The Miami Heat made what many considered to be the first surprise of the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday night when they selected Bam Adebayo out of Kentucky with the No. 14 pick. But as team president Pat Riley and head coach Erik Spoelstra said the following day to start Bam’s introductory press conference at the AmericanAirlines Arena, they both agreed that he was a perfect fit for the team.
“We are really excited about having Bam join our organization,” said Spoelstra. “We do think it’s a great fit. So much of this league is about finding the kind of basketball players that fit your culture, fit your style of play, fit your work ethic -- all of these things and Bam checked so many boxes.”
Spoelstra sounded eager to start working immediately on developing Bam and integrating him into the system.
“There is a place certainly for a player of Bam’s skillset and ability and physicality that he can also make teams and players have to adjust to him. But we love his work ethic, we love how he’s developed and improved from the very first day at Kentucky to the end of the year. We think that he has an incredibly high ceiling and we have an open mind of where we can develop him and where he can fit in.”
Drafting at the very end of the lottery, the conventional wisdom is teams should pick the best player available regardless of positional need, and the Heat brain trust in the war room jumped at the chance to add what they think is a unique player that can be molded in a variety of ways.
“You know us, we don’t care about positions,” he said. “We don’t care about conventional boxes where players fit in...We love the versatility that he brings. You need the versatility to be able to defend out on the floor, you need guys that can defend multiple positions. I am still stunned by a young man this large and athletic and explosive that can move his feet and be that light on the ground. We think that fits into our defensive system, our style and the way this league is going. You need guys that can show that kind of quickness but also to be able to punish teams in the paint, at the rim.
“The sky is the limit with Bam because of his work ethic and we think he fits great with the way the league is going. Just look at the Finals, you saw guys with his athleticism out there and running around and making plays at the highest level. So we love it.”
Spoelstra repeatedly gushed about Bam’s work ethic, motor and athleticism through the course of the nearly 30-minute press conference.
“You don’t see many players come through our building like this as a young pro with so much promise to be able to develop and that’s why we’re so excited about it. We have a great young core that fits in with our veteran core but now we have some real, young promising players to develop as well and that’s exciting.
“We’re really thrilled to have a young player in our system, 19 years old but as you can see — I don’t know what young players are eating nowadays and how they’re training to get to this size — but somebody of this athleticism that graded out as one of the most athletic players has a toughness, a motor, a defensive mindset, all of these things that we value. And a great story that we really connected with and it’s taken a lot for him to get to this point to be a professional basketball player. We believe in these kinds of stories, guys that have to show perseverance and great individual character. That matters in this league.”
For his part, Bam is willing to take on the challenge of adding to his game under the tutelage of the Heat coaching staff known for developing young players.
“I compete with anybody. I’ve been competing against the best of the best in my whole year at Kentucky. (Coach John Calipari) made me switch every day in practice and made me switch in games. Just having that coming into the league gives you a good experience.
“Physicality, that comes with a competitive nature so if you’re not going to go in there and bang, I don’t consider you a competitor. I’ll do whatever they ask me. If they want me to get in there and bang, I’m fine with that because I compete and I’m never going to back down from anybody else.”
Spoelstra was tickled but perfectly fine with the Kevin Garnett comparisons that have been made, but stresses that they're solely interested in making him the best player he can be. He pointed out that Bam was the last player to leave the private workout at the AmericanAirlines ahead of the draft, preferring to keep working on his game as other prospects cleared out.
“I thought it was a tremendous workout, but all it did was confirm everything that our scouts had already known about him,” said Spoelstra.
Riley offered up an older, but savvy, comparison with Shawn Kemp, who was taken #17 in 1989 after briefly attending Kentucky (but never playing for them) and went on to become a true force in the NBA. But for now, Riley is simply happy they were able to grab a player they had rated highly across the board.
“I’m glad that he’s here and I’m glad that he’s going to part of our young nucleus,” said Riley. “We have the best development staff in the league from a coaching standpoint. We’ll offer him everything and anything at anytime.”
Asked what he knew about the Heat going into his first day as their newest player, Bam was to the point.
“They give guys a high ceiling,” he said. “They let them play to see what they can do. They just want dudes that will fight and have toughness.”
Something tells me Juwan Howard, Udonis Haslem and Alonzo Mourning are going to love this guy.