The Miami Heat had options with the 14th pick in last month’s NBA Draft including the opportunity to select UCLA forward TJ Leaf.
The Heat took Bam Adebayo, a move which surprised many because the 6-10, 245-pound University of Kentucky center was projected to go later. Leaf fell to Indiana with the 18th pick.
Monday afternoon, Adebayo showed us why Pat Riley might end up looking like a genius.
In his best summer league performance thus far, Adebayo went off for 29 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks while Leaf countered with 19 points, 10 rebounds and a steal in the Pacers’ 86-83 victory over the Heat at Amway Center.
“He was what we like to say one percent better,” Heat assistant and summer league head coach Chris Quinn said of Adebayo, who displayed his full offensive arsenal including a Eurostep move on his way to an impressive bucket late in the first quarter.
“I thought he did a great job, a much better job of rolling to the basket. We were able to get him some easier looks that way and also get him to the foul line. They had some big physical guys down there and he responded well to that.”
Adebayo, who came in averaging 14 points, but having missed 20 of his first 30 shot attempts over his first two summer league games, finished 8-of-14 from the field and made it to the free throw line 17 times. He made 13 of his free throws.
He’s shooting 75 percent from the line (21 of 28) through three summer league games and 40 percent from the field (18 of 44).
But what was most impressive Monday was how fluid Adebayo moves with the ball in his hand. There were many instances in which he brought the ball up the floor following a rebound and zoomed past defenders on his way to the basket.
“Pat [Riley] and them said they were going to let me not be in a box,” Adebayo said. “In summer league I’m playing free. I’m having fun.”
Quinn said the Eurostep is a move the Heat has worked on with Adebayo since his arrival. But it’s a skill he already possessed.
“He has a skill set. He has an ability to do that,” Quinn said. “It can be a big asset if you have a big that can get a rebound, outlet and then bust up the court, get you in different situations. The one time he got in isolation he Euro-stepped. So, it’s definitely something he’s been working on and we will continue to work on with him.”
In addition to looking slick with the ball in his hands, there were also many instances Monday when Adebayo was out on the perimeter guarding Leaf. Adebayo looked and played like much more than a lumbering center.
“I thought he did a great job,” Quinn said of Adebayo’s defense on Leaf. “He does a very good job on the perimeter moving his feet. He has the ability to switch out on multiple guys and do a good job defensively. It’s definitely an asset for us to have bigs like that.”