Heat: Why Bam Adebayo deserves Most Improved Player of the Year

Miami Heat, Bam Adebayo
NBA Analysis Network
Bam Adebayo, Miami Heat
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1. Leaping Into Stardom

In 2020, other players took steps, but Bam Adebayo rose from mediocrity to an All-Star level with the Heat. His leap resulted in the largest jump in skill and notoriety among the NBA’s most improved players.

According to StatMuse, Adebayo could join elite company if he keeps his averages up at the end of the season. Only five players have ever finished a season with at least 15 points, ten rebounds, five assists, one block, and one steal. They are Giannis Antetokounmpo, Larry Bird, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Garnett, and Chris Webber. Adebayo is on pace to hit all of those marks.

After averaging 8.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and fewer than one block or steal last season, Adebayo exploded. He’s averaging 16.2 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 5.1 assists. The Heat’s rising star also added 1.3 blocks and 1.2 steals per game.

It’s not that Adebayo didn’t play well in 2018. Rather, he didn’t receive enough minutes. Adebayo split time with Hassan Whiteside and only saw 28 starts and 23.3 minutes per game. This season, he’s getting 34.4 minutes a night, and he’s making the most of them.

Adebayo’s sudden rise to the big stage gives him an advantage over the other MIP candidates. Most of the other candidates rose gradually or already flashed borderline All-Star potential last year. Luka Dončić and Trae Young took huge leaps in 2019, but they already averaged around 20 points per game as rookies.

Likewise, Brandon Ingram averaged over 18 points per game in 2018. Even Jayson Tatum popped up on every fan’s radar when he entered the league in 2017. It seems highly unlikely Pascal Siakam, who won the award last season after averaging almost 17 points per game, wins Most Improved Player again.

Only Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s leap with the Oklahoma City Thunder mirrors Adebayo’s rise with the Heat. However, SGA lacks the defensive impact Adebayo brings. That leaves the 22-year-old big man with an edge over his competition.

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