“I Guard 1 Through 5” | Heat’s Bam Adebayo Believes He Is NBA’s Best Defender And Has Been The Past Two Years

The Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo thinks he’s the best defender in the NBA and has been for the last two years. Is he right?

In a recent conversatikon with Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks, Adebayo makes his case for being the best and it’s pretty compelling.

“I guard 1 through 5,” Adebayo said. “It’s not a lot of us. Me, Draymond (Green), Giannis (Antetokounmpo). Who else?”

Adebayo’s Versatility Is His Super Power

When Rooks pressed Adebayo about last year’s defensive player of the year Marcus Smart, and three-time DPOY Rudy Gobert, the Heat big man made another compelling case.

“It has to translate, and I felt like Rudy in the playoffs didn’t translate,” Adebayo continued. “And Marcus Smart guards 1 through 4. That’s the thing that I thought was different between me and them.”

Adebayo is an excellent defensive player. He’s made the All-Defensive team three times in his career and might add a fourth this season.

In his five completed seasons Adebayo has been ranked in the 90th percentile or better in defensive EPM four times. This season, his sixth, he’s currently in the 84th percentile. He plays for a Heat team that is currently fifth in aDRTG.

Evaluating Adebayo on defense is tricky. His versatility (guarding 1 through 5) is incredible but it often leads to a lesser defender being caught on an opponent, resulting in the Heat giving up points. So while the player Adebayo was guarding didn’t score, him being out of position, leads to an easy basket somewhere else.

Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo thinks he's the best defensive player in the NBA.
(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

This in part explains the Heat’s stellar defensive team numbers and Adebayo’s good, but not elite numbers.

In Basketball Reference’s Defensive Box Plus Minus (DBPM) stat, a box score estimate of the defensive points per 100 possessions a player contributed above a league average player, translated to an average team, Adebayo is ranked 32nd. Well behind Green and Antetokounmpo and DPOY front-runner Jaren Jackson Jr.

Hardly the be all, end all, but they speak to something.

Bam Adebayo Not An Elite Rebounder Or Rim Protector

The mixtapes of Adebayo switching out onto an elite offensive player and stopping him will fuel the Heat fans and support his case as the league’s best.

But what about the nights where he allows Charlotte Hornets rookie Mark Williams to score 18 points and grab 20 rebounds and finish the game with a -15 net rating?

A one-game sample size does not indicate who any player truly is, but players that are the best tend to dominate weaker opponents, which makes up for when they don’t dominate the league’s best.

Adebayo is excellent and his versatility is an elite weapon. But he’s not an elite rim protector, or an elite rebounder. Two of the most important components on defense.

If an opponent can force the Heat to switch and move the ball to a player not guarded by Adebayo, it negates some of his brilliance. Of course, the Heat could scram and get Adebayo back into a favorable defensive matchup, but they could be exposed if it’s not executed swiftly and precisely.

Bam Adebyao Guards All Five Positions

Being able to guard all five positions makes a defender extremely valuable. But doing that with elite rebounding (ending possessions) and/or elite rim protection (eliminates easy buckets) or with the ability to blow up an opponents offensive set because of your high IQ (like Green) is where the elite defenders reside. Adebayo is just short of that.

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