Game Breakdown #9: A Deep Dive into Adebayo’s Scoring, Post Touches & Passing vs the Hawks

Insight3 weeks ago10 min readJohn Jablonka

The Miami Heat were without both Tyler Herro and Jimmy Butler and somehow this was arguably their best game of the considering everything — how they played on both ends, the context, and the opponent.

The start they had to this game was on another level. They started this game how dominant teams start games. Right from the go, they were in control. Even though the Atlanta Hawks were able to claw their way to cut the lead at times, this honestly felt the safest they’ve been so far this season.

Surprisingly, they did most of that damage in the first quarter on offense. They had a 170.8 offensive rating. They also had a 80.3% true shooting. This is the Heat without both Herro and Butler.

Here’s also their offensive and defensive ratings by quarter:

  • 1st: 170.8 vs 100
  • 2nd: 81.5 vs 100
  • 3rd: 111.1 vs 111.1
  • 4th: 96 vs 112.5
  • 2-4th: 96.2 vs 106.3

When looking at their raw offensive numbers, they clearly fell off on offense. Part of that is true because they couldn’t hit shots. But until the fourth quarter, I quite liked everything they were doing on offense. Some of the executions could’ve been better but the process and the actions they were running was good to see.

It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that they completely went away from what worked. This was an interesting, yet discouraging stat. The Heat’s pace with Bam Adebayo by quarter:

  • 1st: 13.3s
  • 2nd: 14.3
  • 3rd: 13.7
  • 4th: 18.4

They had their best quarter when they were running quicker throughout the game but had one of the slowest pace in the fourth. Maybe that was because they had the lead and they were running out the clock, which should account for some of the drop-off, but still think it’s too significant of a drop-off.

Their defense should also be the story of this game. This was one of the best offenses coming into the game and they struggled to score early on. Though again, their raw defensive numbers tell a different story.

The Hawks were actually efficient after the first quarter, especially in both the second and third quarters. Through those two quarters, the Hawks had a 61% eFG and 64% TS. They went:

  • 10-for-18 2pt
  • 10-for-23 3pt
  • 8-for-10 ft

This was highly efficient, yet their offensive rating was down and a big reason for that was they also had a 29% TOV. The Heat forced a lot of turnovers.

This helped.

But this game had a lot of Adebayo involved. There were a lot of things to go through there — whether it was his mid-range, his post up touches, his passing, his short roll, and how the team in general handled the Hawks sending extra help.

So, let’s go through some film!

Let’s start with his mid-range because that is what made the Hawks adjust later.

It starts with the scoring. At this point, I have my feelings about the volume and the frequency with which he takes these types of shots. But honestly, now I don’t think that matters as much anymore.

He’s been on a tear lately. He’s been cooking anyone from those spots. Do I wish he traded a lot of those shots into getting to the rim or less of that isolation in the post? Sure, but it has got to the point where the defense fully respects him. He has improved and developed this game so much that it’s no longer punishing the defense from helping off — now it’s actually punishing the defense from helping too much.

This isn’t an Adebayo issue. A lot of it is a team issue. We shouldn’t have over 10 plus possessions with Adebayo taking this isolation or post-up shots, or holding the ball far too long without anyone else getting a touch.

Isolation basketball is not efficient basketball. I don’t think that’s even analytics here. Everyone knows you should move the ball around first. I understand the thought process behind that it may help with his development in this area and getting his confidence up. It may also seem good in the moment when the shots are falling, but again this isn’t something you’d want at a high volume early in possessions.

There are also some specific issues with how Adebayo goes about his scoring too. This has already been a thing last year too, where when he’s thinking to score, it kind of has tunnel vision.

Take that first clip. He immediately goes 1v1 against Clint Capela, manages to get closer to the paint, and has everyone looking at him around the paint:

Yes, he made the shot. That has to be a pass to Duncan Robinson after Jalen Johnson is helping off that much.

That’s the next step in his growth as a scorer. It’s to look to pass in the first place while still being a threat to score. I’ve mentioned this already in one of the other breakdowns that his passing or scoring is kind of like a switch — it’s one or the other and rarely both.

Watch the last clip too. There’s a pass available right off the bat to the corner to Dru Smith when Saddiq Bey is here:

Similar thing here, when he makes a move towards the free throw line to score:

Look at the defense that he’s drawing! Yet, he’s always looking to score. That was a great cut by Smith to force the defender to make a decision, but now Adebayo has to make them pay. It’s either a kick to Robinson or Smith cutting depending on how the defense reacts.

That leads me to the second part of this game and those are his post up touches and how he handled doubles:

I don’t like the possessions where the only action is him holding the ball in the post because 9/10 of times, he’s looking to score and to have these type of possessions be in double digits isn’t going to result in a lot of good stuff. This only becomes worse when the hard doubles come, because when those type of doubles come, someone is definitely open.

That’s exactly what you want from your offensive weapons — to draw that type of defense to put pressure on them elsewhere. Now, this is where it’s another team and Erik Spoelstra issue. There has be some movement going on or a cut, or even a pin-in/flare screen happening elsewhere. They need someone like PJ Tucker setting those off-ball screens or Jimmy Butler to cut effectively.

Watch the third clip for that.

Adebayo is drawing a double. Jaime Jaquez is smartly cutting inside. Now, there’s a 2v1 advantage on the weakside.


Whether it’s another cut or a screen. Just any movement. That’s not helping Adebayo at all by not giving him any options.

That’s a significant issue that makes life worse for both Adebayo or Butler whenever they draw this type of defense.

As big of an issue that is, I still think a lot of these issues come back to Adebayo — more specifically, how fast he processes things. That’s the next step in his development in this area.

Take the second clip here:

This is almost exactly the same as the example above, but just different matchups. But you can see him struggling to process everything at once and I think that’s why he loses the handle because he wasn’t aware of everything around him.

Now, let’s go to some of the passes that he has made

I think even when he makes the passes, it’s noticeable how slow he makes some of those decisions or completely missing looks until they’re too late. All of this is nitpicking how fast he does certain things and it’s not a criticism that he can’t do it yet.

I think it matters a lot when I see takes where people think he needs the ball more or to actually run the offense. That’s where I can’t get behind on some of the views on Adebayo just yet.

This is still growth that has happened fairly recently and has clear holes in. Him making isolation jumpers isn’t a sign to give him more responsibilities at this stage, especially when at this point more responsibilities is basically asking him to do a lot.

All of this is absolutely great for Adebayo when it comes to his development. This is huge growth. But that’s where it should stop. This doesn’t warrant anything more because of his score-only mentality, inability to punish doubles effectively(scoring over doubles isn’t punishing them effectively), and poor passing ability against pressure. There doesn’t have to be over-the-top optimistic positivity that he’s a top 10 player or that he needs to run this team.

Finally, there are two things I still wanted to touch on. One is not entirely related to Adebayo.

This. This annoyed me. This has been a regular thing that has annoyed me with the Heat. Adebayo was drawing help like mad. In all of those post ups, he was getting doubled left-right and center. On his pick-and-rolls, there was help early to take the rolls or even fully waiting for him before the pick was even set.

How are the Heat still aren’t able to get a good look out of it? I don’t how you can have an advantage and not actually take advantage of it.

The next point was something that both Butler and Adebayo do poorly:

Neither player is particularly good at hunting mismatches. This was the case with Butler against Damian Lillard this season and with Adebayo yesterday. They go to hunt whoever but are slow to do anything or wait too long.

With Adebayo, when he was looking to get Trae Young, I don’t think there’s a need to try to post him up. If the defense is still recovering, that’s where you should go. Don’t wait to do what you wanted to do, but instead, react to where the defense is now. That goes back to some of the processing speed with Adebayo.

Overall, Adebayo has taken huge leaps as a scorer. I remember the days people were calling him out on being more aggressive. I think he answered that and closed the conversation. Somehow, there are still people who think he has no bag. Now, hopefully, those little things that would make his game even more dangerous continue to develop.