Heat's Bam Adebayo starting to earn respect as a defender

Shandel Richardson

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo has improved in just about every facet of the game this season.

He is putting up career numbers in points, rebounds and assists. One overlooked area, however, is defense. Adebayo has made enough strides on that end to at least enter the discussion for the league's Defensive Player of the Year award. The honor will likely go to Los Angeles Lakers center Anthony Davis or Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo but Adebayo is earning attention as one of the top defenders.

NBA writers Zach Harper of The Athletic and The Ringer's Dan Devine both mentioned Adebayo in their recent regular season awards columns. Harper, who had Davis winning, listed Adebayo as the runner-up.

"I just continue to love what Bam Adebayo did for the Heat this season," Harper wrote. "I know Miami wasn’t a great defensive team and that will usually keep a player (especially in this age) from receiving top consideration for this award. But I just don’t fault Adebayo for the slip in the defense. The Heat are 14th overall on the season, but their rating with him on the court places them at sixth. We saw how he slowed down Giannis in their March matchup. He locked up perimeter scorers. He battled interior monsters. He owned the boards and made plays on defense."

Devine chose Antetokounmpo but placed Adebayo in his "just missing the cut" portion.

He wrote, "Bam Adebayo, one of just four players this season to log at least 75 blocks and 75 steals as the hyper-athletic back-line All-Star linchpin of the positionless Heat."

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