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Will Bam Adebayo affect Miami Heat’s future like Dwyane Wade did?

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Bam Adebayo's role off the bench is gradually becoming more meaningful as the season wears on.

NBA: Miami Heat at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

In Dwyane Wade’s 2003 rookie year for the Miami Heat, the team started out the season losing 15 of their first 20 games. Miami recovered to go 37-25 from then on, and qualify for the playoffs with a 42-40 record. Beginning the season with the third toughest schedule, the Heat could make some noise in their remaining games, if the last two games are signs of their potential.

Personality-wise Bam Adebayo resembles Tim Duncan or Wes Unseld more than Dwyane Wade. Adebayo shares having the number 3 on his jersey along with Wade, but the number 1 before the 3 says he puts the team first. Whether coming off the bench, or having teammates participate in postgame interviews, Bam focuses on unselfish play and great defense.

Wade joined the Heat at 21 1/2 years of age after two years of college ball at Marquette. This season in Miami would be equivalent to Bam's second year in Pat Riley's alma mater (Riley’s 50th class reunion for UK was this year): the University of Kentucky. Comparing apples to apples next year, when Adebayo becomes 21, would be a fair starting point for analogies between Dwyane and Bam.

The highlight clip from the Memphis Grizzles game shows there is much more to Adebayo's game than dunks.

  1. Tip-in on an alert play
  2. Great outlet pass for a transition basket after a block
  3. Drive to the rim drawing a shooting foul resulting in two points
  4. Cut to basket for a emphatic dunk after a hand-off from Waiters
  5. Solid ball handling and finishing skills with a reverse lay-up
  6. Rim-protecting block leading to transition basket
  7. Nice cut and basket off a Dion Waiters feed
  8. Classic roll and alley-oop dunk off a Goran Dragic assist
  9. Great ball-handling skills and poise under pressure after a block

After only 26 games in his pro career I'm not ready to enshrine Adebayo in the Hall of Fame alongside Wade. What Bam displays is a solid all-around defensive and offensive skill set, plus a quiet leadership potential. One quality he possesses is not getting distracted by referee's decisions. Too many Heat players stand on the court and argue with the referees, forgetting their job is to play basketball, not become lawyers trying to convince a judge.

The prospect of Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson all breaking out this season boggles the mind. Winslow especially, is developing faster by coming off the bench than he was as a starter. I could see that lately he's more comfortable and focused on improving his game without the pressure of starting. Before raving too much about Miami's bench defense, remember last night's game was against the offensively-challenged Grizzlies.

Comparing Adebayo, at this this stage of his career, to Wade doesn’t make sense, but he's blossoming before Heat fans very own eyes. Thinking about Rookie of the Year honors would jinx Bam and put him in the company of such notable ROY winners such as Malcolm Brogdon, Michael Carter-Williams, Tyreke Evans, Emeka Okafor and Mike Miller. Hopefully the process for Miami might rival the one up north in Philadelphia, as the Heat’s youthful core ramp up their skill sets.