With the addition of star veteran Jimmy Butler by the Miami Heat, some much-needed urgency has been injected into the Heat organization.
That desire to win now has led to an already begun search for a second star.
But is it possible that that second star is already waiting in the wings in Miami?
Big man Bam Adebayo has shown a clear desire to become a centerpiece in Miami, and the Heat’s decision to trade away big man Hassan Whiteside earlier this offseason offers a clear opportunity.
It is likely that Adebayo will start the 2019-20 season as a starter on the Miami roster.
So, can that increased opportunity lead to Adebayo becoming a household name in the NBA? Could it even lead to him becoming an All-Star?
While that kind of leap may seem somewhat impossible, it is not without precedent. In fact, just last season, the 2019 NBA All-Star Game featured five first-time All-Stars. As established stars continue to age and exit their primes, an opportunity for new talent has certainly arisen.
So, what does Adebayo need to do this upcoming season to be named to his first All-Star Game?
Increase the Numbers
First off, it’s important to go over how Adebayo performed last season, and what he will need to do this season to be in the running for a spot on the All-Star team.
Last season, Adebayo averaged 8.9 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.2 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game. Those numbers are obviously nowhere near All-Star numbers, but when you look at his per-36-minutes stats, a path to much more production becomes increasingly clear.
Adeabyo’s per-36 stats for the 2018-19 season were good for 13.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. Last season, one of the first-time All-Stars was Orlando Magic Nikola Vucevic. His season averages that earned him that bid were 20.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.1 blocks, and 1.0 steal per game.
With yet another season under his belt, it’s not so hard to imagine Adebayo eclipsing those numbers this season if he does in fact claim the role of starting center in Miami.
The main area in which Adebayo will have to improve is on the offensive side of the ball. If Adebayo is able to score close to 20 points a night, not only will he be a serious All-Star contender, but the Heat could very well be considered serious contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Extending the Range
Adebayo is already a beast inside, connecting on 57.6 percent of his field goals last season. Where Adebayo could really improve, however, is points outside the paint, or even beyond the arc.
Is it possible that Adebayo could be the latest NBA big to incorporate the three-point shot into his arsenal? Recent footage from offseason training sessions seem to indicate that he is looking to do just that.
While no one wants a big man who recklessly launches the ball from deep (cough, cough, Whiteside), it is possible that Adebayo could be one of those rare big men who actually has the ability to stretch the court.
That fact is somewhat supported by Adebayo’s solid shooting numbers from the free-throw line. Last season, he averaged 72.8 percent from the stripe. That’s not far off from the two All-Star centers who represented the Eastern Conference last season.
Vucevic averaged 78.6 percent from the line last season and Philadelphia 76ers star big man Joel Embiid averaged 80.4 percent. Adebayo isn’t quite there yet, but he’s close.
While there isn’t an exact correlation between success from the free-throw line and success from beyond the arc, it is a decent indicator of potential success.
If Adebayo could average somewhere around 30 percent from three, he would quickly have an opportunity to be considered amongst the ranks of NBA unicorns currently dominating the league.
There is one final change in South Florida that could further help Adebayo take the leap to stardom in the 2019-20 season. That change is the addition of star veteran Jimmy Butler.
The Jimmy Effect
Sure, the argument can always be made that All-Star vets offer value in the form of teaching the young players around them how to reach their full potential. That same hope involving Butler crashed and burned last season in Minnesota.
In Miami, the hope is that Butler’s noted competitiveness will jive perfectly with the Heat culture that team president Pat Riley and Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra have fostered. Adebayo has already proven himself to be a determined, serious-minded youngster. That means Butler will probably have no trouble taking him under his wing and teaching him something about the game of basketball.
But it’s not just about the off-court value when it comes to Butler and Adebayo.
Last season, Butler’s former teammate Embiid had the best year of his career by far. His points-per-game average went up 4.6 points compared to that of the previous season.
His rebounds per game went up 2.6 rebounds compared to that of 2017-18. That increase has led many to conclude that Embiid is currently the best big man in the NBA.
Of course, Embiid and Adebayo are very different players. Embiid is a freak of nature, standing at a healthy 7-feet. Adebayo is a much more pedestrian 6-foot-10. That difference does not negate what Butler did for Embiid last season and what he can do for Adebayo this season.
As one of the best defenders in the NBA, Butler makes life easier for everyone he plays, especially the big men banging inside.
If Butler’s effort on the defensive side offer Adebayo more energy to grab boards and get to the hoop, the Heat could be a much more dangerous team. More than that, Adebayo could be the latest Heat player to be named an NBA All-Star.