2. Bam Adebayo
Adebayo is arguably the best defensive player in the 2023 NBA Finals and is tasked with the tallest order of any player in this series with guarding Nikola Jokic.
Defending Jokic effectively is something that doesn’t have much precedent.
Rui Hachimura was an interesting play that messed up Jokic’s rhythm for a quarter. And it allowed Anthony Davis to roam but it stopped being effective as the series wore on.
The Lakers ended up putting Davis back on him and pretty much decided to live with the fact that despite his defensive prowess, he couldn’t stop him, instead he could only hope to contain him.
For the Heat, Adebayo will get the call in Game 1. There is not a chance he doesn’t get his shot at the two-time MVP.
But if Jokic tears him up like he did the Lakers in the opening half of Game 1 in the Western Conference Finals, they’ll need a back up plan.
It could play out as the most interesting matchup of the series. Adebayo is a mobile big man who is “only” 6-foot-9-inches tall. Much more of the Hachimura build rather than Davis, which should play to his advantage.
At Kentucky, Adebayo led the Wildcats to an SEC Title, a number one seed in the tournament, and made it all the way to the Elite Eight.
For the year he averaged 13.0 points per game, 8.0 rebounds per game, and 1.5 blocks per game while being named Second-team All-SEC as well as to the SEC All-Freshman team.