New Orleans Pelicans center Steven Adams was featured in a recent video practicing three-pointers as a part of his solo workouts in preparation for next season, and these were not catch-and-shoot threes. They were attempts while on the move, popping out for a corner three or running through staggered screens ala Klay Thompson. While this might be good news for Zion Williamson and his rim-attacking style of play, this may not be a welcome change for some players looking to make it to the NBA.
As the segment on ESPN’s The Jump goes: is this something, nothing, or everything? It may initially seem like something, but for Steven Adams, one of the strongest players in the NBA and a force down low to start trying to take his game outside, is everything.
A player like Adams moving into a somewhat Brook Lopez type of role could bring forward the actual extinction of the traditional big man. Expanding one’s offensive repertoire is never a bad thing, but often overlooked is the ability to have to do more than add shooting so a post player can become a floor spacer. While this is important in the evolution of the big man, adding speed and agility to be mobile on both ends of the floor is just as important.
As perimeter players continue to add more moves to their attack, get to the foul line, and shoot better percentages from three, the simple probability argument of shots in the post being higher percentage shots is just not going to work anymore. Players like Devin Booker expose the flaw in this mathematical equation because their probability of getting points by attacking a slow-footed big is slowly catching up to a contested jump hook in the paint from the post. So when big men start to regress in paint production just by the sheer number of high percentage attempts while failing to guard the perimeter, they will begin to have a major problem.
Centers like DeAndre Ayton now seem to be the big man’s future, those who are in somewhat of an Amar’e Stoudemire type of mold that can attack from anywhere on the floor while being a threat with our without the ball in their hands. Ayton cannot shoot the three, but his quickness allows him to stay on the floor and keep up with guards when they switch match-ups, and his elevated play in the postseason is one of the main reasons they are in the finals. Perhaps it’s time that we stop falling in love with the stretch big and bring back the age of the agile big.
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