The NBA finally wrapped up its season last night with Golden State winning their first title since 1975. During the series, a rather interesting topic came up with regards to the evolution of the game. Basketball has always been thought of as a big man’s game, especially in the NBA. The league used to be filled with great low post players such as Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan and Pat Ewing. Teams used to strive to pick up good big men in the draft. It was thought that picking up a good center could quickly change the fortunes of any team. Well that was then and now, it seems the emphasis is more on getting those good smaller players such as an elite point guard. The NBA and quite frankly most of basketball is becoming more of a smaller man’s game and as a fan, I find those changes to be a very welcome change.
About 15-20 years ago, the NBA was becoming totally unwatchable to me. Any hoops fan might remember that ugly stretch shortly after Michael Jordan retired. Low scoring games and very physical play in the lane. How can anyone forget those classic battles between the Knicks and Heat when the first team to reach 80 won the game. I found it more enjoyable to go down to my local health club and watch a bunch of fat guys play ball!! That was a very ugly era for the NBA. Fortunately, those days are long and gone. There is so much more finesse in the game today. The league is blessed to have a number of talented guards and small forwards. Even the skill level of the big guys is fun to watch. Many of them play like guards. Who could ever imagine seeing a bunch of big men taking 3 point shots or facing up and beating their defenders off the dribble? I find that play to be much more enjoyable to watch. The more highly skilled players, the better. A player who can only dunk is not very fun to watch in my opinion.
The recent series between Golden State and Cleveland is exactly what I am talking about. Golden State is a very fun to watch. They have several talented players who do multiple things with the ball plus they play a very fast paced tempo. No slowing down the game and milking the shot clock for these guys. Even a casual basketball fan has to appreciate watching them play.
Having said those things, I still believe teams should not overlook talented big men. Since there are so many talented guards and smaller players in the league, teams will probably be looking to match up with these players in either the draft or free agency. In my opinion, a talented big man is a hard to get treasure. You could reverse the argument and talk about how other teams will be able to stop or match up with our big guy. I still believe in the argument that a good big man is better to have than a good smaller player. If I were a building a team, I would build from the center position out. Good guards are a dime a dozen. A good big man, who is very versatile, is harder to find and can have a greater impact on a team.
With this new influx of talent and seemingly new evolution of a quicker, more up tempo style of play, the popularity of the league can only go up from here. Those younger big men out there who have aspirations of playing in the NBA some day better start working on their long-range shooting and ball handling. It is a new era in the league and this fan loves it!!