The Miami Heat are far from where they want to be even at this point in the season, and that’s not lost on Bam Adebayo.
There have been parallels to the Heat’s sluggish start to the season and that of Adebayo, who would follow up strong games with shooting duds and some passive defensive performances. On Miami’s end, solid wins over the likes of the Toronto Raptors and the Portland Trail Blazers would be offset by losses to the Raptors, the defending champions Golden State Warriors, and the Boston Celtics. Granted, the aforementioned teams are all not pushovers, but the Warriors themselves are in a rut themselves, especially during that time. Yet regardless of the circumstances, the Heat have always been associated with those teams and have constantly held themselves to a high standard.
As of late, Miami has been able to make the necessary tweaks and on Adebayo’s part, he has taken it on himself to do more (and to think he does A LOT for the Heat). With the adjustments, the 2020 NBA All-Star has had those moments when he would take over the game while also doing his part in getting his teammates involved, all while serving as an anchor for the defense. Thanks to those efforts, Adebayo and Miami have begun their climb up the team standings, with their three-game winning streak and 10-11 record as of this writing tying them with the Brooklyn Nets for ninth/10th place.
Simply put, Adebayo is a force inside. The former Kentucky Wildcat is one of the few big men who could blend brute strength with finesse, making himself a matchup nightmare on both ends of the floor. On one end, Adebayo can jab and create space on the low block before powering through for a dunk or a nifty layup inside. On the other end of the floor, Adebayo can cover virtually all five positions and even if players blow by him, best believe he’s not that far back ready to swat the shot from behind.
Although he has not been much of a shooter, Adebayo has been laser focused on wreaking havoc in the paint and drawing much of the defense so that the Heat’s shooters can get their open shots. Occasional attempts from behind the 3-point line are fine, but little nuances like staying in the paint and making a concerted effort to set screens and influence the game without having the ball in his hands are what make him and Miami dangerous. In any case, his teammates have always made sure to reward him and have made concerted efforts to give him the ball in areas he would be able to feast on the competition.
Much of that was on display in the Heat’s 106-98 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. In that come-from-behind victory, Adebayo took over in the pivotal third quarter, where he scored 14 of his game-high 32 points in the third quarter to help Miami erase a 60-51 halftime deficit.
At times, one of Adebayo’s strengths would be needed more than others and in this case, it was his inside presence, especially considering the likes of Onyeka Okongwu and John Collins were rendered helpless to stop him with Clint Capela out due to what was reported as dental pain. Well without him, Adebayo brought down the pain on the Hawks.
Since playing all 82 games back in 2018-2019, Adebayo has missed more and more games in each of the following seasons and his absence puts the Heat at a disadvantage on most, if not all, nights. So far, the 25-year old has missed two games this season, with both those contests ending in losses for Miami. Naturally the Heat are being cautious with their franchise player, who has played all the way until the postseason in four out of the five previous NBA seasons while spending the summer of 2021 with Team USA winning an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo. Thus, it’s on Miami to manage Adebayo’s health for another run until May or even June and making sure that postseason dream turns into a reality.
The Bam Adebayo and Miami Heat of the early portion of the 2022-2023 NBA Season are not the same Adebayo and Heat many are accustomed to and they have made adjustments accordingly since then. It’s been a lesson of self-awareness and it’s something that can also help them navigate through what they hope would turn out to be a long sought-after title run.