The competition for the NBA MVP title is intensifying as players are showcasing outstanding performances early into the season, vying for the coveted end-of-year award. The usual suspects are here such as the 2022-23 MVP, Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, and many more.
As the season has been progressing, Heat fans are starting to get louder about a Bam Adebayo MVP campaign. Adebayo is an excellent player, but entering the MVP conversation would be new grounds for the young All-Star. Is this justified? Is it all smoke? Longtime NBA journalist Michael C. Wright believes he is, ranking Adebayo ninth among his MVP candidates.
The numbers back it up.
Miami Heat star Bam Adebayo is putting up MVP-caliber numbers this season, but does he really belong in the conversation?
Bam Adebayo has continued to grow as a player every single year and this year is no different. The seventh-year center has been on a tear entering the 2023-24 NBA season so far, averaging 22.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. The Heat are 9-4 when he plays and he's a big reason as to why they are 8-2 in their last 10 games.
Adebayo ranks third in points per game among centers, with Embiid (31.9) and Jokic (27.4) ahead. Though there might be a gap between Adebayo and those two, it's important to note that Embiid takes 3.4 3s per game (31.8 %) and Jokic shoots 4.6 (29.7%) a game. Adebayo makes two fewer shots than those two on fewer attempts. His offense is at an all-time high and is helping the Heat get better looks within the half-court offense, which they have struggled with.
The "No Ceilings" agenda is at an all-time high as he's taken a leap offensively. He's taking more efficient shots, reaching deeper into his bag -- from a shimmy fadeaway to a face-up mid-range jumper or even getting to the line at a career-high rate. Adebayo is getting the same shot diet, he's just shooting it better. Deep mid-ranges for him no longer feel like a desperation shot. His jumpers feel in rhythm and with the extended range he can shoot now, it helps him get to the basket at a higher rate, drawing more fouls. The game is getting easier every year for him.
Defensively he hasn't lost a step. As a matter of fact, he looks even better, which is hard to believe. Despite the rough start for the Heat, Adebayo has helped lead the Heat to a top-10 defensive rating of 110.7. On the floor, he has a defensive rating of 107.6 this season.
He's one of few players to be above 1.00 points per possession in isolation, ranking 10th with a rating of 1.19. He also ranks 21st in points per possession in isolation defended, with a score of 0.67. The only player coming close is Lauri Markannen who has a 1.17 points per possession in isolation along with a 0.60 in defending points per possession in isolation. Other than Markannen, nobody is close to doing what Adebayo is doing on both ends.
Bam Adebayo is easily a top-15 player this year and could arguably be top 10 with his play so far. He's lifted his team on both ends, which is what is required of a top 10-15 player. Take into account the fact that this team has had multiple starting lineups with the absence of Haywood Highsmith, Jimmy Butler and now Tyler Herro, this type of consistency is impressive.