Here’s why a G League assignment could be in Heat rookie Bam Adebayo’s future

The Miami Heat's Bam Adebayo dunked over the Washington Wizards’ Ian Mahinmi during the second half of a preseason game on Oct. 11, 2017, in Miami.
The Miami Heat's Bam Adebayo dunked over the Washington Wizards’ Ian Mahinmi during the second half of a preseason game on Oct. 11, 2017, in Miami. AP

Bam Adebayo will start his rookie season on the bench with the Miami Heat on Wednesday night in Orlando looking to make a splash in his first NBA game.

But once the Sioux Falls Skyforce begins its season Nov. 4, there’s a chance the 20-year-old big man and 14th overall pick in June’s draft could find himself in the G League if Coach Erik Spoelstra can’t find enough minutes for him in the Heat’s rotation.

“He’s going to be with us early on, because he’s earned that,” Spoelstra said Monday after practice. “And then we’ll be open to whatever.

“The most important thing, obviously, is getting our rotation and having some depth from there. And the main thing being the main thing, are we playing to our abilities for whoever’s out there? But in terms of individual player development, if guys aren’t playing then we’ll visit [the idea] they may need some game time in Sioux Falls. But right now, he’s played well. He makes you watch him.”

Adebayo played only 27 minutes through the Heat’s first four preseason games and averaged 2.3 points. But Spoelstra put the former University of Kentucky star into the rotation with the regulars over Miami’s final two preseason games and Adebayo logged 47 minutes and averaged 14 points and 5.5 rebounds.

The Heat has eight power rotation players in all with Adebayo. The list includes starting center Hassan Whiteside, Kelly Olylynk, James Johnson, Jordan Mickey, Okaro White, Udonis Haslem and A.J. Hammons. Whiteside, Olynyk and Johnson are all expected to see significant minutes, which likely will not leave much for Adebayo and others.

Only 13 players are allowed to dress for games. Hammons, who has been battling the flu for weeks and wasn’t with the Heat on Sunday or Monday, and the injured Rodney McGruder are the most likely to be placed on the inactive list for Wednesday’s opener.

“Hopefully I get to get in and play some minutes, and it will be fun,” Adebayo said.

The Heat has raved about Adebayo’s play since training camp started. He’s worked diligently with position coach Juwan Howard to continue to improve.

Seeing first round picks get sent down to basketball’s minor leagues is hardly a surprise anymore. A record-setting 16 of the last 20 players picked in the first round of the 2016 draft (No. 11 to 30) spent time in the D-League last year. In 2015, 13 of the 30 first round picks were sent down.

Adebayo said Monday he feels like he’s prepared well for the season.

Asked if he would be OK with being sent down to the G-League to get more playing time, Adebayo responded: “You never know what can happen… [I’m] just going to keep fighting and playing hard, just going out there and giving the best things I got.”

Does he feel like he needs to prove something on the court to be able to stay with the Heat for a while?

“I just need to prove to Pat [Riley] and Coach Spo and my teammates, nobody else,” he said. “They know what I can do. I just need to go out there and go do it.”

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