The modern NBA big man
by Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
The death of the NBA big man has been exaggerated.
He still exists, just no longer in the traditional sense of “Go plant those size 17 sneakers on the low block and stay there.”
He can shoot, pass, dribble, create and defend. He can play inside and outside, allowing teams to spread the floor and create space for shooters – the de facto base offense for many NBA teams.
The modern big man is more versatile, and the international influence is widespread and growing.
“Just because you’re big that’s no excuse not to handle the ball or pass and create and be a playmaker,” Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut said. “That was taught to me early and I think most international guys from a very young age were taught how to dribble, pass and shoot.”
The Memphis Grizzlies (Marc Gasol of Spain), Los Angeles Lakers (Pau Gasol of Spain), Houston Rockets (Omer Asik of Turkey), Oklahoma City Thunder (Serge Ibaka of Congo and Spain), San Antonio Spurs (Tiago Splitter of Brazil) and Atlanta Hawks (Johan Petro of France) all feature such players. And all are in the playoffs, making significant contributions.
Plus others who played college basketball in the USA have international ties: Bogut (Australia) and teammate Festus Ezeli (Nigeria), the Hawks’ Al Horford (Dominican Republic), the Spurs’ Tim Duncan (U.S. Virgin Islands) and the Chicago Bulls’ Joakim Noah (France).
It doesn’t look like the trend will end soon. The next wave of big men eligible for the June draft, even ones in the USA, will enter the league with similar skill sets.
“You’ve got to adapt,” Marc Gasol said. “You have to do lots of things on the court. The more things you can, the more you’re going to be able to play and the more you’re going to be able to help your team eventually.”
• Gasol (11.5), Asik (10.8), Horford (9.2), Ibaka (8.6) and Bogut (8.2) are third, fourth, eighth, ninth and 13 in rebounds per game in the playoffs.
• Gasol and Horford are two of six players averaging at least 18 points, seven rebounds and 3.5 assists in the playoffs, according to basketball-reference.com.