Soft switching, reluctant shooting, DHO over-usage. When watching Bam Adebayo closely, it leaves you highlighting some of his weaknesses, but it’s necessary to constantly step out of that box.
Why is there such a focus on the negatives with him in particular? Well, he’s special. Really special.
Sometimes harping on a lot of these things, that a now 24 year old has in his bag, just isn’t the right way to go about it. He’s beat all of the odds to get to this point, so what makes you think a few minor bumps in the road won’t be tweaked?
Looking back to when he started with the Miami Heat, not only was the selection debatable, but the role he was being put in was debatable. Adding a guy with the 14th pick in the draft that looks to be a rim runner with defensive versatility wouldn’t seem to be enough to reach elite status.
But then came the leap.
In comes Jimmy Butler, and up goes Adebayo. This isn’t to say that Butler is responsible for that type of skill-set expansion, but the timing was right. In the middle of some good looking jumps in his game, Covid-19 came into play, which rocked the boat for all 30 NBA teams.
A couple months down the line, a bubble is formed and a Miami Heat run is started. The focus may have been on role player dominance, a Goran Dragic revival, and a Butler statement, but Adebayo was the glue. And that would be the answer of anybody on that 2019-2020 squad.
A little more confidence in his jumper led to taking on the vocal role that Udonis Haslem always wanted him to, before arriving at the play in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals that still gets brought up to this day. As Mark Jones said on the broadcast, “Tatum out in front. Clock at 7. Working against Butler, got downhill. Couldn’t punch it. Bam says get it out of here.”
In that moment, the perception flipped. It wasn’t just the Miami locals realizing what this young man is doing, but people all over the NBA world began to take notice. Not only does he have the talent of many of the league’s young stars, but he has the grit and work ethic of some of the most known players that wore “Heat” across their chest.
After making it to the NBA Finals, injuries struck, and disappointment followed. It left many questioning, what would’ve happened if they had a healthy unit? But a more important question to ask, how would a healthy Adebayo benefited from that type of environment?
He got a slight taste of it, but clearly, he wasn’t at 100%.
A quick turnaround is the outcome into the 2020-2021 NBA season, awaiting the next step of Adebayo’s career. But yet again, adversity strikes. Many of the Heat’s players in and out of the lineup for Covid protocols didn’t give him the best chance to grow in a functional offensive and defensive scheme.
On some nights, those negative questions that can be had came into play. Why hasn’t Adebayo stepped up as the guy when others have gone down? Well, then January 23rd happened.
A new big three has just been formed in Brooklyn, as a Miami Heat team with no Butler strolls into Barclays Center. Expectations were low.
But every quarter that went by, the expectations of the game rose higher and higher. What led to this unexpected shift? The guy that has been given the nickname “no ceiling.”
A 41 point masterpiece fell short in the win column, but it definitely was a W in the development column. Step-back jumpers, and-1 finishes, and off-the-dribble dominance reassured the NBA world that the nickname is no joke.
Recency bias takes us into the present moment, which has many thinking about that first round sweep by the Milwaukee Bucks, who are currently one game away from an NBA championship.
Yes, there were down moments in that series for Adebayo. But there were also down moments from the rest of the Miami Heat’s roster. After two consecutive seasons felt like a run-on sentence, it actually looked more like relief than disappointment.
Of course this organization doesn’t take losing lightly, but in some ways, charging back up with a new roster for the next season didn’t sound like the worst thing in the world.
When talking about perceptions, this can be viewed from two different angles: the public and the league. Although I’ve talked about the ways most observers view him, it’s really amazing how much respect fellow NBA players have for him. On Team USA, guys like Draymond Green, Zach LaVine, and others realize how special he is on the court, which is when the unselfishness becomes a major positive in the big picture.
He’s had an adventurous run up to this point, but it’s far from over. Game-saving blocks, Team USA post-game interviews, and the NBA Finals by year 4 should not be taken lightly.
And although everything is about the ‘now’ with the Miami Heat, they have a certain gem that can take them as far as he chooses. Being that he just turned 24 today, there are still years upon years until he reaches his final form.
But for now, just sit back at times and realize that critiquing so thoroughly isn’t always necessary. He’s ahead of schedule in many ways, but he treats each day, game, and practice as if he’s behind schedule.
That’s why he is a winner. That’s why he is a member of the Miami Heat.
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