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When the Heat take the court to open the 2022 NBA Playoffs, there was a chance they would be without one of their best players.

All-Star center Bam Adebayo entered COVID-19 health and safety protocols prior to Miami’s last game of the regular season against the Magic.

Adebayo, a two-time All-Defensive team selection, is the key to Erik Spoelstra’s defensive unit, one that ranks fourth in the league in defensive rating, according to NBA.com. He isn’t too shabby on the other side of the ball, either β€” he upped his scoring average to a career-high 19.1 points per game on 55.7% shooting. All this for a player who missed 26 games after suffering a torn UCL in his right thumb back in late November.

Adebayo is one of the league’s brightest stars, capable of pouring buckets in on one end of the floor while locking down some of the league’s best threats in the paint. He proved as much in Miami’s run to the Finals back in 2020.

Here is everything you need to know about Adebayo’s status heading into the series.

When could Bam Adebayo return to the court?

Adebayo will be ready for Game 1.

Adebayo entered health and safety protocols last Sunday, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Miami hosts the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, setting the stage for Adebayo to return in time for Game 1 of the series.

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Who will step up if Bam Adebayo is limited?

The Heat have had to get used to being without Adebayo this season, and coming off of COVID-19 protocols, he could be limited in Game 1.

Veteran center Dewayne Dedmon has started 15 games this season, and while he doesn’t quite possess Adebayo’s unique blend of offensive skill and defensive solidity, he has done well in a platoon role. Dedmon has long been one of the NBA’s best backup bigs, rarely getting lost in coverage while also serving as an effective deterrent to rim drives.

On offense, meanwhile, Dedmon has proven an effective post scorer and rim runner. The nine-year vet has also added a new wrinkle into his game this year, flashing an improved 3-point stroke. Dedmon is shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc, hitting 19 of his 47 attempts in 67 games this season.

While he can’t quite offer what Adebayo can, there are far worst options than Dedmon. Miami won 10 of the 15 games Dedmon started this season. And in those games, Dedmon was fairly productive, averaging 8.1 points and 8.1 assists in 23.1 minutes of game time.

Dedmon may not be able to recreate the gaudy numbers of Adebayo. But on a team brimming in talent β€” including Jimmy Butler, Kyle Lowry and Tyler Herro, as well as NBA Champion PJ Tucker β€” he doesn’t need to.

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