3 Miami Heat players that need to step up with Bam Adebayo sidelined

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Miami Heat star big man Bam Adebayo is set to miss several weeks after suffering a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb during Monday’s game against the Denver Nuggets.

Adebayo will undergo surgery, leaving the Heat with a major hole to fill on both sides of the ball.

The 24-year-old, who is one of the best defensive big men in the NBA, is averaging 18.7 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game this season while shooting 51.9 percent from the field.

His defensive value can’t go unnoticed, as he’s posted a defensive box plus-minus of 0.9 this season as well as 0.9 defensive win shares in just 18 games.

The Heat are clearly going to miss his play, but they will need to find a way to replace some of his production if they want to remain amongst the contenders in the Eastern Conference.

The Heat were 13-8 on the season prior to Adebayo’s injury, but they were blown out by the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.

Dewayne Dedmon figures to step up in Adebayo’s place at center, but who else on the roster can take a step forward until the star big man returns?

Let’s break down three players that will need to step up with Adebayo sidelined.

1. Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry

Miami brought Lowry in last offseason for a reason, right?

The veteran point guard has been a steady presence in the Heat lineup, but he is taking just the fifth-most shots per game on the roster (10.2) and is averaging only 12.3 points per game.

Those numbers are fine when Adebayo’s healthy, but someone is going to have to pick up the slack from the 13.5 shots and 18.7 points per game that the Heat are losing with the big man out.

Why not turn to the team’s top offseason acquisition to help fill this void?

Lowry averaged 17.2 points on 13.0 field-goal attempts per game last season for the Toronto Raptors. Right now, he is attempting his fewest shots per game since the 2012-13 season, but it hasn’t been a problem since the Heat have been winning games.

Now that there’s a void that needs to be filled offensively, who better than the six-time All-Star to lead the way?

Lowry needs to see more volume on offense, but he also needs to start shooting the ball at a more efficient clip. The veteran is shooting just 41.7 percent from the field and 30.6 percent from beyond the arc this season. The last time Lowry shot worse than 33.8 percent from 3 in a season was during the 2009-10 season, when he shot just 27.2 percent from beyond the arc.

Now’s the time for Lowry to show why Miami was so dead set on bringing him in this past offseason.

2. Dewayne Dedmon

Dewayne Dedmon Miami Heat

Dedmon is the obvious answer to replace Adebayo in the starting lineup, as he’s already made four starts this season and is playing 14.7 minutes per game.

He’s far from the defender that Adebayo is, posting just 0.5 defensive win shares and a 0.0 defensive box plus-minus so far this season, but Dedmon has been serviceable for the Heat.

In his four starts, Dedmon is averaging 7.5 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game while shooting 41.4 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from beyond the arc. It’s a small sample size, but if he can push double-digit rebounds on a nightly basis, it should help Miami replace some of Adebayo’s production.

Dedmon’s length will also allow Erik Spoelstra to play a similar style as he would with Adebayo healthy, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Miami’s defensive rating, which was the 10th-best in the NBA at 105.6 before the announcement of Adebayo’s impending surgery, took a hit with him out.

3. P.J. Tucker

P.J. Tucker Miami Heat

Tucker doesn’t necessarily need to put up better numbers (although that would help), but he could have a new role as a leader of this Miami defense.

Tucker has played in all 22 of Miami’s games this season and offers the team with a ton of flexibility by being able to guard several positions.

The veteran may have to take on some even tougher defensive assignments over the next few weeks if the Heat want to keep their defensive identity, and he is also going to be one of, if not the team’s most important leader on that end of the floor.

Jimmy Butler and Lowry may be the more highly touted players, but Tucker’s toughness and defensive acumen make him the perfect player to lean on as the leader with Adebayo out.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.