Bam Adebayo has been open about his desire to win Defensive Player of the Year over the past few seasons, but he recently let a former teammate and Miami Heat great make the case for him instead.
On a recent episode of “The OG’s Podcast” with former Heat players Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller featuring Adebayo as a guest, Haslem took a moment to make the case that Adebayo should already have won a Defensive Player of the Year award.
Udonis Haslem said Bam Adebayo is the best at guarding all five positions and should have won a Defensive Player of the Year award by now.
“No disrespect to (2022 Defensive Player of the Year winner) Marcus Smart, no disrespect to anybody else,” Haslem said. “But there’s nobody in the league that I know that can guard five positions the way that this guy can guard five positions. And not just guard five positions, but actually impact the game and shut a guy down.
“I don’t want to get into the numbers because I’m not much of a numbers guy, but the numbers back it up as well,” he continued. “When he switches onto guys and he’s guarding guys one on one, his numbers are as high as anybody else as far as getting a stop and his defensive percentage rate.”
While Adebayo doesn’t lead the league in box score stats like blocks or rebounds, there’s little doubt that he’s among the best and most versatile defenders in the NBA. As Haslem said, advanced tracking stats paint a clearer picture as to how Adebayo defends opponents in isolation and deters high-quality shots near the rim. The eye test also bears out Adebayo’s defensive impact.
Since Adebayo became a full-time starter, the Heat have ranked 12th, 10th, fourth and ninth in defensive rating. Adebayo has made the NBA’s All-Defensive team in each of those four seasons.
But the one piece of hardware Adebayo doesn’t have is Defensive Player of the Year. He has finished top five in voting for the award in each of the past four seasons, losing to Giannis Antetokounmpo (2019-20), Rudy Gobert (2020-21), Smart (2021-22) and Jaren Jackson Jr. (2022-23).
This season, most sportsbooks have him behind Gobert, Anthony Davis, Chet Holmgren, Joel Embiid and Jackson in DPOY odds.
But since Adebayo returned from a hip injury, the Heat rank sixth in defensive rating after games against high-quality opponents like the Timberwolves, Magic, Hawks and 76ers. The Heat’s defense should only get better from here, and Adebayo is making a case to be a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year again.
A three-time NBA champion like Haslem making a case for Adebayo on his podcast could help, but it will take more recognition than that for Adebayo to become the first Heat player since Alonzo Mourning in 2000 to win Defensive Player of the Year.