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Home - Size Doesn’t Matter?







  Size Doesn’t Matter?


It seems incredible now, but just 20 months ago the Indiana Pacers entered the NBA Playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s top seed. They limped down the stretch somewhat, but they still made it to the final four before being eliminated by LeBron James’ Miami team.

Within a few weeks Lance Stephenson left in free agency and Paul George snapped his leg, but center Roy Hibbert’s rapid descent from defensive force to near irrelevance remains confounding.

Hibbert was in the running for Defensive Player of the Year just two seasons ago, but now averages eight points and seven rebounds per game for the team that’s bottom of the Western Conference standings, and out of title contention, the LA Lakers.

Big is best

Dominant big men have almost always been a factor in the NBA’s history. From Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain through to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton, the early talented big men were nearly unstoppable.

Magic Johnson and Larry Bird helped the NBA to change gears a little during the 1980’s and Michael Jordan grabbed the baton with gusto, but he still had to contend with the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal.

Size was far from a guarantee, of course. Physical ailments or a pure lack of finesse put paid to the dreams of general managers who thought that players such as Yao Ming, Andrea Bargnani, Shawn Bradley or Michael Olowokandi might deliver success.

One of the tallest players in NBA history, Romania’s Gheorghe Muresan, was in the news again this week with the announcement that Eurobasket 2017 will be held in his home country along with Finland, Israel and Turkey. Muresan was part of the team behind his country’s bid, but it’s fair to say that he would struggle to find a niche in the modern NBA.

Tall order

kristaps porzingis Another Eastern European, Latvia’s Kristaps Porzingis, has taken the Big Apple by storm in his first 20 NBA games. Porzingis stands at 7’3” but is not your typical post player, instead possessing a nice stroke on a jump-shot that earns sufficient respect.

The modern NBA has evolved through a series of tweaks to the rules in the last 10-15 years, with the hand-check and the illegal defense calls regularly cited as two of the most influential.

Defenses can’t sag to pack the paint and can’t guard their men too physically, which has led to an emphasis on either driving hard or drive-and-kicks to find an open three-point shooter.

If you can’t drive and you can’t knock down an open shot from outside 10 feet, it’s hard for NBA coaches to find you justifiable time on the floor. Charlotte’s early success is seen as another damning indictment in this regard - it lost brilliant defensive wing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to injury early on, but the Hornets have thrived in his absence, finding more space on offense without him.

Leading the way

stephen curry The league has a glut of fantastic playmakers at the moment, led by the incomparable Steph Curry. Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Tony Parker round out the point-guard spots on the rest of the West’s current top four teams, although Westbrook and Parker receive plentiful help from their star wings Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard.

LeBron and George, thankfully fully recovered from his gruesome injury, are the torch-bearers for the wing positions out East, with Kyle Lowry and Isaiah Thomas among the best point guards.

By comparison, the power forward and center slots lack the same depth. Detroit’s Andre Drummond leads the league in rebounding so far from LA Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan and Houston’s Dwight Howard, but the three are borderline unusable during crunchtime, shooting an abysmal 41% between them from the charity stripe.

All are surrounded too by strong support, with Paul and Blake Griffin feeding Jordan, and James Harden and Reggie Jackson playmaking for Howard and Drummond respectively.

Big men with finesse can still be valuable assets, with DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis among two of the league’s brightest young stars.

But you have to scroll down to find their teams at the bottom of the standings with the likes of Philadelphia, whose recent draft track record of taking young big men with bags of potential such as Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor looks like it might backfire spectacularly.

Size will always be an important part of the game - but in the modern era, raw size alone isn’t enough, and finding elite ball-handlers and shooters is proving to be more valuable.



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