The Miami Heat found another winner in the draft with Bam Adebayo. Now he has to learn how to translate his raw talent into the polished skills of winning basketball games. Barry Jackson writes that Tyler Johnson said,
“You put him on the perimeter and he can guard one through five. You would not expect a guy that big and with such broad shoulders to be able to have the touch he has. But he has nice touch. I’m telling you, he’s going to be special.”
Wayne Ellington added,
“He's going to be a force to reckon with in this league for a long time. He's going to be the steal of the draft. Bam as a young guy, his work ethic is so impressive to me. We all know about his athleticism and the way he flies. But he also can shoot pretty well. His jumper has been pretty consistent. He's getting back to the three point line. and he knows them down and and does it pretty consistently.”
At 20 years of age there is practically no information to evaluate his readiness in game time situations versus the pros. DraftExpress compiled some of his weaknesses against AAU players in this video, such favoring scoring over his left shoulders. NBA will take those moves away and make him post-up over his right shoulder.
Basically his faults lie in learning angles, handling double teams, reading offenses and defenses instinctively in real time situations, and in general, overcoming weaknesses guys in the NBA will exploit against him. Lack of time facing elite defenses is a common trait he shares with most other 19 year-old basketball players. He can't graduate to the professional level of basketball sitting on the bench or in shootarounds.
The G-League is meant for polishing the 1-and-done players barely out of high school. The Heat staff could build a solid video dossier of his habits in actual games to analyze, since they have so little data now to rely on. Time spent in the professional setting of Sioux Falls gives him experience in dealing with traveling, professional practice rituals, and loads of reps against professionals in game situations.
The prestige of being in the NBA is great, but playing an occasional 5 to 10 minutes per contest, doesn't provide the large amount of playing time he needs to accelerate his progress. Being on the floor for 30 minutes in Sioux Falls, night-in, night-out, conditions his body much better for the moment he's called up to contribute in Miami.
NBA teams didn't have that option in the 1980's or 1990's, so this concept is foreign to players from that generation. This is 2017, and time in the G-League makes up for missing the 2nd, 3rd and 4th years in college ball for the 1-and-done players. Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson both benefited serving on their college teams for a full 4 years. Hassan Whiteside learned the hard way to raise his level by perfecting his craft outside of the NBA. That helped Rodney McGruder succeed in his rookie year.
Everyone seems anxious to put a 20 year-old out on the floor prematurely, and then having him make costly rookie mental mistakes against savvy players with years of experience. Realistically it's better for him to make those blunders in the G-League. Then when he has his pro game down pat, he'll hit the ground running in the NBA.
I'm expecting key contributions from Adebayo eventually, but only when he is ready to deliver them at playoff levels in the NBA. Adequate performances now don’t help him or the Heat. He'll get a lot more game reps with the Skyforce, along with less distractions, than in the sporadic minutes off the bench the Heat give him.
At 20 years-old his future will eventually carry him into the All-Star games. But first he needs a lot of consistent minutes now to accelerate his learning curve so he can help the Heat sooner in a meaningful way, which he can only do with the Skyforce.