen, what we’ve seen so far is typical of a nervous rookie, adjusting to the pace and gravity of the NBA.

However, what we saw in summer league were flashes of a dynamic, energetic player on both ends, that the Heat will hope to extract and maximize in the years to come.

But much like everyone who steps through the doors of American Airlines Arena, Adebayo simply won’t be granted playing time based on draft status, or prior accomplishments. He’ll have to earn his way onto the floor, and there are certainly a number of promising ways with which he can break into the rotation.

Head coach Erik Spoelstra is searching for combinations of frontcourt players that’ll provide the best fit. Along with the starting combination of Hassan Whiteside and James Johnson, we’ve already seen variations of that pairing with Kelly Olynyk and Justise Winslow.

Adebayo makes sense with this group, if he can provide defense above all, the calling card for minutes in Spoelstra’s rotation. We’ve already seen raw athleticism like the below block in Orlando (which was a questionable goaltending call). But if Adebayo can develop consistency within the Heat’s defensive system, he’ll give them instant rim protection and length, able to disturb both centers and power forwards in this league.

In summer league, Adebayo gave us a glimpse of the type of versatility that initially attracted the Heat to the Kentucky center. The activity on tape directly reflected the numbers, producing double-doubles at ease, capped by a 29-point, 11-rebound effort against fellow high draft pick TJ Leaf and the Indiana Pacers.

While those types of expectations are far too lofty to put on a rookie, Adebayo has shown he can develop into a dynamic offensive player, that can be used how James Johnson works within the offense. Already, we’ve seen some of the point-forward promise, albeit in need of polish.

Adebayo knows by now that the first way to get on the floor in Miami, is to excel defensively. Rodney McGruder turned into the longest-tenured starter among every Miami Heat rookie, because he separated himself defensively. Adebayo can get there, already displaying the type of shot-blocking prowess the Heat need with Whiteside off the floor.

His offensive progress will be steady, but finding a capable jumper (or at the very least proving active on the offensive glass to generate extra chances) should land Adebayo on the floor, to help out the 3-point shooters surrounding him.

One of the great things about Adebayo’s rookie year though, is he doesn’t have to materialize immediately. The Heat have the appropriate depth in the frontcourt to allow him time to find his role on the team and grow as a player in the NBA.

Next: Miami Heat still toying with lineups, using preseason as testing grounds

If he finds himself on the floor playing meaningful minutes at any point for the Heat this season, it’ll be entirely because he earned them.