Why Bam Adebayo is the Perfect Center for the Modern NBA

“Making his All-Star debut, going hard in the paint is his style, from the Miami Heat, Bam Adebayo!”

In the modern NBA, traditional centers are losing their value more and more each day. NBA offenses do not use the post game as as much as they did in previous eras. They are primarily based off of shooting 3’s, or driving to the rim. The Rockets are going all in on this style, by trading Clint Capela and starting PJ Tucker, who is 6’5, at center. The game is changing, and some of these players have to adapt their games to this style. One player who centers should look to model their game after is Miami Heat star, Bam Adebayo.

Aside from superstars Karl Anthony Towns and Nikola Jokic, many starting centers have the same role. On offense, they are either setting screens, rolling to the basket off pick and rolls, rebounding or occasionally stepping out and attempting a 3 pointer.

Bam Adebayo is a 6’9 center out of Kentucky, who went 14th overall to the Miami Heat in the 2017 NBA draft. Looking back, this pick is looking like a steal, as he is arguably the third best player from that draft, after Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell. He didn’t get much playing time his rookie season, with Hassan Whiteside taking up most of his minutes. However, in the second half of his sophomore season, Bam took the starting job from Whiteside, and he’s never looked back since.

Miami Heat General Manager, Pat Riley, saw the potential in Adebayo, so he tried to clear cap space to pair him with former NBA All-Star, Jimmy Butler. Riley traded Whiteside in a four team deal, which sent Whiteside to Portland, center Meyers Leonard to Miami, and forward Maurice Harkless to the Clippers. 

There have been many surprises in the NBA season (not counting the fact the season got suspended).  Whether it’s how good Luka Doncic already is, in just his second season, or how the defending champion Toronto Raptors haven’t lost a step after losing their best player, Kawhi Leonard, to the Clippers in free agency. Now one thing that isn’t shocking is that the Miami Heat are a playoff caliber team after acquiring Jimmy Butler in a sign and trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. However, it is a surprise to many how good they were when the season started. They were tied with Boston for third in the eastern conference. Much of their early success was because of Butler, along with stellar work by their young players, like Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson and especially, Bam Adebayo

Adebayo’s been impressive this season, averaging 16.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks. He’s also shooting 57% from the field, and is a 69% free throw shooter. He’s up for the NBA’s most improved player award.

He’s also a physical freak. Adebayo is 6’9 and 255 pounds, has a 7 foot, 2 inch wingspan, and a 9 foot standing reach. He displayed his strength at the NBA combine, with 15 reps on the bench press, while also posting a 38.5-inch max vertical leap. He’s a beast.

Adebayo has become everything you want a modern center to be. He’s willing to both do the dirty work, and be capable of much more. He’s a great screen setter, creating countless opportunities for his teammates to score. He has a motor that never stops, displaying tremendous energy when he is on the court. He’s also a very good passer, with the ability to finish around the basket at will. Lastly, Adebayo is a fantastic defender. 

Though he doesn’t have the size to protect the paint like other centers, his size and athleticism does allow him to switch comfortably to defend any position. This actually helps the Heat become one of the better defensive teams in the league. His agility and mobility helps him defend smaller guards on the perimeter, something reigning, two time defensive player of the year award winner, Rudy Gobert, is unable to do. Adebayo can stay in front of players who are quick and shifty, as well as those who have high verticals. Even when he gets beat, he has great recovery speed and the athleticism to get off the ground incredibly quick to block or alter a shot. 

Adebayo’s ability to switch and handle himself when defending pick and rolls helps the Heat shut down opposing drivers before they gain the momentum to get to the rim. The Heat allow a fewer share of shot attempts to come from inside the restricted area and paint when Adebayo is on the floor, while also forcing opponent’s mid range attempts at a greater rate as well. 

Adebayo is the used a lot on offense for screens, on and off the ball.  His big frame allows his teammates to gain separation from his defenders. He has very good handles for a big man, allowing him to either beat his defender or find an open shooter. He’s a great offensive rebounder as well. One knock on his game is that he doesn’t have a consistent jump shot yet, but with his work ethic, I’m sure that he’ll develop one soon. For now, Miami will rely on their elite shooters in Herro and Robinson, and let Adebayo do what he’s good at, which is basically everything else.

Pat Riley knows how to pick them, as he nailed this pick he made when he took Bam Adebayo. His energy and work ethic screams the type of player that the Miami Heat organization produces. He’s the perfect center for the modern NBA.

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