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Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow could define the future of Miami Heat ballhandling

The Heat have a promising young core of players flying under the NBA radar as they may emerge from the shadows of the media.

Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Justise Winslow recently grabbed the attention of Miami Heat fans with his evolution into a non-conventional point guard.

The perception of Bam Adebayo as a backup center behind Hassan Whiteside hides his morphing into a power forward along the lines of the Denver Nuggets’ frontcourt man Nikola Jokic.

Adebayo had 4 or more assists in 8 of his last 12 games, and in an statistical oddity the Heat lost all five of their games during November and December when Adebayo did not record a single assist.

In Miami’s 8 wins over their last 12 games Winslow had 39 assists, Josh Richardson 35, Adebayo 34, while Kelly Olynyk handed out only 17 dimes.

During the last Cleveland Cavaliers game Adebayo demonstrated his smooth handle running the floor when not pressured, and ended with an on-the-money hand-off for a Richardson 3-point basket.

The assist above wasn’t from an Elbow Touch (ETCH), but among NBA players with 50 or more ETCHs, Adebayo is only one of four men with an assist percentage above 15%, and he’s the youngest of the bunch.

Assists out of elbow touches

PLAYER AGE ETCH PASS% AST% TOV% A/T
PLAYER AGE ETCH PASS% AST% TOV% A/T
Karl-Anthony Towns 23 64 46.9% 18.8% 9.4% 2.0
Nikola Jokic 23 100 56.0% 18.0% 5.0% 3.6
Jusuf Nurkic 24 69 52.2% 15.9% 5.8% 2.8
Bam Adebayo 21 53 64.2% 15.1% 1.9% 8.0

A similar story comes in the paint where he is one of the NBA’s most willing distributors from a Paint Touch (PTCH), although he finds turnovers a much bigger problem near the basket.

Assists out of paint touches

Player AGE PTCH PASS% AST% TOV% A/T
Player AGE PTCH PASS% AST% TOV% A/T
Marc Gasol 33 71 46.5 12.7 2.8 4.54
Bam Adebayo 21 62 33.9 9.7 8.1 1.20
Karl-Anthony Towns 23 83 20.5 8.4 4.8 1.75
Kevon Looney 22 66 34.8 7.6 4.5 1.69

In the video clip below Adebayo grabbed a missed shot and was immediately double-teamed leaving 3 Cavs players to cover 4 well-spaced Heat players on the perimeter.

He displays a patient approach with the opportunity, the ability to protect the ball from the defenders, and finally excellent court vision in his timely pass to Tyler Johnson for a 3-point score.

Amazingly Adebayo’s and Jokic’s Net Ratings, Offense 118 - Defense 104 = Net 14, are exactly the same for this season, according to basketball-reference.com.

With the emergence of Derrick Jones Jr. as an ace on defense, at 21 years of age Adebayo seems to have an innate knack to become a facilitator from inside, to compliment Winslow who runs the show as the primary floor general.

After two more years of NBA experience and the mentoring of Kelly Olynyk, Adebayo may display the passing chops Jokic is known for at 23 years of age.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks stand atop the NBA sporting a record of 26-10, while Jokic and the Nuggets lead the West with a 24-11 record, which implies a possible shift in the league towards to more physical teams, who can frustrate small-ball lineup squads.

Teams try to copy the Golden State Warriors winning formula, but going forward in a newer different approach may succeed, because NBA teams quickly learn how to exploit any weaknesses in what worked before.

Tall and strong ball-handlers such as 6’7” Winslow, 6’10” Adebayo, plus long finishers 6’7” Jones Jr., 6’8” Yante Maten (as yet still waiting), who are all 22 years or younger, will only get better as they reach their best years from 25 to 29 in the near future.

They have a lot learning to do on the court, so including this season’s first-round draft pick to the mix for next year, the Heat could have an underappreciated youth movement in its midst.

When adding the Miami players currently in their prime years, the team might find their game of zones could be one of the surprise stories in the association.