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Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo: ‘I will win Defensive Player of the Year’ this season

Andrew Buller-Russ

A center has taken home Defensive Player of the Year honors in nine of the past 14 seasons. Marcus Smart bucked that trend in 2021, but Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat says the Boston Celtics guard won’t win again.

Adebayo also doesn’t think Rudy Gobert’s trade to the Minnesota Timberwolves will help his chances of winning what would be his fourth DPOY award of his career.

In fact, Adebayo doesn’t feel Smart or Gobert should have won the award in either of their past two seasons, and he even chimed in on who he thinks should have won. Spoiler alert: It’s him. Bam Adebayo believes he should have been awarded for his defensive effort, winning the trophy himself.

Adebayo recently attended the Heat’s local youth clinic and he brought the hype by telling everyone in attendance what his goals were for the upcoming season. As you can imagine, winning Defensive Player of the Year was brought up.

“I should have won it the last two years and I will win it this year.”

Bam Adebayo on Defensive Player of the Year goals

Alright then. Obviously, Adebayo and his fellow NBA players don’t get to vote on such matters, though it would be interesting. It should come as no surprise for Adebayo to say he hopes to win Defensive Player of the Year, and some betting experts might suggest his odds are favorable.

According to Vegas Insider, Adebayo faces the second-best odds to win (+650), trailing Rudy Gobert, and coming in just ahead of Giannis Antetokounmpo. But what about what’s already happened? Should Adebayo have won the award the two previous years?

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Bam Adebayo a DPOY snub?

NBA: Miami Heat at Utah Jazz
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Aside from Bam Adebayo himself, Miami Heat fans will be quickest to tell you how the three-time All-Defensive player was snubbed for the DPOY award each of the past two seasons.

Adebayo has every right to feel snubbed. He’s one of the best centers in basketball, and despite being 6-foot-9, he’s one of the best paint defenders in basketball. Yet, Adebayo’s 0.9 blocks per game leaves a bit more room for growth on the table. Then again, swiping 1.4 steals per game is also unusual for a player his size.

Most importantly, Adebayo can also guard on the perimeter just as well as in the paint. Meaning if teams try and isolate him and create mismatches by switching onto him, well, that’s just not going to work. Adebayo locks down guards just as well as he locks down forwards and centers.

That’s what separates Adebayo from the Marcus Smarts and Rudy Goberts of the world. While the former is a great lockdown defender on the wing, he’s not going to hold it down every possession in the paint. Ditto for Gobert, but in reverse, where teams like to use his lack of lateral quickness to run circles around him. His only hope is using his Stifle Tower length to alter shots in exasperation. But not Adebayo, his foot speed allows him to keep up with Speedy Gonzales’ while also being in range to alter shots, or pick pockets.

One key factor that may be holding Adebayo back in the eyes of voters is that he’s paired with Jimmy Butler, who’s also viewed as a top defender. Maybe voters feel Adebayo’s impact isn’t as large because Jimmy Buckets shoulders a large defensive load as well?

But that’s not a picture-perfect excuse either, as the Celtics also had multiple defenders who were above-average stoppers.

At the end of the day, the Heat have led a top-five defense each of the past two seasons, and as their primary defender in the paint, Adebayo deserves a lot of credit. Is he the best defensive player in the NBA? I’ll stop short of making that statement, but it’s not an outlandish claim, and he definitely deserves to be in the conversation, if not actually earning the title for himself.

He’s still just 25 and that fire that drives him to be excellent will only help Adebayo achieve his goals. Winning Defensive Player of the Year might even happen this season, but it still won’t make up for the last two years’ awards. But that’s probably OK, as it only provides more fuel, more motivation to have a stronger finish in the 2022-23 season.

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