Miami Heat: Bam Adebayo appears ready to take the next step

After compiling back-to-back double-doubles, Bam Adebayo has been one bright spot in an otherwise gloomy start to the season for the Miami Heat.

In his rookie campaign of 2017-18, Bam Adebayo demonstrated the ability to make a significant contribution when afforded the chance.

With Miami Heat starting center Hassan Whiteside sidelined for 28 games last season, Adebayo was thrown to the wolves perhaps earlier than expected. Overall, the Kentucky product had 11 games in which he played at least 30 minutes, averaging 12.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks over that span.

With Whiteside back to full health and starting the season in terrific fashion, Adebayo has not veen given the same opportunities as last season. However, the past two games have given all Heat onlookers a glimpse of what could be possible down the road.

This started in Chicago, where despite Whiteside performing solidly, Adebayo managed to play 26 minutes (including the entire fourth quarter) to produce 14 points and 13 rebounds. Then, he doubled down in the following contest against the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

In 36 minutes off the bench, the 21-year-old produced 16 points, a career-high 21 rebounds and two blocked shots as the Heat fell to the Raptors 125-115. This also represented the first time in his career that Adebayo had registered a double-double in consecutive games.

Following his career-best performance, head coach Erik Spoelstra commented on Adebayo’s current standing:

“He played very well the other night as well, he’s doing it on both ends, you just feel his energy….that force is definitely something that we can build on.”

For the season, Adebayo is now averaging 7.6 points and 7.1 rebounds in 19.0 minutes per game.  Primarily due to Whiteside’s presence and performance, Adebayo’s playing time overall has dropped from the 19.8 minutes per game of his rookie year.

Despite his inconsistent playing time, Adebayo currently leads the Heat with an elite 99.3 defensive rating, with the team 9.4 points per 100 possessions better off defensively when the 6’10” Adebayo is on the floor.

Due to his incredible combination of lateral quickness and power, Adebayo has the unique ability to guard a large variety of players on the floor given the situation. Therefore, with the likes of Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam possessing similar traits, it came as little surprise that Adebayo would have such a featured role in the loss to the Raptors.

Moving forward, along with Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow, Adebayo is clearly an integral part of the Heat setup. Notably, when hitting the floor as a trio, the Adebayo-Richardson-Winslow three-man lineup has thus far returned a +12.8 net rating, the second-best return among all Miami three-man lineups that have played at least 100 minutes this season.

So while he is best suited to the center spot, Adebayo’s considerable versatility means the Heat also possess the flexibility of playing him at either frontcourt spot, whether it be next to Whiteside or Kelly Olynyk.

However, if his recent production maintains, and the Heat manage to drop even further down the standings, it would make all the sense in the world for the Heat to completely back Bam Adebayo as the primary center on the team.