Breakdown: Bam Adebayo’s Double-Double Debut

Insight

The Miami HEAT entered draft night with most people expecting them to add a wing or a big. Prospects like Justin Jackson, T.J. Leaf, Justin Patton and O.G Anunoby were on the board at 14. The HEAT bypassed on all of them, instead, opting to use their pick on Kentucky big man: Bam Adebayo.

It’s safe to say the HEAT shocked the NBA world and their own fan base with the move. I fell into the latter group, instantly questioning the selection of the Dwight Howard look-alike.

Bam Adebayo?

Why not a big with more upside like Patton, or more length like Jarrett Allen?

Why not a spacer like Leaf or Jackson?

Why not take a flier on Harry Giles or the defensive versatility of Anunoby?

There I was, an anonymous blogger on the internet, doubting Pat Riley and the scouting department — the same scouting department that hit on Tyler Johnson (hush, Gianni), found and developed Hassan Whiteside and picked up Rodney McGruder and my alleged doppelganger, Okaro White, over the last three years.

In the week following, we (or I) learned more about why Riley fell in love with Adebayo. He wasn’t just an energy big; he was a guy with a hidden face-up game on offense that he flashed in pre-draft workouts, with the agility to switch out on the perimeter defensively. In other words, his upside was more “Serge Ibaka” than “Bismack Biyombo” in Riley’s eyes, which makes the pick seem more reasonable.

On Saturday, the HEAT kicked off their Orlando Summer League stint. Miami fell to the Briante Weber-led Charlotte Hornets in its first game, 74-67. However, Adebayo’s debut was a solid one, posting 14 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.

Like most rookies, there was an obvious adjustment period to the speed and physicality of the “NBA” game; even the fringe NBA talents offer a different challenge to what these guys faced in college. Adebayo was no different, but he managed to show enough flashes to generate some intrigue.

Let’s dig into his performance, shall we?


Positives

The first thing that stood out was Adebayo’s own physicality and motor. He played and moved with a purpose, something that should translate in the big leagues right away.

He didn’t cheat his guards with half-hearted screens; he put some “oomph” in them. Watch here as his bone-crushing screen forced a Hornets switch, which eventually led to a drive-and-bucket:

Adebayo was a menace on the boards. More specifically, he gave Charlotte fits on the offensive glass. Six of his 10 rebounds came on that end. He showcased an innate ability to read the shot, position himself and explode to the ball before Charlotte’s big men could.

For most teams — the HEAT included — focusing on the offensive glass isn’t a priority. Getting back on defense and shutting down transition opportunities is viewed as more important. With that said, Adebayo’s ability to beat two players to the ball could allow the HEAT to have the best of both worlds. The players on the perimeter can drop back, while Adebayo could create second-chance opportunities.

Being a rugged screen-setter and a HEAT-seeking missile on the offensive glass are things that were already known about Adebayo. The most shocking part of his debut were the flashes he showcased with the ball in his hands.

The biggest takeaway is Adebayo looked comfortable on the block. The makes were nice, but the level of fluidity he showed was surprising. There wasn’t any Blake Griffin-like herky-jerk, whether he was facing up, or making a move with his back to the basket.

Here, Adebayo displayed his quick first step (and probably traveled, but whatever), beating the plodding big man to the rim and drawing the foul.

Again, look at how fluid this entire sequence was, and how he flowed into this face-up jumper.

How about a turn-around jumper for good measure?

Here’s that jab-and-go again. No travel, and he sticks the pull-up jumper like a wing. Smooth.

Defensively, Adebayo was more of a mixed bag (more on that later). But one positive was shot-blocking. He’s a quick leaper and he used that to his advantage. Just watch how quickly he gets off the ground for one of his three blocks:


Negatives

Adebayo’s jumper looked good, but it’s too early to bank on his touch. He air-mailed a couple of in-rhythm jumpers and he really struggled with his hook shot. He’s going to need to get accustomed to dealing with length.

Adebayo also has to get stronger. Again, that isn’t surprising. Every rookie has to get stronger when they join the NBA. It was pretty telling that even with Adebayo’s physical style, he looked overmatched at times.

Check out this post sequence from Adebayo against Hornets big man Johnny O’Bryant. He scored here thanks to a smooth counter (encouraging!), but the concerning thing was his inability to move O’Bryant off his spot.

On the other end, O’Bryant punked him on the block on more than one occasion. This bucket in the first quarter is probably the most glaring example. O’Bryant sized him up, backed to his spot with ease, then used Adebayo’s aggressiveness against him on the up-and-under.

Adebayo’s defensive stance was a bit sloppy and inconsistent. It was pretty noticable in space. Sometimes, he was hunched over. Other times, he was more upright but was flat-footed, hindering his ability to move laterally. Those are correctable things, but he found himself out of position because of it.

Look at the way he moves while defending this O’Bryant drive. You’ll also notice how much space O’Bryant creates before the jumper, shining more light into the strength discrepancy.

I had JaVale McGee flashbacks watching him sometimes. He was a bit handsy, finishing the game with six fouls. He was susceptible to pump fakes, but that comes with the territory of a young shot-swatter. His weakside help would come late, if he came at all.

Pro-tip: It’s hard to protect the rim when you’re under the rim.


Conclusion

The process always matters more than the result in Summer League games. These guys aren’t facing premium NBA talent, and for rookies, it’s their first taste of NBA speed, strength, schemes and things of that nature.

All things considered, Adebayo graded out very well. He had his lapses, but he showcased who he is (screen-setter, glass-cleaner), who he could be (face-up threat, shot-blocker) and how far he has to go (strength, positioning).

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