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Will Bam Adebayo become another Dwight Howard for the Miami Heat?

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Adebayo was compared to Howard coming out of the University of Kentucky. Can he shake that forecast?

2021 NBA Playoffs - Miami Heat v Milwaukee Bucks

Bam Adebayo’s seeming lack of urgency in the Miami Heat’s 109-107 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks brings to mind his collegiate scouting reports. One analysis in particular pegged him as the second coming of three time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard.

Long-time University of Kentucky reporter Jerry Tipton had this to say about Adebayo, “Bam was a power player/presence around the basket player for Kentucky. He was compared to Dwight Howard, which I thought was accurate. Bam did not jump for joy about this comparison, and seemed to think people meant he resembled Howard. The wide shoulders, muscled physique and similar size drove the comparison.”

Adebayo’s skills on offense have improved to some degree from what Tipton observed, “Bam’s offensive game needs polishing. He seemed almost rudimentary in the low post. Much more comfortable facing the basket.”

Tipton goes on to note Adebayo’s ingrained habit of deferring to teammates, “I wonder if Bam will be a revelation as a NBA player. He seemed to be a team player at Kentucky almost to a fault. Will the ‘true’ Bam emerge now? Coaches repeatedly urged Bam to demand the ball and impose his will. But he deferred to Fox and Monk, and would only playfully suggest he get the ball more.”

Another reporter from Louisville had similar story about Adebayo’s Ketucky days. John Calipari said,

“I’ll be stunned if he’s not a lottery pick and the reason is, Bam guards five positions... When you can guard five positions in this league and you fight, and I had two teams hit me (Thursday) with messages that they interviewed him and they love him. Like, what a great kid.”

Previous to praising Adebayo’s defensive acumen, Calipari noted Adebayo can be passive on offense at times due to his personality, “The strong showing from Adebayo came just three days after Calipari called him ‘too nice’ because he would not demand the ball from his teammates more.”

UK assistant coach Kenny Payne said, “I think he’s too nice and too unselfish. I really do. I think that if he had a little bit of DeMarcus Cousins’ mentality, he changes the dynamics of this team. Every game I’m telling him, ‘Take over the game for us. Dominate the game for us.’”

At 35 years old Goran Dragic has more of a sense of urgency than Jimmy Butler to win a NBA championship before he retires. For Dragic three more losses to the Bucks would lead to wondering about what might be his last season in Miami. Although Dragic was talking about Adebayo, he may have also been addressing the team in general after the game.

“I feel like he[Adebayo] needs to be more aggressive. I’m not saying to take that midrange shot. But, you know, he got that ability to put the ball on the floor and be more physical and try to challenge them at the rim. I know Lopez is big, but I think Bam has that quality, he can do it many ways, he can score may ways against him. So, we’re gonna have to watch the film and see how we’re going to attack them in the next game. Hopefully, we’re gonna make some changes.”

Substituting the word urgent for aggressive implies time is of the essence. The season for the Heat could be over by next week unless Miami beats Milwaukee four times. Aggression alone doesn’t win games. Having a purpose and urgency about completing the task at hand without fail matters.

That said the veteran Brook Lopez gave Adebayo some problems. In game one of the playoffs Adebayo made 30% of his field goal attempts (FGA) defended by Lopez, which mirrors his 6 of 16 makes (36%) during the regular season. Shooting fouls (SFL) tell a slightly different story.

During regular season Lopez committed 2 SFL in Adebayo’s 16 FGA. That could cause issues about staying on the court. Which other players got Lopez in foul trouble during the regular season? Kelly Olynyk drew 3 SFL in 4 FGA (early exit), DeAndre Jordan 3/4, Norman Powell 2/3, PJ Washington 2/5.

Turning to protecting the paint Lopez is vulnerable against crafty guards, which is true for most defenders. DFG% for 12 FGA or more: Deandre Ayton 83% (10/12), Bradley Beal 67% (8/12), Stephen Curry 54% (7/13), Nikola Jokic (12/23).

Besides Adebayo, an aggressive Butler from the outset could upend the Bucks possible game plan of dealing with the usually quiet Butler in first quarters. In just 52 seconds of match-up time Lopez committed 3 personal fouls against Butler. However Butler logged 46 minutes and Adebayo 41 in the opener, while Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton played 45 minutes each, and Jrue Holiday 42 minutes. See whether fatigue plays a factor in game two.

After exceeding expectations last season the Heat as a team has a tough act to follow. Erik Spoelstra and his team of coaches will work on instilling a sense of urgency over the remainder of the playoffs. Adebayo is sure to be a key part of those plans.

Stats courtesy of NBA stats.