Former Miami Heat legend says Bam Adebayo should win DPOY

And that Rudy Gobert is "overrated."
Jun 12, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) dribbles the ball
Jun 12, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) dribbles the ball / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Bam Adebayo is garnering praise from one of the greats in Miami Heat and NBA history.

On “The Big Podcast” with Shaquille O’Neal, Shaq called Bam a top-25 player in the league, but he didn’t stop there. The Hall of Famer who won a championship with the Heat in 2006 said he would also vote for Adebayo for Defensive Player of the Year.

Talking with former Heat point guard Mario Chalmers, O’Neal explained what sets Adebayo apart from his peers.

If holding Nikola Jokic under 15 points is a requirement for winning Defensive Player of the Year, then Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo deserves more consideration.

“You want to impress me, hold Joker under 15 points,” O’Neal said. “Now you playing. All that weakside, blocking shots, that’s cool but it ain’t going to work against guys like me and Joker and Embiid. What he’s talking about with Bam, Bam plays people, he plays the two, the three, the four and the five. So, I would give [Defensive Player of the Year] to him, too.”

Chalmers agreed.

Interestingly, this episode was recorded before the Heat hosted the Nuggets on Wednesday night. In that loss, Adebayo held Nikola Jokic (“Joker”) to under 15 points, like O’Neal said. Jokic finished the game with 12 points on 5 of 8 shooting, 14 rebounds and six assists.

Is Adebayo a top-25 player? It’s hard to disagree. Only four players are averaging nearly 20 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 stocks (blocks plus steals) per game this season: Jokic, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Adebayo. That’s elite company.

Adebayo has been in a bit of a slump during Miami’s four-game losing streak, but his nine-point outburst in the third quarter of Wednesday’s loss was a reminder of what he can do on offense all while defending the best player in the league on the other end.

Will Adebayo win Defensive Player of the Year? That’s doubtful. The award seems destined to go to Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert this season (who O’Neal called an overrated defender in this same podcast). Gobert is the anchor of the league’s top-rated defense and is a deserving candidate. 

And with Victor Wembanyama already emerging into one of the league’s fiercest rim protectors, it may be hard for Adebayo – or anyone else – to win the award for a while. 

Even if Adebayo never wins a Defensive Player of the Year award, at least he has the respect of coaches who routinely vote him in as an All-Star, opponents who show their admiration, and the game’s greats who sing his praises.