The evolution of Heat rookie Bam Adebayo never ends.
The learning never stops.
Saturday night, Adebayo’s latest lesson took the 20-year-old Kentucky product and 14th overall pick against two of the best big men in the NBA in New Orleans’ All-Stars DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis.
The Pelicans rolled past the Heat 109-94 and Adebayo’s statistical output of nine points, seven rebounds, four assists and a block in 30 minutes didn’t quite matchup to what Cousins (16 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, three blocks) and Davis (17 points, six assists, three assists, four blocks) did.
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But Erik Spoelstra always looks beyond the boxscore.
“He's a computer,” Spoelstra said of his rookie. “So every single game he’s putting it, every experience, into that computer and he’s learning at such a rapid pace. But that’s the toughest matchup you’ll face, against those two guys, because of the skill set, because of their ability to also draw fouls. He had a couple of really good possessions where he was able to defend, keep them in front of him without fouling. And he did some good things on the other end, as well. But how can we not be encouraged by what we're seeing with Bam?”
Adebayo, 20, liked his performance Saturday.
“I feel like I did [do a good job],” he said of how he defended Cousins and Davis, who cimbined to shoot 5 of 7 and 5 of 11 against the Heat, respectively. “I feel like I could have done better on certain stuff, but you take away from it. Information is in the head and you just move on.”
Over his last 14 games (since center Hassan Whiteside went out with a bone bruise in his left knee), Adebayo has averaged 9.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 24.8 minutes per game while shooting 63.6 percent from the field. He’s gone up against many of the league’s best big men in the process, guarding Dwight Howard, Lamarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan and then the Pelicans’ Twin Towers on Saturday.
Adebayo said he studies every matchup with fellow big men in the league closely.
“Because you take moves from them that you never did before and you just put it in your pocket,” he said. “That’s what this league is about – learning, growing and getting better.”
Goran Dragic has watched the Heat’s rookie big man closely over the past few weeks. He’s seen plenty of growth.
“He’s like a sponge,” Dragic said. “He wants to learn. He’s here early. He’s putting a lot of hardwork in. You can see that in the team. He’s a really smart player. It helps him – his ability. He can jump high. He can move his feet. He’s quick. He puts a lot of guys in trouble. It’s really hard to play against this kind of guy. He’s doing great.”
Nothing about the way Adebayo plays anymore surprises Dragic.
“When I was in Europe and [shooting consultant] Rob [Fodor] was over there, he said ‘Man we drafted this guy Bam’,” Dragic said. “I didn’t follow college basketball much so I didn’t know him. They said ‘This guy is unbelievable. He’s athletic. He’s a player, like Dwight Howard type.’ Then you can start to imagine what he can do. Then you see him in person and it’s kind of scary because he can blitz and at the same time get back to his own man. So basically you don’t even need to rotate. That’s something unique.”
A unique weapon that keeps learning and getting better.