After a top-seeded Miami Heat shook off powerhouse Chicago Bulls lineup by double digits on Monday, Miami Heat shooting guard Tyler Herro had some words to say about the impact of his fellow teammate and starting center Bam Adebayo.
“I think last game I got beat and Bam just came out of nowhere to block his shot and I was like ‘I appreciate that’ I’ll throw you a lob here and there… It’s an honor to have him on the team,” Herro said.
The fifth year center is one of the best big men in the entire league and arguably the best defensive player on his team ahead of the likes of All-Star Jimmy Butler, who led the entire NBA in steals in 2021 and has had multiple appearances on the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in his career. Adebayo does not get enough credit for how much he provides to an electric Miami Heat team that has stomped on their opponents with energetic play on both sides of the court.
While a nagging thumb injury sidelined the center for the month of December and half of January, that does not excuse the disrespect that he has gotten. Adebayo averaged 22.0 points per game, 10.9 rebounds per game, 1.7 steals per game and 1.5 blocks per game on 57.6% shooting in just the month of February. He’s able to average these numbers with Herro, Butler and starting point guard Kyle Lowry on the team. This is not only the textbook definition of a surefire All-Star player when healthy, but a NBA Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
There aren’t many players in today’s NBA that can do the things that Adebayo is able to do on a regular basis. This is the same player that was able to help his team take down a highly favored Bucks lineup, which included 2020 MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. This is the same player who Miami Heat coach Erik Spolestra can put on guard Golden State warriors shooter Stephen Curry. Adebayo is the definition of evolution at the center position and has had more playoff success than MVP candidate Joel Embiid has. He’s pushed the Heat to the next level in the post-LeBron James era.
“There’s not many guys in the league that can do what he does,” said Spolestra.
As stated previously, Adebayo is one of the best defensive players in the league when healthy – it’s his bread and butter. His ability to guard smaller defenders, while forcing his opponents into unusual mismatch situations gives teams plenty of trouble. The big man is able to outsmart his opponents and make it difficult for teams when they play the Heat.
Miami sits just outside the top 5 in defensive rating this season and when Adebayo returned to injury, Miami posted the second best defensive rating in the league when he returned from injury. They also allow the least amount of points in the paint in the entire NBA, at 40.3 points. Adebayo plays a huge part in that.
What’s fascinating about the Miami Heat center is not only Adebayo’s skills on defense, but also his improving offensive game. While he may not have an above-average jump shot like Embiid or Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Adebayo can still punish defenders with a solid mid-range jumper, some crafty post moves that leave defenders helpless in the paint, and an improving touch on his floaters.
A main argument for disrespecting Adebayo has been the effect of Miami’s record when the center is on the court versus when he is off, especially toward the beginning of February. Miami was 15-11 at the beginning of February this season when Adebayo played, and a17-8 record when he did not. While that may seem discouraging to NBA fans who labelled him an overrated starter, the center has destroyed that narrative.
As of March 1, the Miami Heat’s record with Adebayo on the floor sits at a whopping 24-13 with Adebayo on the floor.
Regardless of the respect that Adebayo receives, or doesn’t, from fans and teams, he’s going to be a tough matchup for any team and will continue to elevate Miami into a contender in the Eastern Conference. There’s no denying that.