A Look into Bam Adebayo’s Offensive Aggression vs Atlanta

After Miami’s rough loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night, it was clear that eyes would turn to the Heat’s young centerpiece, Bam Adebayo. It wouldn’t be a big deal if he just struggled offensively, but he didn’t even put himself in position to take that chance.

He lacked aggression in two straight games without Jimmy Butler, which is a bit alarming at the moment since he’s the second guy on this team, who should be able to take charge when needed.

So, here’s a look into Adebayo’s lack of aggression last night, in comparison to his offensive explosion against Brooklyn earlier in the season, since it’s essential to evaluate the major differences.

– Early reliance on Goran Dragic generating offense

Before diving totally into Bam Adebayo’s offensive play, the early tone must be noted. Without Jimmy Butler, Miami lacked a guy who can get downhill. Kendrick Nunn is capable, Tyler Herro has a crafty ability, and Dragic can attack pick and rolls, but there isn’t a consistent ability as when Butler is playing.

Although this play ends with a Duncan Robinson three point make, the spacing issues early are clear while Adebayo is doing his nightly off the ball screens. A crowd formed as Dragic got to the basket, and Clint Capela altered his focus onto him, putting his back toward Adebayo.

It’s obvious that Butler makes Adebayo’s job a lot easier in the offense, but there must be a change in mindset when he’s out, instead of just handing the keys to the 34 year old veteran.

– Open space not being utilized

As Dragic clears to the corner early in the play, take a look at the amount of space Adebayo is given to operate. More importantly, look at the wide open space at the free throw line, which is his favorite spot to dribble toward for a pull-up jumper.

In the first quarter, a major issue was getting Adebayo his touches, since the offense was not working through him in any way. But as the game progressed, they began to feed the ball to him in his spots, but he didn’t look to take advantage of it, leading to Kelly Olynyk kick-outs in a crowded space.

Now, take a look at this play on the same side of the floor. Do you see anything similar? Do you see anything different?

Well, I do. The similarities I see is that there’s wide open space at the free throw line, as the team clears out in any way possible for him to operate. The only difference is that he actually attacked that spot in this game.

There are a lot of factors to this overall situation other than his personal aggression, since some can point to game-plan. In this Brooklyn game, it seemed as if the offensive plan was to give the ball to the best player on your team, and allow him to play freely in open space.

But not only did that game-plan not occur yesterday, Adebayo didn’t seem to want it that way either.

– Lack of aggression leads to careless turnovers

It’s never important to just highlight a single turnover during a game, but it is essential when evaluating the reason for the turnover.

The reason this occurred is due to Adebayo’s passive ways late in games. 7 minutes left in the game, down by 2, 12 seconds on the shot clock. And yet, he’s still trying to create offense for others in these offensive sets.

The pass was clearly careless, but the pass isn’t the issue here. It’s the fact that he’s facing the Hawks bench at this point in the game without Jimmy Butler.

– Late game initiative non-apparent

Take a look at the end of this play, when Gabe Vincent clears the ball out to the wing with 7 seconds left on the shot clock.

Adebayo had a chance to call for the ball to make a play, while Vincent could clear out, but instead he looked indecisive if he wanted to set the screen or get the pass. Although Herro almost converted on that reverse layup, your two-way player shouldn’t be the one attacking to make a play late in the game.

One more time, let’s take a look at what happens in a game where he has a scoring mindset. He gets a cleared out side of the floor here as well, and takes his defender off the dribble, leading to a converted tough jumper.

This just shows that he’s capable of making plays like this when it matters, but that indecisiveness kicks in at times and throws everything off. There’s a reason that on nights when the jumper is falling, he makes a bunch. It’s because when he sees one go in and realizes what he is capable of, he is a hard guy to stop.

But it’s clear the only guy that can stop Bam Adebayo is Bam Adebayo.

– Once again, watching the offense instead of being the offense

Lastly, just watch Adebayo on this play. Atlanta just went on an 11-1 run, so it seems like now is the time for Adebayo to step up and try to create offense. Except, the complete opposite occurred.

He sets a screen for Dragic, then fades to the opposite baseline. For the next 10 seconds, he stood in place in that exact spot, while Andre Iguodala, Dragic, Herro, and Nunn ran in circles to find open space.

This play pretty much sums up my entire point about his aggression this game. When it’s a game without Butler, dribble penetration late in games fades away, but that shouldn’t lead to Iguodala post-ups into contested dribble hand-offs.

Once he realizes it himself in game speed, instead of post-game media sessions, it’ll be the biggest leap in his game to this point. The weaknesses in his game are very limited, which is why this final barrier is the part many people are awaiting to be broken.

2 replies
  1. Matt
    Matt says:


    Thanks for the article, but I don’t agree.

    Bam is not capable of creating good offense 1 on 1 or in space. In 2 of 3 plays above in which bam was not aggressive, the heat got layup attempts (they missed them both but Nunn and herro hit those shots well more than 50% of the time). The Nunn contested three was a bad possession but that will happen when you don’t have above average or elite shot creators. The Dragic baseline drive led to a 3 for robinson which is a good shot for heat even if contested.

    In the 2 plays bam played with aggression, he took two contested midrange jumpers he hits less 50% of the time. Those are not good shots other than end of clock desperation. They shouldn’t target those plays.

    Bam can’t create good offense. He doesn’t have the handle or dribble package to get past man into lane or draw fouls. Nor is he an off the bounce 3pt shooter. Maybe he will develop that over time but he doesn’t have it now. He is an all star, but he’s an offensive role player reliant on others to create good shots for him.

    Heat are much better off relying on Dragic, Herro, Nunn using off-ball screens, DHOs, or PnRs to create offense when Jimmy is out. The heat and bam would look a lot better with another iso or pnr shot creator, but those players are very hard to get.


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