With the Miami Heat retooling their roster this past offseason, 5th-year big man Bam Adebayo is in a position to flourish as a foundational clog for this new-look team. Expectations are high for Adebayo as many see him as the franchise cornerstone in Miami for years to come.
Offensively, Adebayo will benefit from the addition of all-star point guard Kyle Lowry, who will form a lethal duo with the center in pick-and-roll and transition sets. As the Heat lacked a true point guard last season, Adebayo was often used as the main facilitator and initiator of Miami’s 25th ranked offense. That will change this season, as Lowry will take on a majority of the Heat’s initiation duties.
One area of Adebayo’s offensive game that has much room for improvement is his ability to score in transition. Given his rare mix of size (6’9″, 255 lbs) and athleticism, Adebayo should be an absolute wrecking ball on fastbreaks. Unfortunately, that has not been the case, as he has looked unsure of himself and even timid while attacking the basket in these situations.
This weakness of his should improve this season, as Lowry is of the greatest players in the league at kicking the ball up to open teammates early on in the shot clock and jump-starting fastbreaks. These additional reps should improve Adebayo’s confidence and help sculpt him into a dominant force in transition.
Adebayo will also receive an abundance of looks from Lowry in the pick-and-roll game as a roller, which is an area of the center’s game that he excels at. Adebayo must present himself as not only a lob threat off these rolls but also as a capable and consistent mid-range shooter to combat deep-dropping bigs (shoutout to Brook Lopez).
Expect the Heat to use Adebayo in a multitude of different ways on offense this season. One preseason set that I especially liked was the usage of Adebayo as the ball-handler in a pick-and-roll. Given his unique ability to handle and facilitate the ball as a big man, as well as Miami having very exceptional guard-screeners in Lowry and Jimmy Butler, there is an abundance of pick-and-roll sets with Adebayo as the ball-handler that Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra could implement.
Not only would these sets utilize Miami’s personnel incredibly well, but they would also place opposing defenses in unfamiliar positions, as the big would be forced to navigate through screens and the guard/wing defending the screener would be forced to either call for a switch or hedge the ball handler. The Toronto Raptors also do a phenomenal job of using Pascal Siakam as a ball-handler in some pick-and-roll sets, as Siakam, like Adebayo, can threaten opposing defenses with his playmaking ability.
Another facet of Adebayo’s game that has looked much improved is his footwork, which in the past has looked clumsy. Throughout the preseason, he looked sharp and confident with his motions, and he demonstrated the ability to stop on a dime and plant his pivot foot on straight-line drives.
With an improved skillset, the addition of Lowry and a more scoring-oriented game plan for Adebayo, his points per game average should skyrocket, while his efficiency might worsen given the expected increase in shot attempts.
Defensively, I expect Adebayo to once again be the unicorn-like defender that we have seen throughout his career. His versatility and willingness to switch onto some of the best guards in the NBA make him a prime candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. The Heat might drop Adebayo in pick-and-roll coverages more than last season because of the improved perimeter defenders they added during the offseason (which as a result, should improve his rebounds per game average).
Expect Adebayo to continue blossoming into the superstar that he has the potential of becoming this season.
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