Jimmy Butler-Bam Adebayo Two-Man Game: Finding a Base

After a much needed win at home against the Clippers, the Heat showed off the ultimate blueprint with Bam Adebayo leading the way as the offensive force, while Jimmy Butler closed it out late when most needed.

But more importantly, they did it together.

While these two top guys have showed they can make late playoff runs together as the primary threats, the two-man game just has never seemed to click.

Defenders go under on the Butler screen, playing a lot more 2-on-2, compared to the usual 2-on-1 seen within a pick and roll like Tyler Herro and Bam Adebayo.

There also falls a lot of weight on the pull-up jumper of Jimmy Butler, which is never a regular season reliable factor.

But against the Clippers, it almost seemed like the Heat found a very minor trend that shifted the looks they would get out of that action. Yes, it helps that you were getting aggressive Adebayo. Yes, it helps that after Butler missed his first two shots of the game, he didn’t miss the rest of the night. But still, there was a moment of realization.

Take a look at this possession as an example. Marcus Morris fights over the screen and stays right at the hip of Butler in an empty corner PnR. As I stated before, they aren’t playing in space, since it’s a 2-on-2 match inside the arc at this point.

He hits Bam in the pocket for the contested floater, which bounces off the front of the rim.

What was the main problem? Well, go back and watch the speed that Bam slips out of that screen.

While it’s clear that the quick burst and speedy roll fits the style of a Herro or Lowry PnR, that is mst definitely not the case when Butler is head of the action. He’s more methodical, reactionary, and slow-paced.

Not holding that screen a second longer just throws off the entire two-man pairing on this possession. So, let me show what that actually looks like…

Same set-up. Bam gives the hand-off to Butler, who reverses back into an empty corner PnR. Paul George begins to fight over the screen in similar fashion, except Bam just holds positioning for that extra second.

That’s big time.

Butler loops around baseline, basically forcing Zubac to fly up at him which pulls him out of position. Gives a slight pump-fake, Bam dives down the right slot, and it’s an easy feed for the Bam dunk.

We can talk chemistry. We can talk skill-set. We can talk coverages. But I’m serious: it is all about the timing when it comes to this pairing.

While this is the blueprint against a deep drop, there are also new counters to switching. Going back to that recent game against the Celtics in Boston, both Adebayo and Butler found real comfort off those switches in different ways.

Butler spammed the Al Horford switch late in that game to close it out, but Adebayo was also sealing off the smaller wing player as seen in the clip above.

After the switch occurs, Butler immediately stops in his tracks to point at Bam to post-up for the entry pass. He catches it, faces up, and turns into a strong drive to draw the foul, which was a crucial play in that game under a minute to go in overtime.

But to further my point on the Butler-Bam connection rising, go back and watch that clip again. But don’t watch Bam this time on the catch, just keep your eyes on Butler.

As soon as Bam gets in position to burst down the lane, Butler sprints back out to clear-out Horford from providing weak-side help. These are the needed elements to make this Heat offense work so smoothly.

While we talk so often about how elite the Herro-Bam PnR has consistently been since the middle of the season last year, would you believe me if I told you the Butler-Bam PnR has been better statistically this year?

Of course the Herro-Bam pairing almost doubles the volume of Butler and Bam, but the point still stands: Herro-Bam PnR puts up 1.25 points per possession, while the Butler-Bam PnR is putting up 1.28 PPP.

This isn’t to overly analyze and compare these two, but it really showcases just how efficient these guys have been in that set. By far the best we’ve seen since Butler landed in Miami a few seasons ago.

Since we’re talking specifics, we’ve also seen a new set Miami has been getting to, trying to maximize Butler and Bam together when one of them is not in the action.

Let’s start with last night (looking at the clip above): Butler clears to the dunker spot as Herro and Bam ease into a normal PnR. Herro feeds it to Bam right in the pocket, which looks like his go-to jumper is making a return yet again, right?


Butler notices George overly-orchestrating on the weak-side, as he flips dunker spots and Bam hits him for the easy push shot at the rim.

You may be thinking: this isn’t a planned thing, that’s just a coincidental play with the defense falling asleep. So let’s back it up a game further:

Heat open the second half in Memphis with the need to create some positive offense. It was a night where Butler was no where near aggressive, so they run this immediately.

Ball in the hands of Bam, Butler sets a pin-down for Herro to fly off, as Lowry loops into a back-screen for Butler to drift baseline.

Bam is baiting the defense left already, as he hits Butler for the easy baseline fadeaway. Once again, this is all the intention to try and keep Bam in the action as much as possible, while forcing Butler into that dunker spot roaming mode.

But it doesn’t stop here, let’s go back even further:

Now we’re back to the Boston game. Under a minute to go in regulation, Lowry and Bam run a pick and roll. Butler yet again notices Grant Williams fall asleep as he stations in the dunker spot, before flipping his spot again for the easy floater at the rim.

The exact play from the Clippers game that I showed previously.

They’re finding ways to not only maximize Butler and Adebayo within the action, but also finding some actions that don’t simply leave one of the two stars in spot-up mode.

In terms of this Heat team as a whole right now, they need a lot more from their role players/bench to truly push forward into more wins in this regular season.

But the Heat’s top guys finding a way to balance each other in the half-court together: that’s a development that was not expected by any means.

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