With training camp beginning Tuesday, one of the fascinating storylines will be whether rookie big man Bam Adebayo is ready to give the Miami Heat quality minutes this season, and whether Coach Erik Spoelstra will entrust him with those minutes, perhaps at backup center, when he has other veteran options.
We hear Adebayo has been impressing the Heat in offseason workouts.
I asked Chet Kammerer, the Heat’s vice president of player personnel who was instrumental in the drafting of Adebayo, what the 6-foot-10 rookie from the University of Kentucky can do at an NBA level now.
“The one thing I think he can do — and it was borne out this summer — is he can defend,” Kammerer said. “He’s a rookie, so you don’t think automatically (that a rookie is) going to be a great defender. But he can defend his position or a position in the NBA.
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“He did a fairly good job this summer of doing that and he has the physical tools to be trained and drilled to do that. He can defend fours (power forwards) and fives (centers) at this point. For a man that has a great body, he has good feet and that’s so crucial defending the ball. Down the road, he will be able to switch onto players and stay in front of them.”
From an offensive standpoint, Kammerer said Adebayo “shocked all of us” with his deft ball handling in summer league: “We decided, ‘Let’s give him a lot of freedom — you can always rein it back.’ They threw him the ball and let him dribble.”
His shooting is still a work in progress, but Kammerer relayed an interesting story.
“When we interviewed him, one of the things we asked him prior to his (Heat pre-draft) workout, we asked about his ability to shoot. I asked, ‘What’s your range?’ He said, ‘Three-point range.’
“I said, ‘Wait a minute? Three point range?’ I said, ‘If you shot 100 threes from the corner, how many would you make?’ He said 60.
“He then shot 100 threes in his workout, and he made 60. If he had made 40 or 50, that would have been good.”
Kammerer said that Heat coaches this summer worked “really hard to help him become efficient around the basket. We want him to shoot the ball from the perimeter down the road but we also want him to become efficient around the basket with his left or right hook.”
Kammerer said myriad factors led to the Heat drafting him: “It was a combination of things I really liked. I liked he was the most athletic big in this draft. I thought he had great feet and potential to defend.
“And the third thing I liked is in all our research, teammates always talked about him (as the player) who worked the hardest on the team. That’s a question we asked a lot. I asked teammates who is the hardest worker on your team. (Kentucky Coach John) Calipari said a couple times last season that the hardest working player in our program is Bam. When you put a guy who competes and loves the games with that work ethic, he’s got a lot of upside.”
So can he help as a rookie?
“It will depend on how he picks up everything and how he matures,” Kammerer said. “I think he has the potential to play some this year but a lot depends on how (he develops). He could be a backup five. He can play five in the NBA. Bam is pretty close in size to (Boston center) Al Horford….
“None of these NBA kids are really ready. The one thing he’s got going for him is most guys his age are weak physically and they get taken advantage of because they can’t take on a bigger stronger player. That won’t be an issue for him. That aids him in being able to play. But he’s got a lot to learn and a lot of work to do.”