The Miami Heat might be the most surprising success story of the NBA season. In a league increasingly dependent on loaded rosters of superstars, the Heat got by with a team-oriented approach. Although the acquisition of Jimmy Butler paid dividends, the growth of Bam Adebayo was just as significant. How important? Butler discussed the impact that his young teammate continues to have on the team.
Bam Adebayo’s NBA career
The athlete spent a year at Kentucky before turning to the NBA. A big man from a bygone era, Adebayo doesn’t stretch the floor and awe people with the tremendous shooting. Instead, he plays with a style akin to a bygone era. Other centers capitalize on the range to use their point guard skills. But Adebayo plays with the tenacity of a Dennis Rodman and the passing ability of a Nikola Jokic.
He started as a bench player for the Heat playing 20 minutes a game as a rookie. Right away, his presence on the Heat was felt by others. He averaged seven points and five rebounds a game, but his presence meant a lot more than what could measure on a stat sheet. Over the next two years, he gradually got better at nearly every aspect of his game.
The 2020 season, however, was on another level. Adebayo nearly doubled his scoring output at just under 16 points a game to go with a career-high 10 rebounds. Most surprisingly, however, was the addition of a passing game. Adebayo averaged five assists in year three. Add a steal and a block, and he’s the perfect player for Erik Spoelstra’s Heat.
This carried over to the playoffs, where Adebayo brought it to even another level at the game’s most important moments.
Adebayo shows up
Adebayo played in the playoffs as a rookie, but his role was limited. This go-round, however, he’s putting the league on notice. His scoring shot up to nearly 18 points per game, and his rebounds went to almost 12. Not only that, but the Heat surprised the league by not just winning the first two rounds and leading in the conference finals, they’re doing so decisively.
Perhaps no play better represents Adebayo’s importance than the final stretch of the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals, details ESPN. With Jayson Tatum dribbling the ball into the lane for a potential game-tying dunk, Adebayo seemed to get a second wind on a jump for a block and stopped Tatum in his tracks, securing the win for the Heat.
Plays like this set Adebayo apart from most big men in the NBA. It’s also what endears him to teammates like Butler and the rest of the Heat. Butler lauded Adebayo when he spoke about his value to the team.
Jimmy Butler chimes in
While many credit Butler for the Heat’s unlikely season, Butler was quick to credit his young big man for the way that the Heat attack other teams. Following Adebayo’s magnificent block, Butler took to Instagram to praise his teammate, calling him the ‘heart and soul’ of the Miami run. He also praised the young all-star to the media.
“Bam don’t need no more confidence, Bam knows he’s one of the top players in this league,” said Butler per Sky Sports. “He’s only going to continue to get better because he works and he cares and he studies the game. I always tell y’all and I mean it, he’s the heart and soul behind us, he’s what makes us go.”
While the Heat get by on teamwork that hasn’t been seen in years, the fact that so many people can be considered the heart and soul says everything about their chances. When Adebayo has a workhorse like Butler praising his intensity, it rings even more accurately than before.