Team USA fell short on Sunday morning against France, which may seem like a shocking result, but isn’t if you’ve been keeping up. The same issues have stayed in tact, while Bam Adebayo shined early as the leading scorer in the first half.
Aside from two missed free throws late, he put them in a position to compete offensively, while we all know what he does defensively.
Now, the focus of this article will be on Adebayo, even though I usually highlight the Nigeria bunch, in Gabe Vincent, KZ Okpala, and Precious Achiuwa. Due to the inability of getting video clips from that game, here’s a few things to note…
Vincent struggled from deep in this game, which will continue to be the thing to watch considering a spot on a Heat team. Shooting is the strength that must remain his strength, so consistency must be a top attribute of his to take that next leap.
Achiuwa looked like he had a decent game in the box score, but if you watched the game, the struggles were apparent as well. He had some good defensive possessions, but the overarching theme was turnovers. I’ve talked about his body control and game speed needing to slow down a bit, but it looked to take a few steps back in the game this morning.
Lastly, Okpala pretty much looked the exact same as he did in the exhibition games. Placed into a role as a spot-up guy who isn’t truly capable of being a threat, while mixing in some attacks. He had a good bucket to begin the game on a drive, but other than that, he just can’t get downhill at all. Deficiency of moves, lack of a quick step, and more seems to be the issues, which leaves people awaiting for some type of offensive flash.
So, back to Adebayo and team USA, let’s dive into some positive things that stood out from him alone, since well, this USA team shares the same flaws as the Heat: soft switching, lack of rebounding, no point guard, etc…
Soft Touch in the Interior
The mid-range was a close friend of his in this game to start, which was what got him into double figures rather quickly in the first half. An open shot a few feet away from the rim doesn’t seem important to note, but it is.
For one, he wasn’t supposed to be anything close to a leading scorer with the talent this team has, but the reliance on him has risen since the struggles began. With some extra attempts, we’ve seen more of an urge to mix in more than just a regular jumper.
Last season, the jumper fell frequently, but it didn’t matter where he was on the floor, he was flowing into that shot. Throwing in some post hooks and one-hand push shots has been a normal thing with team USA, and it’s effective due to outstanding touch.
Free throw line jumpers are fun to watch go in, but the true dominance will occur when he can do stuff in the area above. A consistent go-to in that spot of the court can change some things for his game, which will only become more and more lethal, the farther he expands his offensive game.
Necessary Transition Offense
If you asked me what a primary reason is for the USA’s offensive struggles, I’d probably start with the lack of transition offense. Thinking back to past USA teams, fast-break opportunities was the theme of the offense. Lob passes, full-court dimes, flashy dunks.
But now, it’s turned into slowed pacing in the half-court, which it has shown that doesn’t favor this team.
Not only could Adebayo come into play here with his passing ability down court, but he can be the transition initiator. He’s faster than any big that he matches up with in these games, which is the real advantage for him.
As he pushes the pace in the play above, he uses his strength to his advantage. A quick bump on Rudy Gobert gives him more than enough space for the lay-in.
Although we’re discussing this in an Olympic sense, we can easily relate this back to Miami. I’ve mentioned many times that Adebayo will need to run the break much more than he already does with the Heat, since he continued to look for Jimmy Butler or others in those situations.
These are perfect reps for him to grow comfortable in that space, and that confidence would rise if it was actually effective for this unit. That is how this team can truly thrive, and that all starts with creating offense on the defensive end.
Adebayo is the Offensive Action
This team has basically shown that running offensive sets isn’t important. News flash: it is.
Isolation ball just won’t cut it, especially when the team continues to struggle from the perimeter. Some diversified sets will need to be thrown in, and the only time we seem to see anything close to that is when Adebayo is in the game.
He is the offensive set.
For one, the pocket pass has become their way of facilitating offense and forcing a defense into a rotational frenzy. In the play above, Adebayo receives the pass as the defender rotates over for the tag from the corner, but he patiently waits before rising up for a bucket.
The usual outcome of these plays is a simple kick-out for three, since that is the role of Adebayo. It’s also the way I would expect him to be used when the Heat get a point guard, due to that truly maximizing his passing abilities. It allows him to create on the move, which means he’s making decisions instinctively where he thrives.
Yes, I may harp on Miami needing that simple pocket pass team USA uses, but it seems team USA needs some of those actions that the Heat use. Motion offense would truly change the way this team plays, due to them just ball watching at the moment.
But what are those sets they could take from Miami?
We’ve seen some DHO’s with Adebayo and Kevin Durant, which should be utilized constantly with each of those guys’ abilities. He hands it off and pivots into a down screen, giving Durant more than enough room to pull the three for a bucket.
It doesn’t seem complicated. The team just needs some type of structure. Some type of go-to. And that go-to up to this point has been Adebayo, mostly because they trust him to make the right decision as a passer. Other than Draymond Green and himself, they miss that option.
Honestly, if Adebayo is the leading scorer in a first half like that, it mostly means that team USA isn’t in a great spot. He’s the bail out option, and he did just that early on. It’s promising to see him at this point in his career as a primary option when things get tough, but the true impact from him will come when others are doing their part and hitting shots.
Hounding Perimeter Defense
Lastly, I do want to touch on his defense in this game, as it was pretty impactful on the perimeter. Much like the conversations we have had in the past with the Heat, the soft switching with Adebayo on the perimeter can hurt the team at times.
Yes, Adebayo can lock up that perimeter player, as he did many times today, but these teams are very good at feeding the mismatch. That means, getting the ball inside to the bigs who are being defended by a guard.
In Miami, a lot of the over-switching happened with Adebayo, but in these games, everybody switches for no reason. It’s almost as if it’s the complete game-plan, which leads to second half runs from these opposing well coached teams.
Aside from the negative aspect to the scheme, Adebayo did his part today on that end, continuing to blanket any match-up that was in front of him. Looking at the clip above, you can see what that type of stuff leads to. It eliminates any dribble penetration from the two guys in the hand-off, while it ends in a three which is the result team USA is hoping for.
Once again, Adebayo has been a focal point on both ends so far in these games, which is why he was in the game to finish early this morning. This game may not have had many positives, especially with Adebayo’s missed free throws down the stretch, but his ability to adjust with this type of team and be effective is very impressive.
Even if you aren’t seeing much change in his game, he is growing. And the Heat have to be watching this and picking up the phone to improve their team back in Miami.
Everything Tradeshows is a one-stop-shop for trade show exhibit rentals and custom exhibit display purchase solutions to companies of all sizes.