INDIANAPOLIS — How unique is Heat rookie big man Bam Adebayo? Wayne Ellington can answer that question.
“Man, he’s a beast. I tell him that all the time. He’s a beast, man,” Ellington said after making the game-winning layup to lift the Heat to a win over the Raptors on Tuesday. “There’s no other way to describe him really. He’s 20 years old and looks like he’s 35, and he plays like it. He’s a beast, man. He’s going to be a force in this league for a long time.”
While the consistency isn’t there yet, Adebayo is already a force some nights. Tuesday’s game in Toronto was one of them.
Adebayo, who the Heat selected with the 14th overall pick in this year’s draft, finished with 16 points, 15 rebounds, three assists and five blocks in 33 minutes. The performance included new career-highs in rebounds and blocks.
“There’s no ceiling for a guy like Bam,” Ellington said, with the Heat moving on quickly to complete the road back-to-back against the Pacers on Wednesday night. “He can handle, he can pass it. We run actions through him as a rookie in late-game situations. That says everything right there. He’s very poised. He’s ahead of his time. He’s going to be great.”
Adebayo’s second half was especially impressive, making up for the ejection of James Johnson. The 20-year-old recorded 10 points, six rebounds, two assists and three blocks while playing the final 19:50 of the second half after Johnson was ejected for an on-court altercation.
If all of that isn’t encouraging enough, Adebayo also logged extended minutes alongside starting center Hassan Whiteside for the first time this season. Adebayo and Whiteside played 14 minutes together with the Heat outscoring the Raptors by two points during that stretch.
With Adebayo and Whiteside on the court together Tuesday, Miami posted a strong defensive rating of 77 points allowed per 100 possessions. To put that number into perspective, the Celtics lead the NBA with a defensive rating of 99.7 this season.
“The best thing about it is I got to play with Whiteside,” Adebayo said of his performance against the Raptors. “I call us the Twin Towers. That was just the best thing for me, just having him by my side back in the paint.”
Before Tuesday, the duo had logged just one minute of playing time together this season.
“I would say probably six weeks ago it was something that was on my radar,” Spoelstra said of playing Adebayo and Whiteside together, “but since then we’ve had injuries and Hassan was out, he came back, it wasn’t high on the priority list. We have a lot of guys when we’re healthy. Trying to figure out how to play all the bigs, and K.O. and Bam had already started to really develop a great chemistry. Bam and J.J. have created a nice chemistry. So now you go to Bam and Hassan creating a nice chemistry.
“What’s the common denominator? That kid is earning minutes. He’s making us play him regardless of what the combination is and that’s what you want to do as a competitor. Forget positions, forget roles, make a team play you. Bam, he’s done that in a lot of different roles so far in his young career.”
For a few games with Whiteside and Johnson back from injury, it looked like the crowded power rotation would leave Adebayo with limited minutes. He averaged 10.7 minutes in the three games before Miami’s win in Toronto.
But with the way Adebayo played Tuesday, it’s going to be hard to keep him off the court.
“He fits the culture,” Josh Richardson said. “He fits how we want to play. He’s versatile like everybody else on this roster and he wants to learn. He’s a young guy that wants to learn and you can’t teach that.”