Remember the 2007 playoffs? The Warriors 8th seed disposed of the top seed Mavericks in 6 games one of the biggest playoffs upsets. The Warriors had 6-9 Al harrington as starting Center and 6-8 Stephen Jackson as power forward, the only true center Andris Biedrins only played averaged 18.7 minutes per game, Don Nelson using Barnes, Jackson and Al able to contain Dirk putting smaller wing players who were aggressive and able to double him to stop him from getting down low Dirk back to the rim game wasn’t completely there yet, with shooter on the perimeter and not to mention Baron Davis who was an animal this small ball lineup was beyond effective.
How about the Heat in 2012 when Chris Bosh was injured in the playoffs against the Pacers pushed LeBron to PF bringing in players like Battier who into the starting lineup against Boston and Pacers who could potentially be a threat from 3 this opened up lanes and cut ins for LeBron. In the following season (2012-13) heat winning another ring they opted to run 1 big in Bosh at Center and LeBron at PF, Many people often commend him (Bosh) for helping start the small ball center era.
A few seasons later the Kerr and the Warriors small ball took over. We witnessed some off the best small ball in history in the 14-15 finals. Kerr had a lineup of Curry, Klay, Iguodala, Barnes and Draymond. Bogut was named as starting center for 3 games however he only played about 17 minutes. Mozgov and Tristian Thompson became defensive liabilities for the Cavs as they had to step up and guard the perimeter. The pinnacle/peak of the warriors was the addition of Kevin Durant. They were known as the ‘Hampton Five’ who easily beat their opponents within 4 or 5 games.
However the Rockets took them to game 7 in 17-18, but now in the 19-20 season on the trade deadline Mike D’Antoni flipped a switch with the rockets and traded big man Clint Capela and in return got swingman elite defender Robert Covington. The Rockets however have 2 big men in Chandler and Hartenstein but they don’t get much playing time. Since they started running a small ball lineup they won 8 out of 10 games beating teams like Boston and Lakers. Even though they have won many games and now opened up the floor for Westbrook to attack the rim with his strength and athleticism the Rockets have a major problem in rebounding they currently rank dead last in rebounding (38 rebounds per game)
Since switching to a small ball lineup and teams with dominant bigs will find mismatches to punish the Rockets and this will only mean they will have to double and help out down low this is possible as we can look back on the 07 playoffs Mavs vs Warriors. It seems the time of running 2 bigs is coming to an end.
Teams no longer rely on their Centers to do the work the in the post or and get an easy 2, the times of seeing big men like Shaq, Hakeem, David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Garnett, Dirk and so on get in the post is non existent the NBA is changing. The pace of it to the barrage of 3s taken means no one wants to post up or take mid range shoots that much anymore. When we take a look at the 96-97 season (when this stat was collected on the official NBA site) we can see from FGA (field goals attempted) from 15-19 feet away, Bulls had 19FGA per game the most in the NBA that year compared to 2019-20 season the Spurs lead with 12FGA. In the 96-97 season the lowest attempted from 15-19 feet was 7.3 by the Blazers, 2019-20 the lowest would be 3FGA by the Timberwolves. Even from 10-14 feet Bulls lead with 13.8 and the lowest being 5.8 by Seattle supersonics, 2019-20 Spurs lead with 11FGA and the lowest being 3.5FGA by the Rockets.
We can see how much the mid range game has changed as for the post up game no one has footwork like Hakeem Olajuwon in the post. The NBA now being in the space and pace era the ideal NBA big man is a center who can shoot for example take a look at the Lopez twins and Marc Gasol who have now become decent 3 point shooters opening the lane for players on their teams to drive to the rim. Let’s take Chris Bosh for example at the beginning of his career with the Raptors a dominant big man with good interior game he was never a strong 3 point shooter and never took that many 3s. 7 years with the Raptors he was .298% 3 point shooter only averaging 0.3 3s his career. With the Heat he became a more efficient shooter, his shooting percentage from 3 was .334%. Bosh has been quoted saying he doesn’t play the post game anymore as it does take a toll on his body. Bosh being able to create that space and being able to knockdown 3s let Wade and LeBron ISO more efficiently. We take a look at the league now we have big men like Towns, Jokic, Embiid, Davis, Gasol, Porzingis, Aldridge, Love and others who can all shoot. Embiid and Aldridge are currently the only players in the NBA with post up post possession near 10. These 2 are continuing to carry on the dying post up game. Not many players focus on their post moves anymore, but when players like embiid who debatably might be the best post player currently do develop some sort of post game not many players know how to defend it, it feels like not many teams work on this and players don’t work on this with coaches. The only we will ever see a good post game now is on YouTube searching for players like Hakeem, Kareem, Robinson, Duncan, Garnett, Ewing, Barkley, Malone and many more
but It all comes down to this why post up and get 2 when you can improve your shooting technique and get an extra point shooting 3s.