At least in the eyes of Bam Adebayo and Erik Spoelstra, Adebayo was robbed when it comes to the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award.
Boston Celtics star Marcus Smart, Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert were named the three finalists for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award on Sunday. Smart was then named the winner on Monday afternoon.
Though Adebayo played in fewer games this season than those three — he appeared in just 56 games for the Heat, and the three finalists played in at least 66 — Adebayo blames the Miami Heat’s lack of national exposure.
"Disrespectful," Adebayo said Monday, via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. "I feel like I can do anything that two out of the three can do. Besides, I mean, I can't teach height. But they all three play on TV more than me. So I would expect that. They get more TV games and they get more exposure. People like to talk about them more. Don't nobody want to talk about us. So, it's whatever at that point."
Adebayo averaged a career-high 19.1 points and 10.1 rebounds this season while helping the Heat earn the top seed in the Eastern Conference. He averaged 0.8 blocks and a career-best 1.4 steals per game, and led the Heat to the fourth-best defensive rating in the league.
Adebayo had six points and six rebounds in the Heat’s 115-91 win over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 1 of their opening round playoff series on Sunday.
"I'm just really stunned that Bam is not a finalist," Spoelstra said, via ESPN. "I don't know what people are watching. And he's played in enough games, so I don't want that as an excuse, either."
Though the Heat had just 22 national TV games entering the season — compared to 34 for the Suns, 32 for the Celtics and 26 for the Jazz — Spoelstra was named a finalist for Coach of the Year and Tyler Herro is up for the league’s Sixth Man award.
Those nominations seem to ruin Adebayo’s logic that he was snubbed due to a lack of TV exposure.
The other three finalists were impressive defensively, too, and are undoubtedly deserving of being up for the award. Smart led Boston to becoming the top defensive in the league, and Bridges didn’t miss a game for the Western Conference’s top team. Gobert, who has won the award three times in the last four seasons, averaged a career-high 14.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.
Regardless, Spoelstra is backing his center.
"Just watch any one of our games," Spoelstra said, via ESPN. "You have a defensive system that's built around his toughness and versatility. And it's not a cliché, it's not just a thing you throw out there that he can literally guard 1 through 5. You can count on one hand in his association of 450 how many guys that you can legitimately say that can compete on the ball 1 through 5 at all five positions. And he's at the very top of that list. That's unique unto itself."