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…..
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.