One of the most significant differences between the NBA today and the past in terms of an X and O's standpoint is that more teams are utilizing mismatch hunting and switching than ever. Back in the day, old school basketball was all about physicality, midrange jumpers, and fundamentals — most of which the eye test doesn't see as often in today's NBA.
The dramatic shift in playing style we see today can either be a benefit or disadvantage for any player that has stepped foot in the league. Current Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, who played in the league for 17 seasons, believes that he wouldn't have thrived in the NBA had the game been played the way it is today.
The revolution of the three-point line
One of the reasons mismatch hunting and switching are more relevant in today's game is because more players are infatuated with the 3-point line — the greatest revolution of modern basketball. The revolution of the three-point line has led the league to reach its breaking point with 3-point shooting, and in exchange, defenses are significantly affected.
Kerr, who himself leads one of the best three-point shooting and switch defense teams in the NBA, said that he wouldn't prosper if switching defense were a common tactic back in the day.
"Yeah, it feels like it wasn't this way when I first started coaching eight years ago," Kerr said. "I think maybe over the last five or six years, it's gotten more and more popular as we've had more and more three-point shooting, more five-out lineups, because the floor is so open. And all the switching, it's hard to attack switches. I think that's the reason for the hunting over the last few years," he added.
"I'm glad they didn't have it like 25 years ago. That wouldn't have gone well for me," Kerr concluded.
Mismatch hunting is only going to grow
Similar to most players' love affair with the 3-point line, mismatch hunting won't go away anytime soon. It's difficult for teams to build a roster resembling the '21/'22 Boston Celtics, who don't have anyone teams can pick on defense (except maybe Payton Pritchard). It also doesn't help that the game's most prominent players like LeBron James, Luka Doncic, and Steph Curry, to name a few, depend heavily on mismatch hunting.
So yes, while many old heads criticize today's game for its lack of purity and physicality, they also need to understand that this generation's players have to adjust to the game's development over the past couple of years.
Sure, the NBA isn't as physical as it used to be but would these old heads survive mismatch hunting and switching defense if it was relevant back in the day? Nobody will ever know, but at least Kerr acknowledges that today's game wouldn't have gone well for someone like him.