The Ascension of Bam Adebayo

Bam Adebayo made himself known to NBA fans everywhere, playing superb basketball en route to his first All-Star nomination. This year, the Miami big man is playing even better than before.

When you hear the moniker “Bam Bam”, what is the first thing that you think of?

For most people, the first thing that comes to mind is Bamm-Bamm Rumble, Barney Rumble’s adopted son from The Flintstones. Some few wrestling fans may recall the late Bam Bam Bigelow, a former WWE superstar and ECW champion.

But for NBA fans, and most especially fans of the Miami Heat, the moniker “Bam Bam” may be best associated with Heat center Bam Adebayo. Born Edrice Femi Adebayo, Bam got his nickname from his mother when he flipped a coffee table while watching – wait for it – The Flintstones. He had that nickname since the age of one, and it stuck like glue ever since.

It’s oddly fitting that a nickname like Bam is synonymous with Adebayo’s playing style. Adebayo is more than capable of scoring down low in the paint and grabbing boards, while also blocking shots and dunking whenever necessary. Not that surprising for a man for his size (6-9, 255 pounds). The 7-11 wingspan also helps, too.

While Adebayo plays like a traditional big man, he also has a few qualities reminiscent of new-age centers. He has great ballhandling skills and can pass the ball just like any other passing big man.

This season, Adebayo is averaging 19.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game on over 56 percent shooting. The scoring average is a noticeable improvement over his All-Star year when he averaged 15.9 points per game. And just like last year, Adebayo is a favorite to win the NBA Most Improved Player of the Year award, although the competition appears to be stiffer this time around. Jaylen Brown, Jerami Grant, and Christian Wood all have very convincing cases, among many others.

One may take a glance at Adebayo’s numbers and believe that the fourth-year center is playing like an All-Star – and deservedly so. However, Adebayo has shown that he has all the makings of a potential All-NBA player…or even a future MVP candidate.

Holding It Down on Defense

We all know that Adebayo can wreak havoc on defense. As shown during the playoffs, he can guard any position on the court, able to defend any player no matter their size. His defensive presence on the court is impactful, as he has helped the Heat maintain the seventh-best defensive rating in the NBA so far.

Adebayo currently averages 1.2 blocks and 0.9 steals per game this season. In terms of advanced stats, he is 5th in defensive points saved, with a DPS rating of 53.19. Only Nikola Jokić, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, and teammate Jimmy Butler rank ahead of him. He leads the Heat in defensive win shares (2.2) and is third on his team in defensive box plus-minus (1.9). Among other players, Adebayo is in the top five and top ten in those respective categories.

Growing on the Offensive End

When Butler and Tyler Herro were both sidelined during the season, Adebayo took a more aggressive approach to his game. And so far, it has shown.

This aggression was best exhibited in a January 23rd game against the Brooklyn Nets. Despite the Heat losing 128-124, Adebayo scored a then career-high 41 points, needing only twenty shots to get the job done. (Only one of those shots was a three-pointer.) He also demonstrated fantastic playmaking skills in his performance, with a team-high nine assists.

Adebayo is attempting nearly thirteen shots per game, making damage in the midrange game. Not only is he creating shots for himself, but he’s also creating shots for his teammates as well. With 5.3 assists per game, he’s second among centers in assists, sitting right behind Jokic. Adebayo tallied ten assists in three games this season; Jokic is the only other center to have multiple games of ten assists or more.

“No Ceiling” for Adebayo

If Adebayo is ever deserving of another nickname, it would have to be “No Ceiling”. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra came up with two years ago when discussing Adebayo’s limitless potential.

“That’ll continue to be the case,” said Spoelstra, per Sports Illustrated. “I don’t know where his game is going to grow. I just know he’s competitively wired and how much he cares about this organization, about his teammates, about winning. He will continue to make dramatic improvements on how to impact winning.”

Former Heat All-Star and Adebayo’s former teammate Dwyane Wade was inclined to agree with Spoelstra’s assessment. Per the Miami Herald, this is what Wade had to say about Adebayo:

“He has no ceiling. He has none. I won’t put any on him either because I’ve been that young guy that a lot of people didn’t have high expectations for, but you knew he could do something. Then look what happened to my career. Bam has no ceiling at all, man. I think we all knew that Bam was a Miami guy. That’s all we knew. We knew that he was in line with the Alonzo [Mourning(s)] and the [Udonis Haslem(s)] of the world. Like he is that kind of talent and kind of player, with the way he approaches things. The sky is the limit, man.”

Much like Butler, Adebayo has received high remarks from the coaching staff and teammates alike for his strong work ethic. As long as he continues to hone his craft – offensively and defensively – Adebayo could one day reach his limitless potential. Eventually, he could evolve into a big man that the likes of which the NBA has never seen before.

 

 

Bam Adebayo Ascension
Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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