The Miami Heat are 12-5 this season when Bam Adebayo attempts 7 or more free throws, and well, one of those 17 games was last night.
When I asked Jimmy Butler about the difference in offense when Adebayo is attacking like that, he responded, “He’s damn near unguardable whenever he’s playing like that, because now, you get into the paint, everybody’s gotta help. Now, you’re kicking it out to your shooters. We want him to play like that.”
There are many reasons that everybody wants him to play like that. For one, as shown earlier, it translates to wins, which it’s pretty hard to find things relating to wins with the Miami Heat this season. But more importantly, it takes a lot of weight off the guy talking about him, Jimmy Butler.
Butler has plenty of stretches of complete takeover mode, while Adebayo’s list of moments have been a lot shorter, and frankly, his list of well rounded attributes are a lot longer.
Now, the well known reason for that is that’s not Adebayo’s game. As Butler illustrated last night, when continuing to speak about Adebayo, “The crazy part is that he’s a pass first player, so as soon as he gets in there, he’s probably looking to pass before he’s looking to dunk on somebody like he did tonight.”
And that right there is the one hurdle many are aware Adebayo is awaiting to leap over. He has the improved jumper. He has the ball handle. He has the quickness and versatility. He has any possible attribute that you’d want in your star player, but it’s time for the primary passing element to be knocked down to secondary.
These flashes of energy he provides with the nightly put-back posters are basically an introduction to that, while the jab step blow bys are the real story teller when watching a game progress.
The thing about his description is that everything people say about Adebayo, has been said about Butler. He has moments that he’s too passive. He has moments where he must rely solely on “bully ball” and getting to the rim. And of course, neither skip a beat on the defensive end.
When discussing Butler’s passive stretches at times, he’s countered that with takeover and dominant stints to will the team to win, and that’s the one obstacle that is much more mental than it is physical for Adebayo to overcome.
To continue on the defensive end, when I asked Butler about Adebayo’s defensive impact a few night’s ago, he said, “He takes the challenge of being able to guard whoever in this league…Around here, we know he’s really good at it. It’s not always him getting a stop or a block, it’s tough to have to be in a spot and help, then close somebody out and be able to guard them. I think that’s what people really overlook.”
Every detail of the picture Butler paints is exactly correct. The switching defense forces him to guard probably every player on the floor at one point or another throughout 48 minutes of basketball, and he continues to humble opponents with his suffocating perimeter defense.
Although the free throw attempts and late and-1’s were harped on after the win against the Spurs, his defense last night was absolutely terrific, and really forced San Antonio into a lot of their droughts.
The point of all of this is that Butler notices some of the things about Adebayo that he doesn’t realize himself. The truth is that he is “damn near unguardable,” but it comes down to him putting himself into enough scoring positions that he truly gravitates toward that label.
“We want him and need him to be that way,” Butler said. But now it’s up to Adebayo to want to be that way, and then the “no ceiling” title will be in full effect.