Miami Heat: Bam Adebayo’s comparisons more valid by the day

Following a breakout season with the Miami Heat culminating in his first All-Star appearance, Bam Adebayo has reason to be compared with some of the greats.

Upon selecting Bam Adebayo with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Miami Heat president Pat Riley did not hold back in sharing his expectations for the former Kentucky star:

“He reminds me of Shawn Kemp. At least physically and the mature, already developed athletic body for professional basketball. So that was a comparison and we all know what kind of career he had.”

Also entering the league at age 19, Kemp’s incredible combination of speed and athleticism, combined with his overall ball-handling abilities, certainly provided for a valid comparison with Adebayo.

Through 65 games this season until the abrupt suspension, Adebayo was a force at both ends of the floor, often acting as the de facto point guard for the team. Here’s a statistical comparison for the two at age 22 and in their third season in the league:

Kemp: 15.5 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.9 BPG, 28.3 MPG

Adebayo: 16.2 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 5.1 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 34.4 MPG

Clearly, one area in which Adebayo is clearly superior is in the playmaking department. Gathering more responsibility as the season progressed, Adebayo averaged 6.2 assists per game over the final 17 games of the season. However, it’s the next several seasons in which Kemp established himself as one of the premier players in the game.

In the six seasons between the age of 23 to 28, Kemp made six straight All-Star appearances, averaging 18.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks in 34.4 minutes per game. And like Adebayo, Kemp was extremely durable during this stretch, missing a total of 13 years over those six years.

Then there is the other comparison made on draft night, this time from head coach Erik Spoelstra:

“I’ll take that one of Kevin Garnett. We have no problem with that. But we also would like to maybe work on thinking differently with him and he becoming the best Bam that he can become and maybe that’s somebody that 20 years from now younger kids emulate and try to copy his game.”

Garnett would be the ultimate model for Adebayo to follow. While not possessing the overall length that the 15-time All-Star possessed during his illustrious career, Adebayo’s versatility at both ends of the floor certainly brings some comparisons to the 2004 NBA MVP.

Statistically, there are certainly indications that Adebayo could follow upon the path left behind by Garnett.

In averaging 16.2 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 5.1 APG and 1.3 BPG, Adebayo joined Garnett and the following list of players as the only ones in NBA history to have recorded this line over a full season, per Basketball Reference:

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
DeMarcus Cousins
Chris Webber
Giannis Antetokounmpo

To state the obvious, this is some elite company. Featuring some of the most versatile and dominant players in the history of the game, putting together such a historical season at age 22 can only bode incredibly well for the future of both Adebayo and the Heat.

As coach Spoelstra stated to Zach Lowe of ESPN during the course of this season, as it relates to Adebayo’s rapid development:

“I want him to be a different player six weeks from now, three months from now. And then I’ll move the goal posts again.”

So while Bam Adebayo still has a mountain of work to reach the lofty status of this illustrious group, the Miami Heat can be comforted in the fact that he will leave no stone unturned in his pursuit of greatness.

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