Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, the Golden State Warriors dominate the NBA. There is no question at this point that they are the league’s best team; utilizing the small-ball system to the fullest.
In case you don’t know what the small-ball system is, let me break it down for you. Small-ball utilizes 5 players that are substantially smaller than their opposition. By utilizing the athletic advantages of smaller players, teams give up post-dominance for something much more versatile.
The use of this system has spanned back many decades. An important instance of this is the dominant Boston Celtics, featuring the 6’9″ Bill Russell. However, the three-point line was non-existent during Russell’s era.
Now, the Golden State Warriors dominate the NBA. With arguably the best overall shooting team, along with premier defenders like Draymond Green, who plays center at 6’8″. Based on the success of Golden State, more and more teams may begin to take their same path.
However, are the Golden State Warriors a sign for what may become of the league’s big men? Could the use of seven-footers diminish to a bare minimum?
Well, one thing is for sure, in order to run small-ball lineups, teams need to be dominant defensively. You cannot forget rebounding.
When we look at the NBA’s common center, we often think of unskilled shot-blockers and thunderous dunkers. DeAndre Jordan, Hassan Whiteside, and Andre Drummond are a few that can be named.
Don’t take the labeling “un-skilled” lightly though. These are centers who are tremendous when it comes to not just blocking shots, but also altering entire offensive-schemes on a nightly basis. Their defensive impact, while also serving as important safety valves for offenses, are values some teams cannot operate without.
When we look at truly skilled paint-dwellers, look no further than San Antonio. The Spurs are not tremendously athletic, but possess tremendous defenders in Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan.
Small-ball, as effective as it may seem, isn’t a necessary tactic to impose. While some may argue that small-ball is a common strategy utilized by colleges, there aren’t many 7-footers capable of filling one of 5,485 spots.
Teams are quite successful regardless of the strategy. As one might argue, the Spurs’ combined talent or the Clippers’ combined athleticism among their big-men prove to be excellent uses of roster spots.
The NBA’s young talent also ranges over seven-feet. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis, and Jahlil Okafor are all tremendous talents on the rise. However, it is on their teams to utilize them in the most effective way possible.
As slow as the big men of the NBA may seem, big-men will still stand the test of the NBA’s three-point revolution. Now, we see extremely versatile big men developing everywhere across the country. We may even see big-ball lineups in the near future.