Bam Adebayo is getting to the foul line more than ever, a development that has the potential to transform his game and the Miami Heat's offense.
Seven games into the season, Adebayo is averaging a career-high 8.1 free throw attempts per game. If that holds, it would surpass his previous career-high mark (6.1) by two attempts.
Adebayo ranks seventh among all players in free-throw attempts per game, versus 34th last season. He is one of only seven players to average at least eight free-throw attempts this season, joining Damian Lillard, Trae Young, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant and Luka Doncic.
Bam Adebayo getting to the free throw line more has the potential to transform the Heat's offense.
This increased rate of foul shots is by design. Adebayo has seemingly added something new to his offensive game each season, including a foul-line jumper that helped him score over bigger centers last season.
Once opposing centers started respecting Adebayo from the midrange, the next logical step was to attack those closeouts and get to the rim for more efficient shots. The more a player gets to the rim, the more fouls he tends to draw.
Against the foul-prone Jaren Jackson Jr. and the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday, Adebayo got to the line for 16 free throw attempts en route to his 30-point night in Miami's 108-102 win. It's the most free throw attempts in a game for Adebayo this season, and the second most for his career (18 attempts against the Celtics in 2020).
"It's been a process. Looking at the defense, realizing what I got, I can always get to that jumper," Adebayo said on the broadcast after the game. "But Spo wants me to get fouled more. Try to get to the foul line -- I'm a great free throw shooter -- just continue being aggressive."
Because the Heat rank on the lower end in 3-point volume and shots in the restricted area, they are in need of efficient offense and opportunities for extra points. The Heat rank 21st with 32.1 3-point attempts per game and take the second-fewest attempts in the restricted area (20). Miami's best scorers -- Adebayo, Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro -- thrive in the midrange. Those shots are important in high-leverage moments, but can't make up the majority of a team's shot diet.
Case in point: The Heat rank 26th in offensive efficiency this season, scoring 107.5 points every 100 possessions. Last season, the Heat ranked 25th. The team has ranked in the top 10 of offensive efficiency just once in the Butler era.
But we're starting to see the seeds of a more efficient unit. Herro, before suffering a right ankle sprain in Wednesday's win, was taking more 3-pointers than ever, and Butler has also seemed to embrace the long ball, including four 3-point attempts in each of Miami's last two games. Combine those developments with Adebayo getting more pressure on the rim, and the Heat stand to make a leap when everything comes together.
The Heat need others to get to the line. Despite Adebayo's more aggressive play, the Heat rank 22nd in free throw attempts. Part of the reason is that Butler got off to a slow start and is averaging 6.6 attempts per game, his lowest since the 2018-19 season. If Butler and Herro -- who has also made an effort to get to the rim more often -- can draw more fouls, the Heat should end up in the top half of the league in foul shots. And a boost in offensive rating will follow.