Bam Adebayo works. It’s what he does. It’s what made him an All-Star, got him a maximum-scale rookie contract extension, has him as a talking point by opposing coaches almost a nightly basis.
And yet for weeks, the fifth-year Miami Heat center also has been tirelessly working the interview room as his own campaign manager, pushing the electorate to view him as he sees himself, as the NBA’s rightful owner of the title of Defensive Player of the Year.
“I feel like at this point, I’m the only player really making those type of eye-popping plays,” Adebayo said this past week, when asked why he simply doesn’t settle for allowing his play to do the talking. “That’s my pride. I feel like if I’m going to go out there and give it my all, I want my accolade for it, in my opinion.”
It again stands as a highly contested race.
At NBA.com, the league latest Defensive Player Ladder, does not have Adebayo in the current top three (the number of spaces for votes on the media ballot), instead, listing, in order, Giannis Antetokounmpo, followed by Rudy Gobert, who has won the award three of the last four years, including last year, and then Mikal Bridges.
Instead, Adebayo is listed as part of “The Next Five: in no particular order,” along with Draymond Green, Marcus Smart, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Herbert Jones.
When Adebayo returned in mid-January from his seven-week absence following thumb surgery, he stood as a decided longshot. But, now, the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook have him even with Gobert, well ahead of Antetokounmpo and Bridges.
In that regard, the wise guys appear to be wising up.
As, Heat point guard Kyle Lowry said they should.
“He switches on guards. He guards and protects the rim. He can do it all. He’s one of those guys who’s multifaceted,” Lowry said. “He’s able to cover a lot of ground on the floor, and not just be in the paint. He can go out on the perimeter.
“He’s been doing a hell of a job for us all season. It’s not just about steals and blocks. It’s about being in the right positions, to change shots.”
While several defensive metrics have Adebayo at the top of the charts, teammate Jimmy Butler, like Lowry, said seeing should be believing.
“I mean,” Butler said. “if you look at what he does for our team on defense, he’s everywhere on the floor. He gets steals. He’s guarding guards. He’s guarding bigs. He gets blocks.
“I just think he does so many things well. And he can switch, he can show, he can be in a drop. But he’s the anchor to our defense. So he has my vote. But that doesn’t really matter.”
The only Heat player named NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the franchise’s previous 33 seasons has been Alonzo Mourning, in 1999 and 2000.
Considering the NBA annual awards only take the regular season into account, with ballots due before the start of the playoffs, Adebayo’s contention is that the polling should be focused on the top of the standings, where the Heat lead the Eastern Conference.
To Adebayo, that rise is because of several award-worthy performances.
“I feel like if Kyle keeps being the floor general, Tyler [Herro] keeps being Sixth Man of the Year, Jimmy keeps being JiMVP and I keep being DPOY, I feel like this team has no ceiling in my opinion,” he said. “We can be one of the best teams in this league, when we’re all clicking, we’re all connected and we’re all playing together and having fun.”
To Adebayo, that also should mean fun at the ballot box, a year after he was left off of the list of the three finalists, placing fourth.
As for the Heat’s chances at other annual NBA awards:
Sixth Man Award: To put into perspective how far Herro is ahead of the field, consider that Caesars Sportsbook has the Heat guard at -4000 to win the award, with Kevin Love next closest at +2500.
No recounts will be needed here.
The Heat have never had a winner of the award.
Most Improved Player: For all the growth he has shown this season, Herro does not appear to rate when it comes to the award won previously by the Heat’s Rony Seikaly in 1990 and Isaac Austin in 1997.
Caesars has Ja Morant as the odds-on favorite, with Herro tied for a distant eighth in the odds, behind Morant, Darius Garland, Miles Bridges, Dejounte Murray, Anfernee Simons, Tyrese Maxey and Jarrett Allen.
Coach of the Year: For all of his accomplishments, including being voted by peers as one of the Top 15 coaches of all-time, Erik Spoelstra has never won the official NBA award (he shared in 2017 in the one voted on by fellow coaches), with Pat Riley in 1997 the Heat’s lone Coach of the Year.
That could change this season, with Spoelstra a close third in Vegas Insider’s odds, behind co-favorites Monty Williams of the Suns and J.B. Bickerstaff of the Cavaliers.
Most Valuable Player: Will all due respect to Adebayo’s respect for JiMVP, the Heat ensemble approach does not lend itself to a specific leading man.
LeBron James has been the Heat’s lone MVP, taking the honor in 2012 and ‘13.
Rookie of the Year: Omer Yurtseven and Javonte Smart are the Heat’s only rookies, so no contenders there.
The Heat have never had a Rookie of the Year, with Dwyane Wade entering the same season as James.
IN THE LANE
STRESS TEST: Unlike the Heat approach with easing Victor Oladipo and Markieff Morris back into their mix, there has been nothing subtle about the Brooklyn Nets’ approach with former Heat guard Goran Dragic. Idle since being parked by the Toronto Raptors in November in favor of the youth movement there, Dragic has found himself with a considerable workload since signing with the Nets on Feb. 22, including recent 36- and 38-minute runs in home games that Kyrie Irving stood as ineligible due to his vaccine status. Dragic, 35, quipped that coach Steve Nash has given him little recourse. “I even talked to Steve and tell him ‘Steve, that’s too much,’ ” Dragic said, according to the New York Post. “But he’s like, ‘Yeah, we don’t have nobody else, a couple of guys are hurt. So, do whatever it takes for the team.’” Former Heat and current Nets teammate James Johnson has been impressed. “The same Dragon I’ve been knowing,” Johnson said. “Pick-and-roll guru, someone who takes the challenges and loves to compete.”
PEACE MADE: It hardly was a subtle move when Ray Allen left the contending Boston Celtics in 2012 NBA free-agency to hop aboard the defending-champion Heat’s run to the 2013 title. But the last of the air appears to have been cleared when Allen attended Kevin Garnett’s jersey retirement ceremony at TD Garden. “We’re old men now,” Allen, 46, said, “and we have nothing to sit back and be angry about, because we did some special things together. We have to continue to celebrate that moving forward.” While Allen spent five seasons with the Celtics, one fewer than Garnett, with both sharing in the team’s 2008 championship, it is unlikely his Celtics No. 20 makes it to the rafters, considering it since has been reissued by the Celtics to the likes of Gordon Hayward, Jabari Parker and Mo Wagner. Garnett’s No. 5, by contrast, was not reissued in the wake of his 2013 Celtics departure. For their part, the Heat have yet to reissue Allen’s No. 34.
THE MOMENT: The moment when an NBA neophyte finally gets it can take a while. It now appears that Heat 2020 first-round pick Precious Achiuwa has achieved the moment with the Toronto Raptors. “He has certainly been more decisive out there,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “He’s running out there and he’s catching and shooting fairly quickly, which means he’s feeling confident. And I’m good with that. What I want him to do is make a decision really quickly, shoot it or drive it or pass it.” Achiuwa went into the weekend averaging 11.2 points and shooting .429 on 3-pointers in March. He was sent to the Raptors along with Dragic in the August deal that netted Kyle Lowry in free agency.
RENEWED HOPE: Sidelined since straining his back in early February, Andre Iguodala remains an element the Golden State Warriors hope can rekindle the championship contributions he provided during his previous tenure with the team. Iguodala, who left the Heat in the offseason for his Warriors’ reunion, has appeared in only 26 games for Golden State. “It’s amazing his ability to see the floor, his finishing, and his way of setting guys up and knowing how to get guys shots,” teammate Damion Lee said, according to San Jose’s Mercury News. The Warriors make their lone visit of the season to FTX Arena on Wednesday night, arriving in the absence of sidelined guard Stephen Curry.
8. Years since a Heat player scored 50 or more (LeBron James with 61 on March 4, 2014 against the Charlotte Hornets). Already, there have been eight 50-point games this month in the NBA, most recently Saddiq Bey’s 51 for the Detroit Pistons on Thursday night against the Orlando Magic. In the Heat’s 34 seasons, there have been seven 50-point games from four players (James, twice; Dwyane Wade, three times; Glen Rice and Alonzo Mourning). The NBA record for 50-point games in a month is nine, in December 1962.
Source: Berkshire mont