Heat’s Bam Adebayo named to All-Defensive Second Team, just misses cut for First Team

·4 min read
Daniel A. Varela/dvarela@miamiherald.com

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo was left feeling disrespected last month when he learned that he wasn’t even among the three finalists for this season’s NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Adebayo, who finished fourth in the Defensive Player of the Year voting, learned Friday that he also finished just short of making the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team. Instead, he was named to the All-Defensive Second Team for the third straight season after being selected for the first time in his career in 2019-20.

Adebayo joins LeBron James as the only two players in franchise history to be named to one of the league’s All-Defensive teams in three consecutive seasons while with the Heat. James made the First Team in three straight seasons in 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 and then was picked for the Second Team in 2013-14.

Adebayo was the only Heat player voted onto this season’s All-Defensive teams. Heat star Jimmy Butler, who has been selected to the All-Defensive Second Team fives times (2020-21, 2017-18, 2015-16, 2014-15, 2013-14) during his NBA career but has still never made the First Team, missed the cut this season.

The NBA’s All-Defensive teams were announced Friday night.

The All-Defensive First Team included Boston’s Marcus Smart, Phoenix’s Mikal Bridges, Utah’s Rudy Gobert, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Memphis’ Jaren Jackson Jr.

The All-Defensive Second Team included Adebayo, Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia’s Matisse Thybulle, Boston’s Robert Williams and Golden State’s Draymond Green.

Players were awarded two points for each selection to the All-Defensive First Team and one point for each selection to the Second Team in the voting, which was done by a panel of 100 media members, that concluded at the end of the regular season and prior to the start of the playoffs. Voters selected two guards, two forwards and one center for each team, choosing players at the position they play regularly.

Adebayo received 57 First-Team votes and 38 Second-Team votes, finishing with the most First-Team votes among the players selected to the Second Team. Adebayo even earned two more First-Team votes than Jackson, who was selected to the First-Team because he received five more Second-Team votes to finish with one more voting point than Adebayo.

Kyle Lowry and Butler were the only two other Heat players who earned votes. Lowry received six Second-Team votes and Butler received one First-Team vote and three Second-Team votes.

Adebayo, who is known on the defensive end for his unique versatility and ability to effectively switch onto every position on the court at 6-9 and 255 pounds, is the anchor of a Heat unit that closed the regular season with the NBA’s fourth-best defensive rating.

The Heat allowed just 104.9 points per 100 possessions with Adebayo on the court in the regular season, a defensive rating that would have ranked first among NBA teams. The Heat’s defense was 6.6 points better per 100 possessions when Adebayo was on the court compared to when he wasn’t, which went down as the eighth-best differential in the league among those who played 1,500 minutes, according to Cleaning the Glass.

In addition, no NBA player switched more screens during the regular season than Adebayo’s 17.5 switches per 100 possessions, according to Second Spectrum. That’s a big reason why the Heat switched the second-most screens in the league, behind only the Boston Celtics.

Adebayo isn’t just switching for the sake of it, either. He’s doing it because it usually leads to a defensive stop, as the Heat allowed just 0.9 points per any possession involving an Adebayo switch. For perspective, the NBA’s top defense (the Celtics) allowed 1.06 points per possession this regular season.

Also, among the 22 NBA players who defended at least 90 isolations during the regular season, Adebayo ranked third with just 0.72 points allowed per each of those possessions

The only players in franchise history who have been selected for the All-Defensive First Team while with the Heat are Alonzo Mourning (1998-99, 1999-00) and James (2010-11, 2011-12, 2012-13).

Adebayo (also in 2019-20 and 2020-21) joins previous Heat All-Defensive Second-Team selections P.J. Brown (1996-97, 1998-99), Butler (2020-21), Bruce Bowen (2000-01), Dwyane Wade (2004-05, 2008-09, 2009-10), James (2013-14) and Hassan Whiteside (2015-16).

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