Miami Heat Makes and Misses: Adebayo, Richardson and inconsistency

MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 3: Bam Adebayo
MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 3: Bam Adebayo /
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MIAMI, FL – OCTOBER 11: Bam Adebayo
MIAMI, FL – OCTOBER 11: Bam Adebayo /

Make: Bam Adebayo

With Hassan Whiteside out of the lineup for the foreseeable future with a bone bruise in his knee, the starting center role was handed over to rookie Bam Adebayo, and the youngest member of the Miami Heat showed what made him a lottery pick in last year’s draft.

Adebayo’s activity was infectious and relentless from the very start, outworking some of the game’s best big men and impacting the Heat on both ends of the floor. While none of his stat lines will jump off the page, the proof is in the details of Adebayo’s growth as the Heat’s starting center.

That is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and one of the league’s very best, Draymond Green, unable to box out the 19-year old rookie. Adebayo’s activity allowed him to keep the ball alive and then, in a rare moment of offensive poise (an area he will have to continue to improve) he’s able to put in the reverse layup. To have the presence of mind to get position, pursue the ball and finish, is something not found in a rookie starting one of his very first games. This is a great sign moving forward.

One of the hot button issues before Whiteside exited the lineup with injury was his screening ability, as the pick and roll is an essential part of the Heat’s offense. When the screen isn’t effective, the offense typically struggles which is what we saw early on in the year.

Adebayo appears to have that mindset thoroughly committed to memory, as he lays a hard screen on Green once again (this happened several times across all four games). Again, the patience and poise in a situation that could easily become an illegal screen, is incredibly impressive.

On the other side of the floor, Adebayo flashed defensive potential that at the moment feels unlimited.

Throughout Summer League, one of the apparent deficiencies in Adebayo’s game was raw footwork that occasionally took him out of the play, whether it be on offense or defense. And over the last four games, Adebayo twice found himself isolated on the perimeter against two of the very best players in the history of this game: LeBron James and Stephen Curry.

James and Curry tried, and both failed. Adebayo flashed some incredible poise (the theme of his week) to force a miss or a pass. Here’s his work on Curry.

Out of the countless big men that Curry has made look foolish out on the perimeter, he tried Adebayo every which way and the rookie had an answer every time. Even on the final pump fake, Adebayo kept his feet and forced a pass.

Adebayo’s play is so important, even if right now his metrics don’t reflect such contributions (big minutes in three blowout losses tend to remove context from advanced numbers). They will more accurately reflect his play as he continues to replace Whiteside in his absence. And moving forward, the Heat will need to take a look at whether or not Adebayo’s development makes the starting center

For that to be the case, Adebayo will have to continue to dominate his matchup like he did against Dwight Howard in the lone win against the Hornets. While Howard may be on the back end of his career, it’d have been understandable for the rookie to be bested by this matchup.

But instead, Adebayo dominated. Frustrating Howard into foul trouble and sending him to the bench early and often. It’s rarely wise to front Howard, as his length allows him to have position for any pass over the top, but Adebayo went with it anyway, knowing he could recover when the pass went over his head.

If you put all of this together and consider that Adebayo is through just the first quarter of his NBA career, the idea of him remaining in the Heat system and continuing to learn and develop is very promising. He possesses a relentless activity that has graduated past the raw, uncontrolled energy boosts we saw in Summer League. And this week, he proved that against some of the league’s very best players.