Throughout the offseason we're rolling out a "Summer Workout Plan" series that takes a look at young players with star potential and dives into one specific area for improvement in order to take the next step. Players we've profiled so far include Pascal Siakam, Ben Simmons, Jayson Tatum and Jamal Murray.
The days of Bam Adebayo flying under the radar are over. After starting at centre for the Miami Heat down the stretch of last season, the franchise gave the 22-year-old a vote of confidence this offseason by trading Hassan Whiteside to the Portland Trail Blazers in a multi-team deal that landed them backup big man Meyers Leonard in return.
With Whiteside now gone, Adebayo is expected to be the full-time centre on a Heat team that is projected to return to the playoffs and compete in what should be a more open Eastern Conference.
Having built on a promising rookie season in which he proved to be one of the steals of the 2017 NBA Draft, the Heat have good reason to believe in Adebayo moving forward. He's become a solid pick-and-roll scorer who has the versatility to guard multiple positions on the other end of the court, making him an ideal big man for today's NBA.
But there is one particular part of Adebayo's game that is still very much a work in progress - his jump shot. He recently told David Furones of the South Florida Sun Sentinel that it's been the focus of his workouts this summer, knowing how important it is for his long-term development.
"I feel like it's gotten more consistent," Adebayo said. "I feel like that's going to help me not only in the season but going to FIBA."
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Having made a grand total of three 3-pointers in his NBA career, it's unlikely that Adebayo will be stepping out to the perimeter with regularity next season even though he went on to tell Furones that "range ain't really the problem" for him. More likely is that he becomes more comfortable shooting from midrange, where he improved ever-so-slightly as a sophomore. According to NBA.com, Adebayo shot 16-for-45 (35.6 percent) from midrange last season compared to 11-for-33 (33.3 percent) as a rookie.
Again, it's only a slight improvement, but an increase in shot attempts matters more than a jump in efficiency for Adebayo at this stage of his career.
There's reason to believe Adebayo will develop into a serviceable shooter in time, too - in addition to being a capable free throw shooter, he has smooth mechanics for a player his size. His problem last season was that he struggled to make standstill shots, which is the type of jumper players at his position tend to get the most.
Almost half of Adebayo's midrange shot attempts in 2018-19 were catch-and-shoot, but he made only 23.8 percent of them. He much preferred putting the ball on the floor and pulling-up going towards his left, a shot he made at a 53.8 percent clip, albeit on a smaller sample size.
|Catch and Shoot||5||21||23.8|
Impressive of a shot as it is for Adebayo to have in his arsenal, there were times last season when he turned down open catch-and-shoot opportunities to dribble into contested pull-ups.
Notice, for example, how open Adebayo was when he received a pass from Josh Richardson on this possession:
Rather than taking the open shot, Adebayo took one dribble towards the basket and pulled-up from the free throw line, giving Cleveland Cavaliers forward Jalen Jones an opportunity to close out on him and contest his shot.
It's a similar situation here. Adebayo didn't even look at the basket when he first received the ball from Richardson despite Brook Lopez playing way off of him:
He then chose to take a dribble towards the basket, this time pulling-up at the elbow.
Adebayo made both of those shots and there's an argument to be made that he was better off turning a long 2-pointer into a shorter one, but teams are only going to become more aware of his tendencies now that he's the Heat's full-time starter. Based on his shot selection last season, opposing centres will gladly help off of him when one of his teammates drive to the rim and overplay his left hand on kickouts to prevent him from pulling-up from his sweet spots.
That's going to be even more important now that Jimmy Butler is on the team. With Butler often being among the league leaders in both usage and drives, having a centre who is a threat to knock down even baseline and elbow jumpers will open up the paint for him to attack.
The same goes for Goran Dragic, who drives with even greater frequency than Butler does. The two have already developed some chemistry in pick-and-rolls due to Adebayo's ability to play above the rim as an alley-oop target. Being able to pick-and-pop and spot-up as well as roll would only make them a more dynamic one-two punch and help Adebayo differentiate himself from Whiteside.
Moreso than anything, the key to Adebayo's development as a shooter could boil down to something as simple as how much he believes in himself. As he recently told Shandel Richardson of The Athletic, he's never had to recreate his jump shot. Instead, it's been his confidence that has held him back from letting it fly with greater frequency to this point in his young career.
"It's just repetition, being in the gym and just believing in yourself," Adebayo said. "I feel like a lot of dudes get caught up in the confidence side of it, which I'm one of those dudes. If I miss two shots, then I'm thinking, 'I don't know how this game is going to go. It's kind of shaky.' It's just confidence."
If Adebayo can find the confidence he needs to tap into his potential as a shooter, you can expect to see his name featured prominently in the Most Improved Player discussion all season long. It's not the only part of his game that needs work, but it would transform both him and the Heat in a way that would make him a clear front-runner for the award.
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