For the Heat, Bam Adebayo is Developing His Game in All But One Area
The development of Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo is impressive in and of itself.
He’s gotten better every year — somewhat of a rarity, despite the expectation for linear growth among young players. That really shines through on the offensive end of the ball, where Adebayo has transformed from screen-and-dive man, to handoff hub, to an increasingly comfortable bucket-getter.
Adebayo has never been more independent: this year, 40.3% of his made field goals were made without a helper, the first time his assist percentage fell below 60%. According to Second Spectrum, the Heat are scoring 1.08 points per possession (PPP) on trips with an Adebayo isolation and about the same amount (1.075 PPP) on post-ups.
Among high volume scorers — a minimum of 150 isolations and 150 post-ups — only In both situations, Adebayo’s effectiveness is equaled by Luka Doncic and DeMar DeRozan. Really, I don’t think anyone outside of the Heat organization ever expected Adebayo to be in that company, but that’s pretty good company to be in. At least not this early.
“The growth speaks for itself, the work speaks for itself,” In his eleventh 30-point game of the year, Adebayo told Basketball News after his team’s victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.
“After every year, the next one anticipates even more development from you. In this league, nobody wants to become complacent, including myself. My objective was to keep improving, and I believe I have succeeded in doing so.”
Pick-and-roll reps have been left on the rack more frequently as Adebayo has been given—no, earned—more hats to wear within the offense.
We are aware of Adebayo’s abilities as a screener, including setting up the lane for lobs or short-rolling into mid-range attempts, both of which he is doing more frequently than ever. You would think, with the Heat being more comfortable with the ball in his hands, they’d follow the trend of bigger creators running more ball-screens.
At various points, we’ve noticed them strewn about. Since Adebayo is moving the ball up the floor more frequently than ever—11 possessions per game, according to Second Spectrum—early screens can now be set up for him.
The play ends with an incredible recovery and block from Clint Capela, but look at how tantalizing the setup is for Adebayo.
He feels a little more at ease. The defense has to worry about him posting up or facing up. They have to be concerned about the Heat going into split action or, given that Adebayo is the only player on the left side, the possibility of this turning into a handoff with little help available.
Instead, Tyler Herro is running his man (Jalen Johnson) into Capela, clearing a way for Adebayo to reach the rim. Finding ways to plan that up would make sense given that Adebayo has taken a career-low 40% of his shots at the rim this season.
These kinds of ball-screen sets seem like they might be a potential solution. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra notes that while Adebayo “has been initiating for us for years,” he’s careful not to put too many eggs into the pick-and-roll basket.
“That’s part of bringing a little bit more diversity to our offense, but we also have some specific things that he has to do for us,” basketball news, according to Spoelstra.
“Putting pressure on the rim as a screener and big. For our offense, that is essential. He has to do a lot of different things, and that’s not easy to balance. If you do one of the things too often, that’s not great for us.”
To Spoelstra’s point, the Adebayo-led ball screens haven’t been effective—although there is a caveat about the size of the sample.
Since being named the undisputed starter in 2019–20, Adebayo has only received 63 on-ball picks this season, or 1.5 per 100 possessions, which is the lowest rate. On those possessions, the Heat have only generated 0.83 PPP. With 243 players running at least 60 ball-screens this season, that places them 214th overall.
The Heat might not have the ecosystem to give Adebayo a significant increase in frequency either. Recalling the Hawks’ scenario, it makes sense to empty a side and let Herro, Miami’s best (movement) shooter, put additional pressure on defenses. But even though it made sense on paper, this is how it appeared in reality.
Bogdan Bogdanovic is peeled in early, with two feet in the paint. Saddiq Bey is sagging off Max Strus and is standing back from the paint. Dejounte Murray doesn’t significantly influence the play, but he also sags off of Victor Oladipo and is available to help if needed.
Spoelstra noted that Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry (currently out) have been screening partners for Adebayo in the past. They make more sense than Herro as partners right now. As a guard screener, Lowry ranks among the best in NBA history (and is willing to do so). Butler, who is tough in his own right, also has the added advantage of lessening his own spacer problems by taking part in the action.
Butler, Herro, and a healthy Lowry will continue to be higher on the pecking order if Miami runs a ball-screen. They should remain higher on the pecking order.
You can anticipate it to stay that way as long as the situation in Miami doesn’t change.