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Bam Adebayo is taking another leap

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Adebayo has become more comfortable taking jump shots this season.

Miami Heat v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Last season, Bam Adebayo took a leap from a NBA-level starter to a first-time All-Star. This season, he’s taking a leap from an All-Star to an All-NBA player.

This leap has surprised many — Adebayo suffered a shoulder injury in last October’s Finals and wasn’t his usual self when he returned. Moreover, the Heat had just a two-month layoff from last season to this one. And yet, the player the Heat took after not tanking in the 2016-17 season has improved so markedly from the bubble run that Erik Spoelstra calls him a superstar.

In games against the Philadelphia 76ers last year, Joel Embiid camped out in the paint when Adebayo had the ball just inside the 3-point arc. Embiid knew Adebayo didn’t want to take the jumper. Just 14 percent of Adebayo’s field goal attempts last season came from 10-16 feet out, and just over five percent of his shots were from 16 feet out to the 3-point line.

Now, Adebayo has upped those numbers. He’s now shooting nearly a quarter of his field goal attempts from 10-16 feet out, and nearly 17 percent of his shots from 16 feet to the 3-point line. And he’s making them.

Adebayo’s impressive repertoire was most on display when he scored a career-high 41 points Saturday night against the Brooklyn Nets. He only took 20 shots to score those points, incredible efficiency — especially when considering that he only took, and made, one 3. (In Game 1 of Miami’s series against the Milwaukee Bucks last year, Butler also scored 40 on just 20 shots.) He made jab-step jumpers, turnaround shots in the paint and finished in traffic at the rim.

If there’s one silver lining to Miami playing this much time without Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro and Avery Bradley, it’s that it’s forced Adebayo to become more aggressive in looking for his own shot. Last season, Adebayo was fifth on Miami in field goals attempted — behind Kendrick Nunn, Butler, Goran Dragic and Herro. Now, Adebayo is third, just behind Herro and Butler.

Of course, Miami’s disappointing 6-10 start has obscured Adebayo’s marked improvement. But Jimmy Butler, who made All-NBA Third Team last year, has played in just six games so far. When All-NBA players go down on any team, they suffer. The Boston Celtics swept the Philadelphia 76ers after Ben Simmons went down, even though Embiid put up huge numbers. The Los Angeles Lakers missed the playoffs two years ago because LeBron James suffered from a groin injury that limited his play for much of the season.

Maybe the closest parallel Heat fans have to this is the 2005-06 season, when Shaquille O’Neal missed time early in the season. Miami got off to a shaky 10-10 start. Although Adebayo probably won’t reach Dwyane Wade’s peak, Butler is a little younger than O’Neal was and won’t have the steep drop-off that Shaq had.

Don’t give up on this season just yet. Adebayo is becoming better than anyone of us could’ve imagined.