Oh Small Ball…

An old saying is that bigger is better. That is usually the case in most sports from football to boxing. It was the same in basketball up until the past few seasons. Before, if you had big guys who could rebound, protect the rim, and score in the low post, you were going to have a chance to win games. Every championship team had a dominant center or power forward that either controlled the offensive end, defensive end, or both ends of the floor. Name a team that didn’t, I dare you.

Today, it is almost crazy to have a big guy on the floor since teams almost exclusively play small ball now. You still have your good centers, but they are slowly becoming an extinct position in the NBA. With so much emphasis being put on the 3-point line and running in transition, it is easy to forget that not 20 years ago, at least 25 of the 30 teams had a dominant post player that did all of the big man essentials. You didn’t have seven footers stepping out to the three point line (exception to Bill Laimbeer), but instead, they would post up and get high-percentage shots. The 18 foot jumper is an understandable asset; it was employed by most big men. The stretch four was non-existent, as most fours were used for grabbing rebounds and running the floor.

I think small ball is a great thing. It is fun to watch and brings in a lot of fans, but I don’t agree with it being every team’s philosophy. Is it better for some teams with no legitimate centers? Yes. I do think  that this idea of going small is causing teams to overlook potentially game-changing big men. A perfect example is the Miami Heat. After Lebron James left for Cleveland, the Heat tried to go small again by putting Chris Bosh at the 5 and Shawne Williams at the 4. They found that it didn’t work very well. Midseason, they signed free agent Hassan Whiteside, a relatively unknown 7-footer out of Marshall University. Almost immediately, Whiteside showed the NBA that he could rebound and block shots with the best of them (watch his triple-double against the Chicago Bulls). I’m not saying that it will work this way for every team, but I am saying that if they’re not looking, then they won’t find them. The bigs are out there, trust me.

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