Could Bam Adebayo End Up Returning to an Altered Defensive Scheme?

We’ve been seeing a recent Heat trend on the defensive end. One that has translated to wins against top tier Eastern Conference talent.

The reason for the abrupt change. Well, just look back to December 1st at 3 pm when it was reported that Bam Adebayo would be out for the next 4 to 6 weeks with a torn UCL in his right thumb.

That one report caused an immediate schematic shift on the defensive side of the ball, as Miami not only lost their versatile defensive base, but a league candidate for defensive player of the year.

Up to that point, the Heat were known for their strong ability to switch. And at times, maybe even a little bit too much. A screen comes as a pick and roll is run between the point guard and center, while Adebayo finds himself locking up the opposing teams ball-handler, and the ball is simultaneously making its way around the perimeter and into the hands of a big with a guard on his back.

That description is looking at things through a microscope, since although that was the case many possessions, good things came out of it as well. But the key to it working usually meant a healthy roster had to be surrounding him. Guys like Jimmy Butler and PJ Tucker had to be out there to make it fully effective, which leads to all indications pointing toward a playoff style mentality.

Fast forward to this point in time without Adebayo, the Heat are peaking on the defensive side of the ball, essentially without their two best defenders. How is that happening?

Well, for obvious reasons due to personnel, they’ve gone away from that total switching for most of the game.

Zone defenses were seen more and more in the beginning of the December, but even that has been aborted over this past week. It’s simple: it is just straight man on man, while mixing up drop coverage and blitzing when a true big man, like Dewayne Dedmon or Omer Yurtseven, are on the floor.


This play-style means that you’re able to dictate where the ball goes, instead of the offense dictating things as the slower big is planted in that drop coverage down low. As seen above, Yurtseven blitzes out, two passes are made before it finds the rolling big, and Yurtseven is there to blanket Tony Bradley in the post.

The most important part about going this route is the much easier spot you’re putting guys like Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson in. You may think covering the ground of two guys is harder than straight up switching, but it quickly becomes muscle memory to tag and recover.

And frankly, many of the “weaker” defenders on the roster are positionally sound, which caters to this style of play.


Now, with all of that said, will these strong bases just get thrown out the window once Adebayo returns from injury in the near future?

I don’t believe so.

In my opinion, to maximize the switching on a team that’ll eventually run a lineup of Lowry-Oladipo-Butler-Tucker-Adebayo, it must be the complement instead of the only go-to in high leverage situations.

A perfect example is what we’ve seen as of late with the players available. Miami runs a bunch of drop to begin the game with Dedmon, quickly shifts to some zone as the bench guards enter, and ultimately land right back in switching when the Okpala-Tucker front-court pairing gets some extended run.

That’s the formula with a healthy roster.

Bam Adebayo isn’t just a good defender because he can lock up your favorite player on the perimeter. He’s actually in defensive player of the year conversations because he can read things on that end of the floor at an advanced speed, while he finally has a guy by his side to call them out for others, in PJ Tucker.

If you want to see Adebayo swarm offensive talents from a night to night basis, never let them get comfortable with a single defensive structure. You can still allow Bam to switch, but don’t restrict him from those blitzes that we saw above, who can recover at double the speed Dedmon or Yurtseven can.

These options that I’m discussing are the exact reason this Heat team is in a much better spot in the big picture this season than last year. That team didn’t have options. Even when looking at the Bucks playoff match-up, they didn’t even have more than 1 Giannis Antetokounmpo defender, and that guy was Bam.

Now, this team is an advanced version of the bubble team on the defensive end. They have bodies to throw at star players like Antetokounmpo or Durant, they have increased perimeter defensive talent, and most importantly as I stated before, they have added defensive weapons for Coach Erik Spoelstra to utilize within the scheme.

Change is coming.

Adebayo going down sounded like the worst news in the world for the Heat when you first heard it. But it may turn into a guy who gets added rest for a two month period with that knee that’s been bothering him, and gives Miami some added clarity on that side of the ball.

The defensive player of the year award may be out the equation by now, but Adebayo is eyeing something much bigger.


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1 reply
  1. Robert Lynch
    Robert Lynch says:

    Don’t think Olapido will start. Herro and he will be 1st & 2nd off bench. Spo won’t give up on Duncan this yr. Other than that I agree with the starting lineup. The question is will Spo play 2 big men together when needed? I don’t think so. With Dedmon or Omer as 3rd man coming with Jimmy or PJ out, for the playoffs, that’s a tight 8 man rotation with Strus, if you need O and Caleb if D added in. Spo won’t do it. It will be Vincent getting the mins.


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