Bam Adebayo’s thumb injury and its ripple effects throughout the East

  • Co-author, Pro Basketball Prospectus series
  • Formerly a consultant with the Indiana Pacers
  • Developed WARP rating and SCHOENE system

How will Bam Adebayo’s injury affect the Miami Heat’s battle for playoff seeding in the Eastern Conference?

The Heat announced Wednesday that Adebayo underwent surgery to repair a UCL tear in his right thumb. Sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Adebayo is expected to be out for four to six weeks.

He isn’t Miami’s best player (that’s Jimmy Butler), and sixth man Tyler Herro averages more points per game. But Adebayo, the All-Defensive second team pick each of the last two seasons and an All-Star in 2020, might just be the Heat’s most irreplaceable player. So an absence of at minimum the 15 games Miami will play over the next four weeks and potentially up to 21 over the next six weeks will have a major impact on the Heat’s record.

With Miami near the top of a pack of 10 East teams separated by just 2.5 games in the standings, any downturn for the Heat could have major implications. Let’s take a look at how Miami will play without Adebayo and what his absence might ultimately mean to their playoff positioning.

How the Heat replace Adebayo

The center position for the Heat this season has been manned almost exclusively by Adebayo and backup Dewayne Dedmon, who has proven to be a find for Miami after he was out of the league to start the 2020-21 season. Having struggled with his 3-point shooting in 2019-20, when he hit just 21% beyond the arc, Dedmon has refocused his game on the interior and has shot 64% from the field during 37 games with the Heat over the last two seasons.

A starting role, however, might expose some of Dedmon’s limitations — particularly at the defensive end.

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