Ohh….the poor, unwanted, prehistoric big man. The plodding giant who was great at Mikan drills and drop-steps has dropped off. Golden State was the massive meteor that crashed into planet NBA and rendered the brontosaurus extinct.
Or maybe not….
It’s hard to argue with success. The Warriors pulled Bogut and played Ezeli sparingly after finding themselves in a 2-1 hole and won out to take the title in six games. It was a great strategy move that just happened to work against a team reeling from injuries and poor coaching. However, this was probably more of a situational thing than shift in the whole league.
Take a moment to think about the notable big men in the league…..I know, it may take a minute to come up with one.
Tim Duncan is a prime example of a true center (or power forward – not the venue for that argument). He’s old, no doubt, be he is what being big in the modern NBA is about. He moves his feet, has passing vision and can score with either hand. Those are the skills needed to be successful in the paint and force opponents to respect the middle as much as the 3-point arc. Unfortunately, there has been a dearth of those skills in young players. I’m not saying they aren’t athletic. I believe the current league has more athleticism than any other time in the game’s history. But there’s no question that the understanding of the game and the development of well-rounded basketball skills has declined.
Go to any AAU or high school game featuring top prospects and there will be very little schemed offense, much less a team willing to feed a post player for a back to the basket move. Kids are gravitating to the arc more and more because the EFG is greater out there and the analytics show how much more successful teams are when they shoot a high 3-point percentage. Next thing you know, your center is shooting more threes and leaving money on the table under the basket because he doesn’t understand how to make post moves work for him. This is what we have seen from Tristan Thompson, Deandre Jordan, Festus Ezeli, JaVale McGee and countless others around the league. All of them can grab rebounds, usually because of their size and because the rest of the team is posted around the 3-point line, maybe block a shot, but none of them are offensive threats unless it’s a lob or a put back. And that’s unfortunate because they are all so athletically gifted. Yet no coach along the way or even now has required them to work on their BASKETBALL game.
These same coaches will now jump on the “small ball” train and start stockpiling a team of 6-8 shooters. Seems that’s how the league works.
Someone wins with a Euro-squad…….pick from overseas talent the next 10 drafts.
Success with a 6-8 point guard………turn every power forward into Penny Hardaway.
Pick and roll getting baskets…….draft solely on that strategy.
The strategy of the game has fallen by the wayside. GM’s and coaches merely seek the handful of players who can fit into a pick and roll or perimeter passing/TEAM concept. If those players aren’t available? We’ll play who we have and try again next year.
Once coaches start teaching and developing from high school up, teams at every level will have the ability to play how they need to play to win.