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Best Heat Draft Picks

5 Best Heat Draft Picks of All-Time

The Miami Heat hold a checkered history when it comes to the NBA Draft. Whittling down the list to the five best Heat draft picks of all-time can be difficult, though there are some obvious choices.

With first round picks often flipped for veteran players, the number of years draft night held any intrigue in Miami remains small. In 33 seasons, the Heat held a spot in the draft lottery 14 times (not including 1988). Two of those lottery selections were shipped to other clubs prior to the draft. Five times, draft night came and went without a pick from the Heat (’96, ’06, ’13, ’16 and ’18). On seven other occasions, Miami made only second round selections (’93, ’98, ’00, ’01, ’09, ’10 and ’11).

Miami has made 58 draft selections over the years. But only two players drafted by the franchise have become NBA All-Stars in a Heat uniform. More often than not, draft picks provide momentary hope, before becoming assets sent to other teams for other stars.

So here’s a look at the five best Heat draft picks of All-Time.

 

Best Heat Draft Picks: Josh Richardson (2015, 40th overall)

Best Heat Draft Picks

Tennessee’s Josh Richardson / Credit: UT Athletics

The Miami Heat have a long track record of developing talent. The list of undrafted free agent success stories is a long one. But the team’s success rate on second round picks remains less favorable. Of the Heat’s 58 draft picks all-time, 34 have come in the second round. The best of those picks came in 2015, when the Heat selected Josh Richardson with the 40th overall selection.

A 6-5 combo guard out of Tennessee, Richardson went on to play four years in Miami. Richardson’s metrics improved with each season as he became a staple in the Heat’s rotation. His 419 career three-pointers made rank 10th all-time in franchise history. Sometimes miscast as a playmaker, Richardson remained a reliable defender throughout his time with the Heat. Richardson headlined the trade package that landed Miami Jimmy Butler in 2019.

Even though he was the 40th pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, Richardson stands among the most productive players from that draft class. He’s top-10 from that class in Win Shares (20.3). And his 4.1 VORP (Value over Replacement Player) ranks 12th among the 60 selections, 20 slots ahead of Miami’s other selection that season, Justise Winslow.

Related: Some Possible Undrafted Gems that Miami Should Have their Eyes On

 

Best Heat Draft Picks: Rony Seikaly (1988, 9th overall)

Best Heat Draft Picks

June 28, 1988 the Heat made the 1st pick in team history, choosing Rony Seikaly 9th pick in the NBA Draft. (via: Miami Heat Instagram)

Rony Seikaly’s name remains forever etched in Heat history. The first ever draft selection by the franchise, Seikaly proved to be a valuable cornerstone player in Miami’s early years.

The ninth overall selection of the 1988 NBA Draft, Seikaly played six seasons with the Heat. He averaged 15.4 points-per-game and 10.4 rebounds-per-game, and won NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 1990. Seikaly anchored Miami’s first playoff teams and his name still dots the top-10 in 22 statistical categories.

But a falling out with then-managing partners Lewis Schaffel and Billy Cunningham ultimately paved the way for a franchise-altering rebuild. Seikaly was shipped off to Golden State for Sasha Danilović and Billy Owens on November 2, 1994. That deal was quickly followed with another that saw Steve Smith and Grant Long sent to Atlanta. Suddenly, the initial promising young core in Heat history was no more.

Seikaly finished his career as the second-best rebounder and eighth-best scorer from the 1988 class. Ironically, the Heat rostered the top three rebounders from this class, including the overall leader Anthony Mason and Long. In a redraft of that class, Seikaly could arguably go as high as fifth.

 

Best Heat Draft Picks: Bam Adebayo (2017, 14th overall)

Best Heat Draft Picks

Bam Adebayo and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 22, 2017. (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Heat landed in the 2017 NBA lottery despite the 30-11 second-half. Miami found itself eliminated from the playoffs on the final day of the regular season, missing out thanks to a tie-breaker. And although that 30-11 run mucked up the Heat’s salary cap for years to come after some (highly) questionable free agent decisions, the Heat landed one of the franchise’s best and most impactful draft picks of all-time.

Bam Adebayo came to Miami via the 14th overall selection in 2017 NBA Draft. And although the move was panned by many at the time, Adebayo has grown into a franchise cornerstone in the intervening years. Only he and Dwyane Wade boast All-Star bids as draftees of the Heat. He’s also a two-time All-Defensive player and one of five in Heat history to make the Team USA’s Olympics roster. If he remains with the club long-term, there’s no doubt Adebayo’s name will rewrite the franchise record book.

As it stands right now, Adebayo ranks first from the 2017 class in Win Shares, ahead of Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell and all the others. He’s second in VORP. There’s no doubt Adebayo, the 14th pick overall, would be in the top-3 in a 2017 redraft.

 

Best Heat Draft Picks: Glen Rice (1989, 4th overall)

Best Heat Draft Picks

(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Coming off an inaugural campaign that saw the Heat win just 15 games, Miami landed its first true star in the 1989 NBA Draft. The Heat labored through that first season, playing in the Western Conference as part of the Midwest division with Dallas, Denver, Houston, San Antonio and Utah. And despite having the worst record in the league by five games, the Heat slipped to fourth the draft lottery. The Kings, Clippers and Spurs all jumped Miami in the draft order.

But what resulted is arguably the second best Heat draft pick of all-time: Glen Rice. The face of the franchise for six seasons, Rice lead Miami’s young franchise to its first playoff berths and winning season. He became the Heat’s first-ever 20-point-per-game scorer and would have been the NBA Rookie of the Year had 1987 draft pick David Robinson not missed his first two seasons for military service.

A three-time All-Star and one-time NBA Champ (albeit not with the Heat), Rice won the NBA Three-Point Shootout in 1995, the first of four Heat players to do so. Rice remains among the franchise top-10 in 26 different statistical categories, including top-3 in scoring (9,248). Rice became the centerpiece in Pat Riley’s trade for Alonzo Mourning on November 3, 1995.

Rice ranks fourth among the 1989 draftees in Win Shares (88.7) and fifth in VORP (24.9). But in a redraft of that class, Rice arguably goes first overall. That class also featured a great second round pick by Miami in Sherman Douglas. Heat legend Tim Hardaway also entered the NBA that year, going 14th to Golden State.

 

Best Heat Draft Picks: Dwyane Wade (2003, 5th overall)

Best Heat Draft Picks

(Victor Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

This one goes without saying. The Heat landed Wade with the fifth overall selection in the loaded 2003 NBA Draft, arguably the league’s best draft class of all-time.

The lottery sported all the intrigue that year, considering the hype surrounding then-high school phenom LeBron James. Miami finished the 2002 season with the fourth-worst record in the league, but saw themselves pushed down in the draft order when Memphis jumped to the No. 2 overall pick.

Unfortunately for Memphis, their pick was only lottery-protected if it landed No. 1. So, thanks to an ill-fated 1997 trade as the then-Vancouver Grizzlies for Otis Thorpe, it went to Detroit. The Pistons, meanwhile, used the second overall selection to surprisingly take Darko Miličić. Carmelo Anthony went to Denver, Chris Bosh to Toronto. Wade landed right in the Heat’s lap.

This fortuitous turn of events altered the trajectory of the Heat franchise and really NBA history. Had Miami not been jumped in the draft order, Riley might have taken Bosh over Wade. There was even talk of Chris Kaman being the selection at five. Thankfully, Wade was the pick.

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Among that class, Wade ranks second in Win Shares (120.7) and VORP (62.8). There’s no doubt he’d be the second overall selection in a 2003 redraft. Wade ranks first among Heat career leaders in 19 statistical categories and among the top-10 in 17 others.

Three championships and countless memories later, Wade remains the only player ever drafted by Miami to have his number retired. He stands atop the list of the Heat’s best draft picks of all-time.

Related: Answering Your Questions: What is Next for the Miami Heat?

Evaluating the Ups and Downs of the Olympic-Heat Players Tuesday Night

After another night of Olympic basketball, the story-lines are flooded with teams consisting of young Miami Heat players. Nigeria fell yet again to Germany, which puts their hopes for a medal in a very interesting spot.

Bam Adebayo and Team USA, on the other hand, took care of business against Iran. Although the stat-sheet wasn’t screaming Adebayo’s name, there are definitely things that were seen which can carry over to his play-style in a Miami Heat jersey.

While two out of the four players showcased more negative than positive on Tuesday night, let’s start out with the two guys that had more positive flashes…..

Precious Achiuwa:

Physical Attacks

Achiuwa definitely had his moments in this game, but it definitely wasn’t as smooth as the games back in Las Vegas. At that time, everything he did looked effortless on the offensive end, but as time progressed, more and more things looked forced.

One area of his game that wasn’t being forced was when he had a head of steam going to the basket. As I’ve highlighted in the past, the game has slowed down for him a bit since his rookie season. The reason I say that is due to the extra patience on screens in the high pick and roll.

Usually he would sprint to the basket on the dive for a possible lob, but now he has realized that the pocket pass may benefit him more on many possessions. And well, the stuff he’s been able to do off that reception has been impressive.

On the play above, he slips the screen after the defenders blitz the ball-handler, and it leads to a wide open lane for a slam. A few minutes later, we got to see more of those physical drives in transition.

To reiterate previous points, these weren’t the outcomes on fast-break opportunities for Achiuwa last season. His ability to finally control his body when moving at a high speed is something that changes his game offensively. As seen on the replay in the second clip, he uses his wide frame to take the contact and finish at the rim for the and-1.

Instead of using pump-fakes and retreat dribbles to shy away from contact, he has been embracing it. Combining that with a much improved handle on the perimeter, which he has gotten plenty of reps with as Nigeria’s point guard at times, leads to a guy with major upside on that end of the floor. He’s making subtle improvements on the offensive end, and that’s what an off-season does for a young prospect like himself.

Caught in the Air

To mention one negative takeaway from his performance yesterday, there were some defensive lapses in one specific area. He has actually looked great on that end throughout this whole period, especially on the perimeter against guards as he gives them the “Adebayo treatment.”

Aside from that, he just falls for fakes way too often in the interior, which leads to him throwing his body completely into a block or contest. That resulted in foul trouble yesterday, and it feels like that’s been a recurring theme for some time now.

Even on the perimeter at times, the slightest pump-fake outside the arc gets him in the air. This isn’t a huge deal in the big picture, since that can very easily be tweaked, but it seems like that’ll need to be straightened out pretty soon to avoid that in an NBA environment.

Bam Adebayo:

Transition Dominance

Onto Bam Adebayo’s performance, something I’ve touched on in many pieces in the past was utilized early in this game: transition offense. He’s going to be quicker than any big he faces in these games, which means getting out on the break for the outlet pass can be so effective for Team USA.

He had two possessions early in yesterday’s game where easy transition points were the outcome, and I feel that this could be the case next season with the Heat. Of course it’s not because of the same point here with being quicker than other players, but it opens up the floor and maximizes his offensive ability.

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A point guard will definitely clean up half-court struggles, but getting a shifty, speedy, and versatile big with a handle sprinting down the floor with defenders on their heels seems like a pretty beneficial option. He’s gotten comfortable looking for guys like Jimmy Butler or Goran Dragic on the break, where he must realize now that he’s the true x-factor in this situation.

Clips like the one above are just easy buckets with nobody in front of him, but I’m talking more about possessions where a defense is scrambling to set-up. Faking a DHO, using a dribble combo, or bull dozing his way toward the rim can all be used to eliminate the consistent half-court retreat.

Defensive Diversity

I feel like I’ve discussed every major defensive staple from Adebayo in these games so far, so why stop now? He looked the same with his dominance on the perimeter against guards, where they believe they forced a mismatch early in the first quarter, before realizing it’s just the opposite.

He had his hands full on the block yesterday, but those are great reps to go through so he can grow more comfortable against bigger guys. There’s still some unknown if that’ll be his duty next season if Miami adds a small ball 4, or if that task will be passed onto a stretch big at the 5.

Either way, plays like the one above only occur with pure athletic and determined defenders. Slowly trailing the ball-handler who believes he has a one-on-one opportunity, before blocking it from behind for the stop.

We can sit here and highlight the biggest strengths of his defensive skill-set, perimeter clamps and help-side tagging, but he’s more diverse than I believe most people think. His build just isn’t normal with the attributes he has available to him, which makes him so intriguing as a player once everything else fully comes together.

Gabe Vincent:

Shooting Consistency Question Marks

Gabe Vincent was an interesting story for Nigeria last night. He came out firing from deep, scoring 8 points with two catch and shoot threes shown above and a nice pull-up 2 off the dribble.

You may think that sounds like a fantastic game for him, but shooting consistency continues to be harped on following the hot start. After those 2 triples early on, he ended up missing his next 8 from deep, ending the game 2 of 10 from beyond the arc.

As we know about Vincent, that part of his game went from a major skill to a possible weakness, once realization came that his most ideal area for him to play is on the defensive end. He showed that last night as well, by hounding guards full court and a fantastic way of navigating screens off the ball and in the pick and roll.

I believe Vincent has it in him to make a jump in efficiency, but it’s yet to be seen. In a perfect off-season, Vincent will be the team’s back up guard next season, due to that meaning Miami made some big deals to bring in supreme talents. But if that was going to be his role, he would have to fix that up majorly so the Heat aren’t forced to look at different options.

KZ Okpala:

Skill-Set of Polar Opposites

And the final guy in this discussion is KZ Okpala, who I’ve pretty much walked away from every game with the same exact takeaway. To touch on the positive stuff first, the dude is just an absolute monster on defense. The full-court press, the speed to switch, the length to hit passing lanes, and a combination of that all to alter shots.

Those things led to him racking up 5 steals in yesterday’s game, which would make you think that player is extremely talented and effective at the moment. But the issue is that he had the same amount of steals as points, which seems to be the case in every game he plays.

I actually thought he looked more comfortable on offense early on than he did the entire Olympics. The clip above shows a solid drive that he had, where he utilized his long strides to get to the basket, before giving a nice bump to create separation for the score.

But much like Vincent’s situation, it tailed off. And well, he actually became a true liability on that end for them down the stretch. The biggest thing that must be noted is that he is just way too predictable on that end. Defenses find out quickly that he’s not a true floor spacer, while the limited on-ball involvement allows for exclusive tagging as they drop away from him.

As he tried to create some offense in the half-court and in transition in the fourth quarter yesterday, it halted their flow. With an unwillingness to look at the basket, players began fronting the perimeter, waiting for the kick-out. That led to two late turnovers on forced passes, all due to him not being able to be instinctive with his decisions.

Once again, he has unbelievable potential on defense, but the offensive stuff will continue to hold him back. Especially on a Heat team where floor spacing is absolutely necessary next to the roster’s top dogs, that must be added for him to have a major role in the future.

 

Everything Tradeshows is a one-stop-shop for trade show exhibit rentals and custom exhibit display purchase solutions to companies of all sizes.

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Breaking Down Bam Adebayo’s Performance Against France

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.

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Breaking Down Bam Adebayo’s Defensive/Passing Dominance vs Spain

Team USA came away with the win in the final exhibition game against Spain, and although Bam Adebayo wasn’t the focal point in the scoring column, he was in all of the other primary areas.

So, as we usually do in these pieces, let’s dive right into all things Adebayo from last night’s game, which of course must start with the defensive side of the ball…

The Perimeter Lesson: Two Mismatches Become One

There were two different defensive principles that stood out with Adebayo yesterday, but we must start with the one that everybody loves to discuss: perimeter clamps. In a very similar defensive scheme to the Miami Heat, Adebayo finds himself on opposing guards time and time again.

While that doesn’t seem problematic, it is for the guard switching onto the rolling big. The thing about these type of switches in a general sense is that it usually creates two mismatches. The guard can take the slower big man off the dribble in space, while the big man can body the smaller guard on the block.

But when Adebayo is defending the action, the number of mismatches shifts from two to one. The perimeter lesson continues to be a tale of two halves. The opposing guard tries to take advantage of these switches early in the first half, before realizing in the second half a pass and relocation to the corner is the best call.

In the first clip above, Adebayo finds himself defending in space at the top of the key as others clear out a bit. Without much effort, he cuts off the ball-handler with his quick feet, forcing a kick-out as the shot clock ticked down to 3 seconds. That’s just a usual occurrence for Adebayo, but opposing NBA defenses have already found this out. These other Olympic teams are just finding out now.

Looking at the second clip above, you can see what I mean when I say there’s only one mismatch in the action. Once again, the ball-handler tries to take advantage of Adebayo off the dribble, but it goes absolutely no where. He retreats and feeds his big man with Damian Lillard defending for a bucket.

This defensive skill-set should be his biggest strength on that side of the floor, but I’m not so sure that it is……

Help-Side Dominance is the True Defensive Strength

As stated previously, it’s always fun to point out those possessions since it just showcases pure versatility and talent. But I don’t believe that is when he is at his absolute best for defensive disruption.

He’s not an interior force that can deter guys away at the rim with shot blocking, but he is a weak-side deterrent. When he is in the action, he disrupts his match-up while the other guy has a rough time. When he’s not in the action, his free-lancing, instinctive ways kick-in for absolute dominance inside the arc.

Let’s take a look above at some of the clips. In the first one, we see Adebayo awaiting a possible off-ball screen on the weak-side, before the big slips the screen, leaving Adebayo ball-watching once again. Without hesitation, Adebayo comes for the cut-off as Lillard is fronting the post, and it leads to a turnover.

That is how Team USA can do a full 360 with their defensive scheming. Yes, utilize talent on that end of the floor, but not at the cost of weaker defenders. Sustain the switch heavy scheme, but there must be total commitment to doubles and help-side quickness for it to work. And that means they will have to try to keep Draymond Green and Adebayo on the weak-side as much as possible.

Looking at the second and third clips above, this was the outcome of back to back possessions. He may be known as a perimeter stopper, but his interior defense has been strong as he attacks passing lanes. First, he deflects the ball on the entry pass into the post, which gets the team out into the open court where they thrive.

The final clip is Adebayo at his best. USA blitzes the initial action, leaving Adebayo defending both the corner and the rolling big man. He immediately cuts him off and strips it for yet another fast-break opportunity.

And speaking of fast-break opportunities…..

Extra Transition Reps

Something I talked about in Adebayo’s 2020-2021 season recap is the amount of transition opportunities he gets on a game to game basis. Players with that type of size and speed isn’t an ordinary combo, so it must be utilized in any way possible.

In Miami, it always felt he was looking for Jimmy Butler to make a play or Goran Dragic to try and get to the basket, but it’s going to be crucial for him to do more of that. And that’s one thing these Team USA reps will do for him, as he has a bit more fast-break freedom.

He had back-to-back transition tries early in the second quarter on Sunday night, and the first one ended in Butler-style. He put his head down to take the contact and get to the free throw line, which is always an important thing to do with the skill-set he has.

Although the second play didn’t end positively, as he lost the ball out of bounds while running at full speed, you can see how it can be effective. He absolutely beats everybody down the floor as expected, but ultimately is stopped by himself. That’s usually the takeaway with Adebayo in many circumstances, since it feels the only guy that can slow him down is Bam Adebayo.

Team USA’s Offensive Key 

Now, back into some of the half-court offense stuff, his play-style has been consistent since the first exhibition game. He’s a pure rolling threat, except he is the primary play-maker when put in that position.

Spacing has been a bit problematic with Team USA, but there’s a reason that hasn’t been the case in Green-Adebayo lineups. It’s not about maximizing shooters and scorers, it’s about setting up shooters and scorers.

Looking at the first clip above, Adebayo just checks into the game and uses some slight trickery. He acts as if he’s not going up for the screen to stay in the dunker spot, before sprinting up to the top of the key for the pick. They continue to blitz Lillard which ends in yet another pocket pass: also known as Adebayo’s home base.

Three defenders end up at the top by Lillard, as Adebayo is in the middle of the floor with plenty of options as only two defenders stand in his way. He looks right which sends the perimeter rotation in that direction, while both defenders crash him with the ball. He immediately turns for an easy corner kick-out to Kevin Durant for the triple.

This was pretty similar to the first play ran when Adebayo entered the game in the first quarter. In the second clip, they blitzed Durant in a similar fashion, as Lillard back-pedaled to the three-point line and Adebayo surveyed the floor with Ricky Rubio in front of him. He rises up for a contested layup which is off the mark, showing that a repeat of the first clip would’ve been the best call.

The kick-out was there for Lillard, which essentially will be their offense moving forward. Adebayo is the key for good looks on this team, and it’ll continue to be the key for him in the Heat’s offense.

Making Plays Off Pure Skill

As much as I dive into the importance of adding a point guard for primary play-making duties, that will never stop Adebayo from doing what he does, nor should it. He’s a natural passer that perfectly sets up his teammates for good looks, and that will always be a staple of his game.

When calling somebody a natural passer, it means that they do stuff in a way that I continue to use as a description for Adebayo: instinctive. Things won’t always go according to plan in a certain set, but being able to adjust mid-play and find the open man is when the word instinctive comes into play.

Looking at the first clip above, it’s initially a reiteration of that action I discussed in the last section. They blitz Zach LaVine, Adebayo receives the pocket pass, kick-out for the corner three. After the miss, Adebayo grabs the rebound and does what he does best: react.

He rises up to take the contact and get the big man in the air, and hits Keldon Johnson in stride for the bucket. That is far from an easy play to make, but it just looks so effortless when a big with his skill-set is doing it.

Another thing about his passing in these games is that he continues to force the ball into tight windows. It’s quite the gamble at times that can get him in some trouble with that Heat squad, but those timely gambles are working out well for him in these exhibition games.

Johnson slips the screen as Adebayo leads his man for a layup. Running sets, free-lancing, transition lead passes. It’s all in his bag as a passer, which is why it’s more than an unselfishness with his play-making. It’s just that he’s utilizing his talent and strengths.

Some Post-Move Flashes?

The final thing we got a quick glance at yesterday was a good looking post move. It’s an area of his game we always come back to, since that can open up everything else in the offense.

In the clip above, he forces the switch for the mismatch, but he never seemed to know how to take advantage of that with the Heat. His play-style is not overpowering an opponent with his back to the basket using incredible strength, so he improvises.

He uses his comfortable face-up game to get to a favorable spot on the block, after a quick jab into a baseline spin puts him in perfect position. He pump-fakes, uses some of that elbow and shoulder to create some space, then finishes with the left hand on the hook.

Once again, I don’t ever see him punishing mismatches on the block consistently with size, but some finesse moves to create an easy shot with space is the one thing he needs, and clearly it’s a capable addition.

 

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The Upward Growth of Bam Adebayo in a Heat Uniform

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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Breaking Down Bam Adebayo’s Team USA Performance

In these Olympic exhibition games, there’s been a Heat player that has shined in every one of them. Gabe Vincent knocked down 6 threes for Nigeria against Team USA in the first match, while Precious Achiuwa put on an offensive display in the second game.

Now, Bam Adebayo was finally the focal point of the day, not just from a Heat sense, but even being the post-game interview for Team USA after the win. In my last two pieces, I’ve dove into all four Heat players from these games, but today’s will be a little different.

Nigeria had a rough game against Australia on Tuesday night, and other than a few good looking Achiuwa buckets around the rim, nothing really stood out from the Heat guys. So, let’s jump right into Adebayo’s performance against Argentina, playing as much of an all-around game as possible….

Rolling Dominance Sustains Heat Priorities 

This is the role that I expected Bam Adebayo to solely play with Team USA, but clearly it has expanded much greater. Adebayo scores 10 seconds into this game, and it’s all due to a flash from the past as a lob threat.

Coming into the league, that was the role many expected him to play with the Miami Heat, but putting a “ceiling” on him was the wrong choice. When running PnR’s with the Heat at this stage, while lacking true guard facilitators, his rolling has to be much slower a lot of the time, instead of a full out dive.

Of course he received the occasional lob this past season, but the team basically forced him into a stop at the elbow so the guard can build some momentum to try and score style of play. But with the talent on Team USA, it’s just an instinctive dive every single play.

Looking at the clip above, this type of initial action not only benefits Team USA as a whole, but also Adebayo’s evolving skill-set. He sets the off-ball screen for Bradley Beal, before redirecting the screen to flow into a PnR back to the left side. It forces a 2 on 1 which leaves Beal with a pretty easy decision: throw it up for Adebayo to throw down.

After that was the initial possession of the first half, the opening of the second half looked pretty similar. In the second clip above, they worked the ball through Adebayo so he can get Zach LaVine flowing left as a defensive miscommunication occurs.

Although the help is there for the tag on Adebayo, he has the clear size advantage and regains possession after the miss for a put-back layup. He is much more than a rim runner at this stage, but his athletic build means that he must be utilized in that fashion on this squad.

And well, this type of effectiveness sustains Heat priorities: a point guard.

A Passing Clinic

Looking at the stat sheet at the end of the first quarter may have been a surprise for some to see that Adebayo dished out 5 assists through 7 minutes, but that wasn’t even the most impressive part. It was actually the way he was doing it.

When discussing the reasons that these Team USA reps are so great for him, it begins with the trial runs in different spots of the floor. His play-making ability is obviously one of his main strengths: easy DHO’s, face-ups at the elbow, etc. But mixing it up in this way propels confidence and comfort in the long run.

In the first clip above, Adebayo’s running the floor with the ball in his hands, but he knows exactly what he is doing. When passing half-court, he gave a quick glance over to Lillard, getting an idea of where he was on the floor. Lillard slips the off-ball screen which leaves his defender in the dust, as Adebayo turns into post-up positioning. (And as we know, that’s a signal for a pass or a turnaround jumper)

He sets up Lillard with a crisp bounce pass for the bucket. There’s a major parallel with the second clip above as well, even though they look entirely different. Adebayo hits Kevin Durant in stride in transition, but it just shows what makes him such an amazing passer.

He’s just a natural, and more importantly, he’s instinctive. Bigs that are instinctive passers are hard to come by, but that is what makes him so special. He just reacts.

Reacting to a defense isn’t a teachable skill, and playing against these other teams gets him additional looks at very diverse offensive play-styles. That’s why this time is so crucial.

More Pocket Pass Effectiveness

I don’t want to make this piece all about selling the point about adding a point guard, but these pocket passes make it hard to pass up. I touched on it in depth in my last piece, but this possession shows why it’s so important.

They’re running a high PnR, which is something Adebayo and Duncan Robinson did a lot of down the stretch of last season. The difference is that Robinson wasn’t a threat when he got inside the arc, leading to much different defensive scheming.

Lillard and Adebayo are able to play back-yard ball with this easy 2 on 1 due to the defender dropping down instead of blitzing. The Robinson-Adebayo combo, on the other hand, never saw the big drop.

Instead of a rotation frenzy that the Heat dealt with once the help-side stepped over, team USA is able to get easy opportunities at the basket with the firepower on the perimeter. It’s not just about finding a guy to make that pass to Adebayo, but a guy with enough gravity to make it effective.

Diversifying the Pocket Pass Reception 

Now, they actually used that pocket pass so much in this game, that it became semi-predictable. And that will happen on a higher scale in the NBA.

Let’s just say that Miami grabs a point guard and utilizes this offensive play-style next year. It is then on Adebayo to mix it up a bit with different looks to make a defense uncomfortable. If not, it’ll be on top of the scouting report and can easily be taken away.

For example in the play above, it’s a similar possession except Adebayo gets caught behind the back-board in the dunker spot, which wasn’t the first time it happened in this game. Actually, both times it happened a three was the outcome of the possession, but that is besides the point.

On possessions like this when the defender is trying to fully recover on the ball-handler, Adebayo will need to drift out a bit to that coveted baseline jumper. If the defender tries to cut off Adebayo’s roll, then he must continue the dive, but becoming a pocket pass threat from different spots will be so important.

He has pretty much mastered the drift-out to the elbow in these actions, but the baseline spacer will be the next step.

Tough Shot-Making

If there was an Adebayo moment from this game that was the most promising, it was definitely this one.

He does his own version of the “Kelly Keeper” with a fake DHO into the drive. With his defender still glued to him pretty closely, he turns it into a step-back jumper on the baseline. Bucket.

This is that offensive freedom that many expected him to gain in this USA environment. That may not be his role on this team, but seeing him realize the things that he is capable of is such an important element.

From a film sense, this play is pretty simple, but this is much more about the mental side of things. Having enough confidence to take a contested step-back in this fashion tells me all that I need to know about his next step. And yet, he’s currently thriving on Team USA in many of the offensive sets the Miami Heat use.

Watch this Closely Miami…..

So, we’ve talked about pocket passes and drifting out into a jumper, but here’s a quick example of how the Miami Heat could really utilize this type of stuff.

Let’s just take a look at this play. Offense is once again running through Adebayo as it seems he’s searching for a DHO. Beal fakes as if he’s going for the hand-off then dives to the basket, forcing both his defender and the big to drop down.

Lillard gives a slight fake as well before cutting to the basket in the open floor, essentially leading to a double pocket pass. Adebayo hits Lillard which draws the big even deeper into the paint, before dishing it right back to Adebayo on the elbow for a good look.

He may have missed, but this is the stuff Miami could try and mix into the scheme to maximize Adebayo’s scoring abilities. The expansion of his mid-range game should not be taken lightly, meaning they can get him plenty of open looks in similar spots.

The only issue, which continues as the theme of this discussion, is that some type of downhill threat is needed to make this possible. And once they get that, I believe the offensive play-book can open up a bit more.

Defensive Dominance

After breaking down all of the offensive stuff, we have to finish it off with some defensive discussion. This game was probably his best game on that end of the floor, which says a lot due to him dictating stuff since the first exhibition game.

To begin with the on-ball stuff, it’s no surprise that he can lock up any opposing guard that he switches onto. The only difference between this and the NBA is that players think they have a mismatch when he trots over the screen on the perimeter.

In the NBA, they usually pass away and reposition to the corner to eliminate him from the play, and I guess these teams are learning that quickly. In the first clip above, the ball-handler tries to put the move on Adebayo for the blow-by but gets absolutely nowhere. He then flows into a turnaround jumper which once again generates zero space, resulting in a perfect contest and block from Adebayo.

The second clip is much more than just a defensive stop. He contains in transition without fouling, using his length and quickness to his advantage. This led to him finding an offensive mismatch on the floor, which is just running in the open court. None of these guys his size can keep up with him in transition, forcing him to turn on the speed boosts on this play for an easy lay-in.

Lastly, we get a look at the third aspect of his defensive excellence in the final clip above. That term “instinctive” finds its way back into things due to his comfort levels on that end of the floor. If you asked me what Adebayo did best in this game from a specific sense, I would answer perfect weak-side help and solid rotations pretty quickly.

Although he was defending out on the perimeter, he notices Beal in no man’s land at the top as well, resulting in him back-pedaling down without even checking where the offensive player is. He just knows.

As the big turns on Draymond Green, Adebayo mucks things up a bit, forcing a miss, which is a good summary of what these Green-Adebayo lineups are meant to do.

We know what Adebayo can do on the defensive end of the floor, but this time with team USA is about offensive comfort, and it’s pretty clear that he’s gaining that little by little before they even get to Tokyo.

 

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Film Breakdown on Game Two of Heat-Olympic Performances

After a headliner game one from Gabe Vincent against the USA on Saturday night, another unexpected Heat player broke-out on Monday evening for Nigeria. Precious Achiuwa has looked more and more comfortable as the minutes increase through this Olympic journey.

And this is just the beginning of this long off-season.

Vincent and KZ Okpala also had their moments, while Bam Adebayo and Team USA fell short yet again against Team Australia. So, even though we’re going to dive into a lot of Achiuwa’s offensive performance, let’s hop into the things that stood out from all four guys in Monday night’s matches…

Precious Achiuwa

Transition Body Control

One of Precious Achiuwa’s biggest issues in his rookie season was all about control. Both body control and ball control never seemed to be his strength, as transition offense usually resulted in an offensive foul, while passes in tight spaces always fell through his hands for a turnover.

But in the first two exhibition games, he’s controlling himself in every facet of the game at a high level. Looking at the first clip above, body control is definitely the most important, since his pacing being knocked down a few notches changes his offensive flow.

He grabs the rebound at the baseline, and the play doesn’t end until he touches the opposite baseline. I’ll touch on “point Precious” a little more down the line, but that’s not something to just skip over.

The best part about him beating all of the other defenders down the floor with some hesitation dribbles and long strides, is that he did it all with his off-hand. I didn’t think we would see that this soon with his strong hand, but that’s just the beauty of playing time for a young guy who hasn’t had an NBA off-season yet.

In the second clip above, another weakness of his game shows to be clearing up. Once again, he runs the floor with his off-hand, but his eyes are the part to watch. He’s no longer looking at the ball when running the floor, since instead his head is up, reading the defense and watching his teammates spacing.

As soon as the guy guarding Okpala in the dunker spot steps up, he throws him a perfect bounce pass for a nice up and under for a bucket. That is growth. Ball handling, body control, reading defenses. Those were all real issues with his game a few months ago, and it’s already showcasing major improvement.

Slower Screening, Quicker Rolling

I touched on Achiuwa’s screening briefly in my last piece, but getting a longer look at him shows this was no fluke. He set plenty of screens in Miami’s offense last season, but they didn’t always look great. For one, the timing and speed of the pick never looked to be in sync, since everything looked rushed offensively.

In the clip above, you can tell he’s much more focused on giving the ball-handler the correct angle instead of just going through the motions.

The second part of this is what occurs after the screen. It was clear that he was slipping way too many picks last season, mostly due to the fact that his skill-set lines up with rolling much more. He’s a pure athlete, and the gravity of a lob pass can bend a defense like no other.

In the first two games with Nigeria, I have not seen much of him slipping screens, and I think that’s more of a self realization than an offensive game-plan. Above, it’s not that they broke-down the defense into a perfectly executed 2 on 1. Instead, Achiuwa gets moving downhill at full speed, which allows the ball-handler to just throw it up somewhere around the rim.

It wasn’t the greatest pass, but vertical threats, as Coach Mike Brown called him after the game, can makes plays like this one when they’re playing a specific, and fitting, role.

More Shooting Flashes

Speaking of things Coach Mike Brown said about Achiuwa after the game, he mentioned that they encourage him to take that three-ball when his feet are set and he has enough space.

He’s done that confidently so far, knocking down yet another three against Argentina. When evaluating his full shooting skill-set, a lot of things just aren’t aligned. His free throw shooting has continued to be an absolute issue, while the three-ball looks as fluid as ever.

The reasoning for that is much more mental than it is physical. Physically, he has a very pure shooting motion with perfect form, good lower body positioning, and an outstanding flick of the wrist. Along with that, he’s also not thinking about his shot on those possessions, since he’s just letting it fly.

Free throws just aren’t as smooth looking. He’s not able to get the same type of lift, the form doesn’t always look the same, and well, the mental side just takes over. Time will only tell if that can be tweaked, but for now, the focus is on his outside shooting which looks like a brief preview to an even bigger expansion.

Point Precious? Off-Hand into On-Hand?

I showcased “Point Precious” earlier with the fast-break passing, but the part that’s even more intriguing is the amount of times that he’s the guy bringing the ball down. Receiving the inbound, crossing half-court with an immediate DHO, and much more.

On this possession, it’s a mix of that point guard trust, and just allowing his talent to takeover on the attack. Do you notice anything similar from earlier clips?

Well, I do.

That left hand seems to be the hand he’s most comfortable with. It’s not just fast-break lead dribbles, since he’s even driving with a purpose in the half-court utilizing his off-hand with both the dribble and the lay-in.

A lot of times we evaluate young player’s skill-sets in the big picture, discussing major parts of their game that need a major leap. But frankly, sometimes it’s more about minor improvements on the headliner parts of your game, while taking major leaps in the small areas. That’s what leads to a complete all-around player, and Achiuwa’s looking closer to that than ever.

KZ Okpala

Continued Ball Pressure

After watching KZ Okpala some more in increased minutes, some things really pop out defensively. The ball pressure stuff is a known things, but there are smaller points to make within that category.

Although he’s picking up smaller guys at the opposing baseline or half-court line every play, this possession displays the entire package. It isn’t just one thing that makes him a disruptive defender, since he just looks really complete on that end in every manner.

For one, his lengthy wingspan allows him to put pressure on the ball handler when they turn themselves this way. He can position himself to eliminate any drive-by’s, while jabbing the ball with his right hand to make him shift a bit before poking it out with the left hand.

While he looks like an inexperienced young guy on the offensive side of the ball, he looks like a seasoned vet defensively most possessions. The on-ball stuff looks perfect, while team defense still needs some improvement which only comes with game reps.

A lot of times, on-ball guys become on-ball watchers whenever they’re on the weak-side. That right there is Okpala, which can lead to a blown rotation or an easy back-door cut. That’s the reason he’s utilized as a perimeter stopper and defends the ball-handler at all times in both the Heat’s system and Nigeria.

Same Offensive Role, But Is It The Right Role?

Okpala’s role isn’t just a product of Nigeria’s offensive scheme. Aside from the fact that they’re basically running a Heat offense, Okpala continues to be utilized as a spot-up spacer in the corner and the wing.

He continued to struggle from the outside, until this sequence with back to back triples in the third. The first one occurred when the shot clock was expiring with a great contest, while the second one was just a transition filler.

Only 4 seconds into the shot-clock, he fired that wing three and knocked it down. If that can become his role consistently, then there’s definitely something there with an increased role. But should that be his role at this stage?

I’ve been a huge proponent of finding ways to get him downhill, which was his biggest offensive strength coming into the league and his body-type translates to that style of play. But the counter to that is this league just won’t allow 4’s to not be able to shoot, especially when playing next to a center who doesn’t shoot the three ball. (Yet)

In some ways, he has to figure out the shooting from the outside, but it’s clear that will have to be secondary in this league from a short-term sense. He can be very effective just with his defensive abilities that aren’t one bit overstated, but to stay on the floor in the NBA, somewhat of an offensive game must be mixed in.

Gabe Vincent

Movement Shooting

After an outstanding game one from Gabe Vincent against Team USA, the shooting from the outside didn’t carry over early. On Saturday night, we saw him display pull-up shooting, some spot-up reps, and plenty of on-ball triples out of specific actions which I’ll dive into next.

But an added layer that was shown against Argentina was his movement shooting. From a Heat sense, movement shooting is one of the most important attributes, due to their motion offense and constant off-ball screening. In a bench role, there must be some way to replicate the sets they run for Duncan Robinson, and this type of stuff above relates to that.

A nice Okpala drive to the middle of the floor forces the defender to drop down off his man on the perimeter. That leads to them rotating into splitting the difference between the top of the key and the wing, leading into a very instinctive and smart play by Vincent.

Diving to the corner not only maximizes the spacing for a simple kick-out, but it forces that one defender to make a decision on who to cover. He trails Vincent but he’s not close enough as he lets it fly on the move in the corner. If that type of high difficulty shot is made regularly, his shooting from deep becomes much more lethal.

Perfecting the On-Ball Role

Something I highlighted in my last piece was something I asked Vincent after the season. He’s been a spot-up guy for most of his career, but was handed the keys to the offense in an on-ball role this past season. It wasn’t expected for him to be plugged into certain lineups and immediately run sets, but he did just that, which leads him into the next focus of his game.

When I asked him about focusing on that this Summer, he talked about this off-season becoming an important time for that, saying “that part of my game will need to grow, and will grow.” And these exhibition games are the perfect time for that.

In the clip above, we see Vincent flowing right into a simple PnR, with yet another patient screen from Achiuwa. It forces the 2 on 1, and Vincent feeds him the ball with that coveted pocket pass for yet another athletic Achiuwa slam.

Combining consistent shooting gravity with an ability to put the ball in the perfect spots of his teammates really changes things for his upcoming role in the NBA, but the key there will have to be consistency. This off-season should help that round into form organically.

Bam Adebayo

Post Play into Face-Up Game

While it feels like I’ve been covering Nigeria more than anyone, we’ve gotta finish this off with Bam Adebayo’s play with Team USA. He was moved to the bench with Jayson Tatum, but still got plenty of minutes with a role player type responsibility. Coming in, we knew that he wasn’t going to be the go-to scorer, but we’ve still seen some offensive flashes.

I went into Adebayo’s post-up issues in the last piece, and that must be expanded on a bit after watching him in action again. Looking at both clips above, your takeaway may differ depending on how you look at it.

The first clip can be viewed as a tough turn-around jumper with a generous roll, which that face-up game will be a staple of his in the upcoming season. The second clip is pretty similar, since he was subbed in and immediately went into a face-up jumper off the back-board.

Although those plays could be looked at as a positive, it should once again be mentioned that he’s relying on that too heavily out of the post. He has the mismatch on Matthew Dellavedova, and picks up his dribble to find the kick-out option. When no one is open, he reverts back to the face-up shot that ultimately does end in points.

Will that be figured out by opposing defenses in the NBA? Most likely. It’s becoming a bit predictable that a couple post moves and a drop step won’t be mixed in a lot of the time, which will become the next step.

This isn’t a big deal, since this can pop up at any time once he masters the other areas of his game, but I do feel that we’re rapidly approaching the point when it becomes a necessity.

Pocket Pass Facilitator 

After seeing him thrive with a pocket pass reception in the first match to try and score, these type of possessions prove that’s not the only case. Miami needing a point guard isn’t just to get Adebayo downhill to score. He’s a natural play-maker, and that will always be his play-style in this league.

Team USA’s offense hasn’t been clicking in the half-court. Points are being scored off isos, catch and shoot threes, and not much production out of any true sets. The times when certain actions became effective was when Adebayo got the pocket pass on the move.

They are forced to blitz Damian Lillard, leaving Adebayo in his most comfortable spot on the basketball court: middle of the floor with numbers. Tatum’s defender is forced to cut-off Adebayo on the move, leading to an easy bucket for Tatum off the Adebayo dish.

That’s where a point guard comes into play. It doesn’t just get Adebayo going, it allows Adebayo to get others going. Instead of him facilitating from out of his range or from the elbow as he faces the basket, mixing it up in this fashion can truly change a Heat offense.

It may be about Jimmy Butler’s timeline, but it’s mostly about Adebayo’s skill-set.

 

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Breaking Down the Film of a Miami Heat-Olympic Reunion

After Team USA faced off against Team Nigeria on Saturday night, also known as the Miami Heat showcase game, there’s plenty of things to dive into from this match-up. Gabe Vincent dominance, Bam Adebayo starting, Precious Achiuwa’s block, and a crucial possession from KZ Okpala leave us with plenty to discuss.

So let’s not waste any time, and jump right into the film of each of their individual performances.

Bam Adebayo:

Double Drag Dominance 

When discussing a Miami Heat offense, the DHO’s will obviously be harped on, but they mix in a bunch of base sets with double drag. The frequency of those actions is another story.

With the firepower that Team USA has, they can run this set into the ground with an off the dribble shooter like Damian Lillard, a perimeter threat like Bradley Beal, and an athletic and skilled roller like Adebayo.

It felt like almost every time Adebayo received the ball in this action, points were an end result. When looking at the first clip above, the initial screen from Beal forces Okpala to switch onto him, leaving an open floor PnR for Lillard and Adebayo.

There’s no way for a defense to react that quickly on the front-line, meaning the back-side help is what they’re relying on. Easy slam for Adebayo for the first bucket of the game, and it wouldn’t be his last time in that action.

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Obviously Miami wouldn’t have the offensive gravity that a USA team has, but there’s a consistent theme with what I’ve been discussing. Finding ways to get Adebayo on the move is the point to harp on here, and these type of plays get him in his comfort zone.

Moving to the second clip above, it’s the same personnel, same action, just a different side of the floor. They start it off the same exact way with an Okpala switch, and a pocket pass to Adebayo, which I will dive into deeper in the next section.

The only difference this time around is that Okpala helps down for the cut-off, triggering some needed rotations from a defensive standpoint. Beal sees these rotations occurring as Vincent recovers, and immediately cuts to eliminate any offensive reset. Adebayo is patient and hits Beal in stride, and it’s the spot that he’s been doing most of his play-making damage for the last two years.

While the goal is to get him downhill with a scoring purpose, the most important part is the stuff that can be ran with added layers. The Heat’s constant back screening and movement would lead to plenty of these looks, but it would only happen if Adebayo gives his defender a reason to step up.

Pocket Pass Perfection

In that last double drag clip, we saw what that pocket pass led to, but that was far from being the only possession. The Heat adding a point guard will never stop being discussed, especially when seeing the immediate offensive leap from Adebayo when receiving the ball without hesitation after the ball-handler is blitzed.

The first clip above isn’t a pocket pass, but it’s important to show what can happen when capable passers are able to draw defenders whenever attacking the basket. An off the ball screen forces Beal and Adebayo into a 2 on 1, which leads to him getting Achiuwa to jump for an easy dump-off to Adebayo.

The second clip is the more important one, where Lillard avoids the screen in the PnR and gets Adebayo the ball in stride. After some easy rolling and paint buckets early on, both Okpala and Achiuwa angle themselves toward the paint on this possession. Adebayo reads it and takes that free throw line jumper that I expect to expand by the start of the season.

It’s really just as simple as getting him in his spots while putting a defense into a state of constant movement and recovery. If that can be semi-replicated in a Heat offense, that is when Adebayo can take yet another jump.

A Post Move Deficiency 

Before stating the one negative aspect from Adebayo in this game, I decided to expand this play a few seconds to point something out with Achiuwa, who is up next in this piece. His ball control and hands still seem to be problematic at times, and I don’t believe it will be fixed until he slows down a bit. And well, he won’t be able to slow down until he gets significant playing time, which is what the Olympics and Summer League will do for him.

Back to Adebayo, this play flows into an isolation for him on the block, and his next move is usually pretty predictable. (Especially when you’re being defended by your teammate) After one shoulder check on the back down, he tries to spin into that baseline jumper. Of course he’s much more comfortable when he is facing the basket, but shifting to that whenever he’s in the post will get shut down quickly.

This puts him in an odd spot as he tries to scoop it up with the reverse, which doesn’t work. The positive flashes were fluid with him on Saturday night, but developing some type of go-to with his back to the basket feels like it’s essential.

Precious Achiuwa

Major Defensive Flashes

Precious Achiuwa clearly had his moments last night, but we have to start it off with “the” moment. Jayson Tatum feeds the ball into Kevin Durant with a wide open baseline, which is the last player you want to give that to. As he spins into the drive, Achiuwa reacts and tries to beat him to the spot.

He may not have beat him to the spot, but he beat him at the rim. An incredible showcase of athleticism leads to an emphatic block at the basket, taking some things out of Adebayo’s book from last year’s Eastern Conference Finals. Using the left hand for a block on that side of the rim eliminates the contact for a foul call, and he gets a career highlight in the making.

In some ways, the second clip above is more important than the first. Achiuwa’s defense is an interesting topic, since his individual defense has looked pretty good up to this point, both on the block and the perimeter, but some rotations and switches become problematic at times.

But as seen above, he locks in on Beal to finish the second quarter, as he begins to put his moves on him off the dribble. The first part of this is that his foot speed is looked faster than ever, as he didn’t give Beal a slimmer of hope the entire possession. The second part is that he didn’t fall for any fakes, which wasn’t the case in his rookie year.

If Achiuwa’s able to contain in that fashion without biting on the slightest of fakes, it changes a ton of things about his game. Once again, we will continue to harp on playing time being the hidden gem for him, especially since this is his first true off-season.

Stretch Big?

From a film breakdown sense, there’s nothing to dive to deeply into here. From a shot selection sense, I don’t think anybody expected to see this from Achiuwa this soon.

Adebayo backs off of Achiuwa as he receives the ball on the perimeter, and Achiuwa makes him pay. Expanded range for Achiuwa not only helps his own game, but it could possibly shift the way Miami elects to utilize him in the future. To answer questions a lot of you probably have, yes, this could very well mean that he could play next to Adebayo for extended minutes.

Do I expect this to become a high frequency thing for him? Absolutely not. Well, just not this soon.

Looking at that play, his form looks perfect and there’s no hesitation when he lets it go. Will he have that same freedom in an NBA environment? I don’t think anybody can answer that but Achiuwa, yet it’s very clear that his self confidence translates to level of effectiveness.

Needing A Decision-Making Boost

If there’s one thing that can be taken away from this game in a negative sense, it’s that his decision making still needs a major upgrade. Looking at the first clip above, he just doesn’t really ever decide what he’s going to do with the ball until the last second. It refers back to slowing down a bit and just reacting, instead of forcing stuff.

Some unnecessary dribble moves lead to a trickling shot clock into a poor shot to end the possession. Those type of things just can’t happen, and they will continue to happen until he is comfortable enough to just make the occasional defensive read.

The second clip isn’t as much an inability to be decisive, but just about his shot selection. The shot clock was once again ticking down, but relying on a baseline isolation into a deep two is quite the choice.

One thing I will say is that he looked much more patient on his screens in most possessions, but patience with the ball in his hands has to be next in the queue. And well, he’s only coming off his first year, so he has time.

KZ Okpala

One-on-One Defensive Attributes

KZ Okpala’s evaluation only needs two sections: a defensive one and an offensive one. The reasoning is that’s his positive and negative elements. He looks so comfortable and fluid on one end of the floor, while so out of place on the other.

Starting with his defensive presence, I could probably make a 3 minute montage of him pressuring the ball-handler down the court every play, or sprinting toward the baseline after a bucket to press. But that doesn’t sum up his abilities on that end the way this play above does.

Nigeria basically went 14 deep in this game, subbing guys in and out for different circumstances. This situation, though, is a 3 point game with 13 seconds left. Everybody in the building, everybody on the team, and everybody watching on TV knew they were getting the ball to Kevin Durant.

But what if you don’t let it get to that point?

That was Okpala’s mentality on this final possession, while it says something about him for the Coach to trust him in this spot from a one-on-one sense. Aside from that, just watch Okpala on this play. He stays square between Durant and the ball-handler, not allowing them to get into the initial action.

It leads to them fouling with 3 seconds left which essentially ended the game, all due to Okpala’s DB skills. It’s not an overstatement that his defensive skills are that good, while the only thing I can add is that his over-aggression can get him in trouble at times, such as the two early fouls in this game.

Lack of Offensive Stability 

As for the other side of the ball, things just don’t appear to be coming together. Before the game, I mentioned that I wanted to see Okpala in a role that wasn’t a spot-up guy in the corner or the wing.

But that was exactly what his role was offensively.

PnR’s with him as the ball-handler seem to be a cakewalk for defenses, since they can go under screens effortlessly, without adding any weak-side help. The play above was just a miscommunication on the switch, and still he couldn’t capiatlize.

Other than that, his length and quickness should be the perfect combination for a versatile attacker on the ball. Yet, some things seem to be holding that back.

Take a look at the second clip above, where although he’s being defended by Adebayo, the dribble spams have continued to be the unnecessary go-to. His player build shows that he has the pieces to put it all together, but at the moment, the pieces are all over the place.

Gabe Vincent

Defensive Physicality Continues

Before jumping into the topic of the night with Gabe Vincent, his shooting, I want to touch on something that continues to pop up with him. His defensive toughness is no fluke, since he showed that whenever he was plugged into the lineup last season, basically being the sample for how the 2-2-1 press should work.

Diving on the floor, scrappy possessions, and most importantly, utilizing his unexpected strength. Plays like the one above occur frequently, where the offensive player sees a clear height advantage, not knowing the strength advantage is nonexistent.

Beal tries to bully Vincent on the back-down, but it just doesn’t work as he stays complacent with the contest and positioning, leading to a miss. While many observers were focused on shooting when he came in the game last season, his defensive physicality forced some to do a double take. And combining that with a revived jumper makes it quite interesting.

A Shooting Leap or a Shooting Normality?

When Vincent spoke with media after the season ended, he mentioned that he tweaked his jumper mid-season, which forced him into an adjustment period. He wanted to maximize his range and consistency, and this first game proved that to be true.

He shot the ball in multiple ways: pull-ups, spot-ups, off the dribble. That type of diversity for him is so crucial, and it may have been a focus for him over the past few months.

I asked him after the season about his next step being a leap as an on-ball threat, after being utilized more and more in that way with the Heat. He said that would be a focus for him in the off-season, sharpening those skills with the ball in his hands, and there was some immediate production against Team USA.

Playing on that stage against some of the NBA’s top talent, it’s not normal to be the leading scorer as a NBA player on a two-way contract. But between the Heat’s developmental system and Vincent’s self working improvements, he has a shot to be really effective as long as consistency continues to be his label.

It may be looked at as a shooting leap in this initial game, but I believe it’s actually a shooting normality. It’s just now really coming together.

 

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Answering Your Heat Off-Season Questions

After spending quite some time diving into individual Heat players, or possible free agency/trade acquisitions, I want to talk about some things in the big picture.

So, I’m going to be answering all of your questions in this piece. Personal opinions on specific players, scenarios, and more. Well, let’s hop right into it…

Some may view this as a tough question to answer, but I believe the perfect combo for this current Heat team is a veteran point guard and a young big.

Now, this doesn’t mean that if a type of deal with Collin Sexton and Kevin Love came available that I wouldn’t do it. But when talking about players in a general sense, that is not only the best option in the short-term, but also the long term.

There are two point guard options that I believe are 1 and 2 on Miami’s priority list, and neither of them fall under the youth category. With the cap room that they have, it feels like Kyle Lowry or Mike Conley will be on this Heat team in a matter of time.

The reason I say that the youthful big man is the way to go seems pretty clear. Veteran front-court pairings is all Bam Adebayo knows in the NBA, and if they want to maximize his game, a viable sidekick is necessary. Not switching from Meyers Leonard to Jae Crowder one year, then reiterating the same thing with Kelly Olynyk and Trevor Ariza the next.

They did what they had to at that time and they plugged those holes, but if they can find a stretch four that they trust via trade, I believe they pull the trigger.

As much as I just harped on finding a young big, a cheap front-court filler seems to be the most likely option moving forward. I don’t believe Andre Iguodala will be back, while Trevor Ariza could be resigned to play a much different role.

But if both are off the table, there are plenty of guys to plug into that spot, and two of them come to mind for me.

The first one is Jeff Green, who is getting up there in age but continues to be effective. He’s coming off some big time playoff performances next to Kevin Durant, and obviously, that’s not what he would be asked to do in a Heat uniform.

Green fits the build of the players that they like to plug next to Adebayo, and could be plugged into whatever spot Coach Spo needs him to with the amount of experience he has.

The second guy that could be a possibility is soon to be NBA champion Torrey Craig. Not only is he about 5 years younger than Green, but he seems to me like the type of player that the Heat would like for super cheap. If a lot of the guys that we expect to be out the door for the Heat actually are, then cheap deals like this one will be neccessary.

Those are just two options, and I could spend much more time on that subject with the amount of guys that are in that play-style/money range.

For starters, I don’t believe there’s any way that the Heat would trade Bam Adebayo under any circumstance. The reason we have the timeline discussion with Jimmy Butler and Adebayo is that you have the other one to balance it. Jumping fully into the Butler age range just doesn’t seem remotely close to a smart idea.

Now, to answer your question, a team with Butler and Damian Lillard leading the way is a good way to start, but if you call beneficial becoming the Portland Trail Blazers of the East, then possibly. But frankly, that team will be having the same exact discussion the current team is having: how can we get that final piece?

Except in the Lillard-Butler world, you don’t have the option to go into a younger mode. This is clearly all of a fantasy discussion when talking about sending Adebayo out of Miami, especially when the team wouldn’t be seeing tremendous growth on what’s coming in.

If Duncan Robinson was able to become a reliable on-ball threat, it definitely changes the things that Adebayo and Butler are able to do offensively, but that just doesn’t seem likely.

Minor improvements will most likely be made over time for his ball-handling duties to increase, but the current focus for him this off-season has to be the second level of the half-court. He’s surprisingly efficient when he gets to the rim, while defenses know if he is chased off the perimeter, the mid-range pull-up isn’t an option.

But it should be.

Even a little bit of a mid-range game changes the things they can do in the offense, and all that includes is 1-2 dribbles. I don’t ever really see him becoming a true facilitator, but I do think he can be at least average once the true expansion occurs down the line.

I definitely agree that type of play-style should be integrated into the scheme regularly, but more importantly, it should be focused on with certain players.

The interesting part about it is that they focus so much on preventing it, but don’t harp on it themselves. For example, when the Heat miss a shot, the two guards are supposed to immediately sprint back to fill up the open court. It’s easy to scheme against, but harder to scheme for.

When I mentioned before that the focus should be for certain players, a guy on the top of that list is Bam Adebayo. When he decides to attack in transition, it always leads to good things, either with his pure ball-handling and speed or a nice looking DHO fake for an open lane.

The issue is that he always seems to be searching for a bull-dozing Butler when running the floor. He basically needs to obtain the Goran Dragic mentality, since he’s one of those guys that locks in on the basket when trotting down the floor at full speed.

In all, I think it’s more individual tweaks than scheme tweaks, but it should definitely be seen more on a versatile unit like Miami.

Unless those two close friends would really love to play together again, it would probably be hard to do. Both will be looking for similar money that the Heat would not be able to give. But in this sense, should the Heat even be willing to give it on a pay cut?

As stated in that question, three non-shooters would be a tough thing to see in today’s game. Andre Iguodala became the scapegoat at a lot of points this past season, but in reality, it was just the inability to play him next to two guys that can’t truly space the floor.

Demar DeRozen is no Andre Iguodala, but my point still stands. The only way I see the Heat doing this is if they’re very confident that Bam Adebayo expands his game to the perimeter at some point this season. Other than that, it just feels very complicated from every perspective of this addition.

If we’re talking about things that may not sound very realistic, I think they should sign Kyle Lowry for that point guard presence and Jimmy Butler pleasing, then flip Tyler Herro and other assets for a guy like CJ McCollum. Some cheap fillers to plug into the front-court will be needed, and you are good to go.

The issue is that the McCollum move may not be very likely, even though I believe he will be moved no matter what happens with the Lillard situation in Portland.

As I’ve listed many times, I have point guard and half-court scorer above front-court pairing in my priorities. As I mentioned earlier, the amount of veterans four’s that are out there make this even easier to focus on the main two things.

Grabbing either Lowry or Conley, then flipping assets for an all-around scorer feels to be the thing the Miami Heat’s front office would be eyeing.

And for my final bold statement, I believe they end up grabbing an undrafted player following this year’s draft who end up becoming a bottom of the rotation player for next season’s Heat team.

 

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The Past, Present, and Future of Bam Adebayo

Bam Adebayo’s season had an unfortunate ending after being swept in the first round by the Milwaukee Bucks. But that shouldn’t dictate his overall progression and career year he had in the regular season.

This obviously was far from a normal season in the NBA, which made this period of time even more developmental centric than usual. He recorded a career high in points, assists, steals, and free throw percentage, while slightly adjusting into different offensive schemes.

As we know, the dribble hand-off was ran into the ground the year before with Adebayo and Duncan Robinson, while opposing defenses were prepared to start the season this year. This led to some new base sets for these two offensive sticking points, and both sustained that effectiveness in the regular season.

In most of these roster evaluation pieces, we take a look back at the positives and negatives of the season, but for the Heat’s young centerpiece, it’s necessary to take a different approach. I always highlight “what’s next” for each player, in terms of an off-season deal, but Adebayo’s next steps are more important than them all.

But before we look into that, let’s take a quick look back into the two primary areas of sustainability and growth…

A Brief Reflection 

The Shooting Expansion

One again, recency bias has seemed to completely takeover the season perception of Adebayo. When watching a certain player or team super closely throughout a certain period of time, it’s important to take a step back at times. That moment is now.

The latest discussions that I’ve had about him is the unwillingness to take the given jumper against the Bucks in the post-season, but don’t allow that to blur the number of leaps he has made in this short amount of time.

The mid-range jumper has become a staple of his offensive game now, but take a quick look at the clip above. Retreating the ball out to the perimeter as the shot clock trickles down, he turns into a deep two with a great contest and buries it.

Yeah, he wasn’t doing that a year ago.

I’m going to dive into his jumper later in this article with a closer lens, but the progression to this point must be noted. This one ability opens up the rest of his game tremendously, and it shifts into a much cleaner fit with Heat’s star Jimmy Butler.

Continued Defensive Excellence 

This wouldn’t be an Adebayo breakdown piece without touching on his defensive excellence. I could turn this article into a novel if I highlighted each of his suffocating perimeter lockdowns this season, but let’s just cut it down to one.

And why not showcase how he’s able to slow down the greatest shooter in the history of the sport.

He switches onto Stephen Curry, arms up eliminating the shot, great cut-off when he tries to dribble left, and the perfect angle with the basket to put him in no-man’s land. This is nothing new for Adebayo.

Similar to the shooting, closely evaluating Adebayo this season left us pointing out unnecessary soft switches or easy dump-offs to a big being defended by a guard, but this isn’t the time for that. Opposing guards were aware, when Adebayo switches onto them, it wasn’t the normal big being forced to stay in front of a guard. With this guy, it’s his happy place.

We focus so much on his perimeter defense, but I don’t believe his interior positioning is touched on enough. Yes, bigger guys are able to overpower him at times on the block, but the key phrase there is “at times.” Trust me, he gets his fair share of wins down there.

Just watch this sequence against Portland: he catches the ball out of mid-air off the Damian Lillard blow-by, showcasing not only athleticism, but more importantly, his defensive positioning to get to that spot.

In a matter of seconds, Enes Kanter gets Adebayo in the post, but Adebayo ends up sending it back. As Jayson Tatum knows really well, Adebayo knows which hand to utilize when going for a block without fouling. Off the spin, he switches into a right hand contest as Kanter goes up with his right, and it leads to an absolute stuff.

The defensive IQ is absolutely through the roof when watching him rotate freely each and every night, mostly since miscues don’t occur often from an individual perspective.

The Next Steps

Now, that’s enough reflection regarding Adebayo, since as Pat Riley likes to say, it’s always about the next thing. Well, the next thing for Adebayo isn’t just one thing, especially being labeled as a guy with no ceiling. He recently committed to the USA team in Tokyo, which I believe will be very crucial for his development.

Playing against top talent, getting some extra game reps, and just a great confidence booster for a guy who is never done making leaps. But as for specifics, let’s take a look at some things that have caught my eye for the future, and the possible ways of utilization for Erik Spoelstra and the coaching staff.

The “Go-To”

When diving into the next steps of his shooting, this would be number one on my list: a go-to move into the mid-range jumper. As I’ve reiterated many times, this is considering his defender isn’t camping out under the rim when he has the ball in his spots. And clearly, I don’t think he will allow that to take place again.

Aside from that, this go-to move changes everything. He completed the first step of knocking down the shot at the elbow consistently, but he has to allow his talent to takeover at times. That talent definitely took-over in this match-up with the Brooklyn Nets when he dropped 41.

An iso for him as he turns toward the basket. A hard jab towards the empty corner leads into a hard drive right and an immediate pull-up at the free throw line. He has the length and high release point to make the jump-shot pretty close to unblockable, but the process before that jumper is the part to harp on.

There were times when an overly emphasized pump-fake came into play, where defenders would stop and stare without biting. There were also times when he threw his favorite jab-step, not just to create space, but to get into a comfortable motion.

His jumper always looked smoother when it was followed by that quick jab, and that’s exactly why that go-to move is important. A move that’s comfortable. A move that gets him to the free throw line consistently to fire away. A move that increases shooting confidence.

He’s obviously capable of doing so, but it’ll be necessary to see it come into NBA game speed next season.

If you want an example, here you go. He faces the basket with a scoring mindset, and flows right into that jumper that I was just discussing. After teams watch film on him, they know he likes the pull-up jumper after the jab. But well, he mixes in an extra element.

After that jab, he gives that quick hesitation, acting as if he’s going to shoot. Instead, he explodes by and finishes with his left at the basket. The point of this clip isn’t to say that he needs to utilize the hesi consistently as his go-to move. It’s showing that these added layers to get him to his spots go a long way.

Referring back to him joining the USA team this year, maybe some of those fun one-on-one drills that we saw once upon a time with Jayson Tatum and others will surface the internet again. It’s another reason that type of experience can elevate his game more than a normal off-season. There’s nothing like facing NBA talent, no matter if it’s game seven of the Finals or a competitive one-on-one in pre-game.

A Three Point Shot?

If I’m going to be honest, the three-point shot just doesn’t seem to hold high importance this off-season for Adebayo. Of course that expanded range would change a lot for the team’s offensive scheming, spacing, and possible acquisitions, but pushing the young centerpiece into a certain direction is not necessary at all. Natural development is the essential part for a player of his caliber.

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Yes, he has had plenty of end of shot clock moments where he shows that it’s in his bag, but as I pointed out previously, the focus should be to completely master the second level in the half-court before jumping the gun.

It’s why I just don’t see that happening at this point. Do I think it will eventually come about? Absolutely, but a few more boxes are going to have to be checked before that is harped on.

More Transition Offense

On a positionless team, Adebayo is essentially the point guard for a good portion of the game. The takeaway from that statement is two things: Adebayo is really talented and Miami needs a point guard.

That’s a discussion for another time, but those possessions as a point center have showcased a huge strength that I don’t believe was taken advantage of enough. An exceptional scorer in transition.

On this play, Adebayo correctly decides to just go make a play early in the shot clock, instead of setting up offense in the half-court. It leads to him going at the defender, taking contact, and knocking down the one-hand push shot plus the foul.

Why is transition offense such a positive for Adebayo? Well, that’s easy: he’s playing freely on those possessions.

Here’s another example of that fast-paced excellence. While running the floor quickly, he acts as if he’s going to flow into a DHO with Robinson, but quickly dives toward the basket instead.

It leads to a wide open lane as he takes the bump and lays it in at the rim. It’s one of those reasons the way he’s being utilized comes up so much, even being mentioned by Pat Riley in the latest press conference.

The spots that he is put in are clearly comfort areas. It allows him to survey the floor and play-make in the middle of the court, which is something I’ve noticed a lot of current playoff teams are missing at the moment. But although he’s terrific in that spot, a player with that type of talent shouldn’t be your half-court play-maker each and every possession.

He needs the same amount of freedom that he has in his fast-break offense to translate to half-court offense. But well, what’s one way that can be shifted over?

Inverted PnR’s

They’re going to have to be creative with blending Adebayo into a scoring role, but the best way to do that is getting him downhill. I’ve talked about his self-creation from the mid-range, but his best offense still seems to occur when he’s moving toward the basket with the ball in his hands.

We saw some inverted PnR’s, but not enough. Almost every one of them were created by Robinson, who is the perfect guy to run it. His defender is always glued to his side, which he began to utilize to his advantage. He would use the defender as a screener into the guy guarding Adebayo, leaving him with a run-way to the basket as seen above.

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Adebayo can then use his athleticism to his advantage, and it opens up the floor for everybody else out there. There are plenty more ways to free him up in this exact way, but some extra inverted pick and rolls would be a great start.

The future is bright for Adebayo, and this last playoff series doesn’t change that. He has all of the tools to continue to build upon his game to take this Heat team to the next level, but it’s all up to him to develop that. And with his work ethic, that shouldn’t be in question.

He’s taken his game to the point where everybody knows who Bam Adebayo is. But now it’s time to show them who he really is.

Everything Tradeshows is a one-stop-shop for trade show exhibit rentals and custom exhibit display purchase solutions to companies of all sizes.

Visit them at EverythingTradeShows or call 954-791-8882