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With playing time, Bam Adebayo shows defensive potential

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The rookie’s strong defense on Steph Curry earned cheers from the crowd.

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat suffered a disappointing shellacking to the Golden State Warriors Sunday night with another third-quarter meltdown. But one positive note from the evening against the world champions? Bam Adebayo’s strong defense against Steph Curry.

Adebayo’s superb defense on Curry, forcing the two-time NBA champion to pass the ball to Kevin Durant after failing to move past the rookie, was the third time Adebayo found himself switched onto an All-Star perimeter player. As the embedded tweet above shows, Adebayo also played good defense on Jimmy Butler and LeBron James in recent games.

With Hassan Whiteside out, Adebayo has relished the opportunity to play more. When Whiteside plays, Adebayo rarely makes his way to the court; Whiteside and Kelly Olynyk stand ahead of him in the depth chart.

And let’s not forget that Adebayo played good defense on Charlotte Hornets center Dwight Howard last Friday night, collecting four steals, two blocks and drawing three offensive fouls on Howard.

With the opportunity to play, Adebayo has proven that he’s a versatile defender. If you think the Heat should keep Whiteside, these promising displays of defensive prowess show that Adebayo has the potential to play alongside Whiteside if he develops a jump-shot. If you think the Heat should trade Whiteside, it shows that the rookie may be ready for a more permanent role.

Miami has a lot of issues — the extended lulls that have squandered 20-point leads and turned close games into blowout losses have the Heat below .500 23 games into the season. But the Heat’s first-round pick in this year’s Draft has shown he can defend even the best perimeter players well. That’s an asset.