The Miami Heat all offseason have been trying to add Damian Lillard to the team, perhaps because they believe what at least one former NBA executive does — that Bam Adebayo isn’t quite qualified to be a “championship-level second option.”
The Athletic’s Seth Partnow, who used to work for the Milwaukee Bucks in a basketball research role, explained that Adebayo may still have some work to do to reach that status.
“In terms of offense, Adebayo has pumped up his usage into the mid 20s,” wrote Partnow. “At least in the regular season. In the postseason, we’ve seen teams almost dare him to try to take over from a scoring standpoint, and while he still has managed to maintain above average efficiency, he hasn’t been willing or able to take on the scoring volume that might be expected. Over the last three seasons, his usage is 24.7 percent across the combined regular seasons but only 21.6 percent across the same three postseasons. This isn’t to say he isn’t a useful and in fact very good offensive player; more that he is perhaps underqualified as a championship-level second option.”
Last season, Adebayo was Miami’s second-leading scorer at 20.4 points per game, behind Jimmy Butler (22.9) and slightly ahead of Tyler Herro (20.1).
The center was also second on the Heat during the playoffs, but the gap between him and the top spot grew. He averaged 17.9 points per game, and Butler averaged 26.9. Herro was injured in the first game of the playoffs for the Heat, leaving Gabe Vincent and Caleb Martin to finish tied for third at 12.7 points per game.
Adebayo recently commented on other perceived disrespect coming from NBA fans. The 26-year-old said his team isn’t receiving the proper recognition for reaching the NBA Finals twice in the past four seasons, with another trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Heat have failed to win a championship during that impressive run, which has heightened their pursuit of Lillard, who requested a trade from Portland on July 1. Miami is believed to be his preferred destination.
Despite publicly being on the market for almost two months, Lillard remains a Trail Blazer, with each day drawing the Heat closer to training camp. The 33-year-old averaged a career-high 32.2 points per game last season, so the offensive boost he would bring to the Heat is obvious.
He also could ease the scoring burden on Adebayo, allowing the six-season NBA veteran to play a supporting role in which he may be better suited, in at least one observer’s opinion.