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Bam Adebayo’s journey from high-motor project to NBA star

With the Miami Heat up two, ball in Jayson Tatum’s hands and time winding down, Bam Adebayo came off the help-side to block Tatum’s game-tying dunk attempt with his off-hand inside the rim, securing the game one win. He not only made the play of the year but expanded his name as one of the NBA’s young rising stars.

The journey of Adebayo from high school standout to NBA All-Star has been one that scouts and evaluators will study and learn from for the coming years. Understanding the full development of Bam into who he is today has been a process riddled with work ethic, competitiveness, intelligence and most notably coach ability.

At the high school level, Bam was an incredible physical specimen. His physical build dwarfed his peers by the sheer strength his body displayed. He was also a big time athlete who was explosive around the rim, ran the floor like a deer and played with a high motor. Offensively, he was primarily a low-post big man who flashed a skillset that you are seeing in him at the NBA level but it wasn’t near as predominant then as it was now. Defensively, he always made for a high level rebounder who held his own in the paint, could block shots and had the ability to move his feet on the perimeter. The floor was safe but the upside had yet to be fully illuminated.

John Calipari along with Joel Justus as the lead recruiter, ended up landing Adebayo over programs including NC State and Auburn on November 17, 2015. He then finished his high school career as a McDonald’s All American and the No. 12 overall ranked prospect in the 2016 Top247 and the No. 2 overall power forward.

Moving onto Kentucky, the tales of his work ethic, motor, competitiveness, IQ and coachability expanded and is something that is needed when it comes to the reputation of Kenny Payne’s big man workouts. Bam was a player that everyone enjoyed working with and a player that others player’s loved going to battle with. His physicality, motor, rebounding and defensive presence stood out during his time at Kentucky. Offensively, he filled his role as a pick and roll big man, rim-runner, lob-catcher and an occasional post-scorer again, with flashes of skillset that has been on full-display in the NBA.

Adebayo secured himself as a first round pick largely due to his safe floor as a prospect but his upside had yet to be fully illuminated. He finished his season at Kentucky averaging 13-points, eight-rebounds, 0.8 assists and 1.5 blocks a game.

Moving into NBA interviews and workouts, Bam proceeded to make a significant impression on the Miami Heat organization with his mentality, IQ and workout, landing him as the No. 14 overall draft pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Since entering the league, Adebayo has flourished and can be attributed to three specific things.

First, being his impressive mental makeup and his drive. Adebayo, from his amateur days has always sought ways that he can improve and ways he can help the team impact the win column. He built a reputation of always being receptive to coaching and seeking out advice on ways he can improve and impact the game. With that mentality and the drive he has, he was destined to expand and develop his game.

Second, the evolution and spacing the NBA has allowed Adebayo to flourish. Several years ago, Bam would not have fit the mold of your typical big man. He was a physical, athletic and bruising post but did not have the size that was so coveted at one point in time. With the game getting smaller, Adebayo’s size at 6-foot-9, rather than being a weakness for a five-four big man has become a strength. He can switch onto ball-screens, hold his ground on the block, rebounds, can block shots and has the IQ and engagement to fluidly defend the pick-and-roll in a wide variety of coverages.

Offensively, the spacing of the game has allowed him to show the skillset that he long showed flashes of but never fully displayed. He is an excellent passer for the position, with good feel and decision making, can handle the basketball in the open court, can attack his man off the bounce, rim-roll, catch lobs and has improved his mid-range jumpshot. Given his development in his ability to do all of those things, Adebayo has quickly become one of the elite glue-guys across the entire NBA. He rarely tries to do more than he is capable of. He has a great understanding in who he is as a player and is focused on one thing … winning.

Lastly, one big contributor to Adebayo’s success has been the fit in the organization. Adebayo has found a perfect home when it comes to the system and culture of an organization. The Miami Heat not only did a great job of evaluating Adebayo but they also did a great job of putting him in a position to succeed and to bud into the player we’re seeing today. As time passes it is becoming more clear by the year just how important fit is for the ultimate success of a prospect. It isn’t a defining variable but it certainly has proven to be a heavy contributor.

Adebayo is a tremendous prospect to learn from and is an excellent example of how important it is for a prospect to be a true competitor, have high basketball IQ, be a hard-worker and be coachable to fulfill their ultimate upside. The game-winning block with his off-hand in the rim is just a byproduct of the journey.

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