Miami Heat: Bam Adebayo is growing in front of our eyes

Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Having earned coach Erik Spoelstra’s trust, Bam Adebayo was empowered as the starting center for the Miami Heat. He’s making the most of that opportunity and growing before our very eyes.

Since the early days of Bam Adebayo‘s rookie season, he’s looked like a player worthy of opportunity in the Miami Heat’s rotation. He averaged 19.8 minutes per game in his 69 appearances and looked as though he might have a shot at encroaching on some of Hassan Whiteside‘s minutes in his sophomore season.

As it turns out, this season Adebayo has done that and more.

While he only got a small boost in playing time over the first four-plus months of the season, averaging 20.8 minutes per game, coach Erik Spoelstra was watching and waiting for an opportunity to expand his role. When Whiteside went down with a calf sprain at the end of February, Spoelstra made his move and inserted Adebayo into the starting lineup.

When Whiteside made his healthy return to the lineup, Spoelstra kept Adebayo with the starters and Whiteside’s role shifted to the bench.

Adebayo has made the most of Spoelstra’s trust. He is scoring and defending better than ever, even though as a starter he’s typically facing better opposition than he did as a reserve.

He’s the clear-cut fifth option on offense with a usage rate of just 17.9, being used more as a weapon of opportunity than by design at times. Of course, a finely-tuned offense needs a fifth man, but still he makes the most of his opportunities as they come.

Since becoming a starter, Adebayo is averaging 11.5 points per game on just 7.6 shots with a true shooting percentage of 63.6 percent.

Most importantly, the Heat have been winning with Adebayo as a starter. Since Spoelstra moved him to the starting lineup, the Miami Heat are 10-5 and with Adebayo on the court they’re outscoring their opponents by 7.8 points per 100 possessions.

Adebayo doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective on the offensive end. He sets solid screens and he’s a frequent cutter around the basket with 24.5 percent of his possessions coming off cuts. That’s 10th in the NBA among all players who have played 50 or more games and average one or more cuts per game.

On Saturday, in one of the biggest games of the season for the Heat, he put up one of the more remarkable stat lines you’ll see this season with 16 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists and four blocks in a win against the Washington Wizards.

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Both on the stat sheet and off it, Bam Adebayo is thriving and growing before our eyes for the Miami Heat.