The Miami Heat have looked very good to start the 2019-20 season and their 22-year-old big man Bam Adebayo has looked especially impressive.
Adebayo averaged just 1.9 assists per game during his first two years in the league. While he averaged 1.8 AST/G when coming off the bench last year, he was able to record 3.1 AST/G when he was in the starting lineup. So now that Hassan Whiteside is no longer on the team, Adebayo has taken over as the full-time starting center and can be an even more reliable distributor.
He nearly had a triple-double during Miami’s second regular-season game, recording 19 points and 13 rebounds with 8 assists on October 26 against the Milwaukee Bucks. While the boards and scoring were both nice measures for the big man, it was very encouraging to see him record so many dimes.
As noted in our explanation of why Adebayo could win the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award, the big man increased his assist percentage from 11.4 percent as a rookie to 14.8 percent last season. That put him in the 83rd percentile among all bigs in 2018-19, which means he was already one of the better facilitators for his position.
Yet through three games played this season, per Cleaning the Glass, his assist percentage is currently at 25.0 percent. That mark ranks No. 4 overall among all starting centers so far and he has been essential in Miami’s early culture of sharing the ball.
His assist percentage trails what has been recorded by Nikola Jokic (45.2 percent) by quite a bit but is very similar to what Kevin Love (26.7 percent) and Karl-Anthony Towns (25.4 percent) have produced.
He is only averaging 32.3 passes per game, which ranks just No. 25 among all centers. But he has made the most of these opportunities considering 16.5 percent of the passes he has recorded have been an assist – higher than any other center in the NBA.
Adebayo has passed the ball to Justise Winslow more often than any other teammate on the Heat. He has been a fantastic distributor on handoffs, which has been integral to Miami’s offense.
The Heat have averaged 10.7 points per game when scoring on handoffs, per Synergy Sports. That is the most from this play type of any team in the NBA thus far.
He can be even more effective if he continues to make good passes out of his post-up situations. For example, watch the way Adebayo posted up from the left block against the Milwaukee Bucks.
After a dribble move, Robin Lopez commits to him on defense and Adebayo is then able to deliver the pass to Meyers Leonard who was open for a three-pointer on the perimeter.
These possessions have not been particularly complicated, flashy or hard for him to replicate as the season progresses. In fact, based on its early successes, it would be hard to imagine Adebayo is not one of the leaders among all bigs in assists by the time the year is over.