Adebayo now one of the NBA’s best in just his third year
The first time I saw Bam Adebayo play, I knew he would be in the NBA someday.
That doesn’t make me a gifted talent evaluator.
It makes me someone with average vision and a nominally functioning brain.
What I didn’t know was that Adebayo was going to be this kind of NBA player.
In just his third season, the former Northside-Pinetown star is already one of the best in the league.
In January, the Miami Heat frontcourt player was selected to his first All-Star Game. Then in February at the NBA All-Star Weekend, he won the Skills Challenge.
The 6-9, 255-pound power forward has continued to be honored since the end of the regular season.
Last month, Adebayo was the runner-up behind fellow 252 area code alum Brandon Ingram (Kinston) for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
Ingram received 42 first-place votes from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters and earned 326 total points. He edged Adebayo, who finished in second place with 295 points (38 first-place votes).
Adebayo’s numbers went up in scoring (8.9 to 15.9), rebounding (7.3 to 10.2), assists (2.2 to 5.1), steals (0.9 to 1.1) and blocks (0.8 to 1.3).
By finishing with those averages, Adebayo, who turned 23 in July, became the second-youngest player in NBA history to average 15-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and 5-plus assists in a season, trailing only NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson in 1961-1962.
After averaging 6.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 0.6 blocks in 19.8 minutes per game as a rookie, the former first-round pick out of Kentucky has become a focal point of the Heat offense with the system often running through him.
He’s no slouch on the other end either.
A few weeks ago, Adebayo ended up fifth in voting for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award.
On Dec. 16, 2019, he was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the games played from Dec. 9-15 when he averaged 20.0 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.7 assists per game.
He made franchise history on Dec. 10, finishing with career-highs of 30 points and 11 assists to go along with 11 rebounds in a 135-121 win over the Atlanta Hawks. He became the youngest Heat player to record a triple-double at 22 years and 145 days old, breaking the previous mark held by Dwayne Wade (22-348).
He’s put up more impressive numbers for a Miami squad that has easily been the surprise team of the playoffs. Adebayo is averaging 16.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks. He’s shooting 55 percent from the floor and nearly 88 percent from the free-throw line.
Miami has exercised its fourth-year option on Adebayo’s contract.
He’s slated to make $3.45 million this season and $5.1 million in 2020-21 after making an estimated $5.6 million over his first two seasons. Adebayo will become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2021, but the Heat can offer him an extension next offseason.
Former All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell recently mentioned Adebayo when asked which of the league’s young players he would build around if he was a general manager.
On former Duke star JJ Redick’s podcast last week, Russell said, “Honestly, the way the league is going, I’m gonna go Bam Adebayo. When you have somebody that big that’s versatile on the defensive end and what he brings on the offensive end, it’s just the way the league is going…so I’m going Bam, for sure.”
Adebayo played East Carteret six times as a member of Northside during a run that saw the Mariners’ make back-to-back trips to the state finals.
Four of those were 1A Coastal Plains Conference matchups, and the other two came in the playoffs.
East went 6-0 in those games, which is surely something members of those teams will tell their kids about some day. Most of those games weren't even close. Single digits decided just one contest. Four of the six were decided by more than 20 points. East won by an average of 21 points.
It wasn't for lack of trying on Adebayo’s part. He averaged 26 points, 22 rebounds, two assists, two steals and four blocks in those six games.
Adebayo averaged 32 points, 21 rebounds, three assists, three steals and five blocks as a junior before transferring to High Point Christian Academy. He averaged 25 points, 20 rebounds, three assists, two steals and four blocks in a three-year varsity career at Northside that spanned 76 games.
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