Basketball has transformed over the years, with the emphasis shifting towards volume three-pointers and layups. This trend has created a paradigm where post players and traditional big men are expected to guard on the perimeter and shoot from beyond the arc.
There is a noticeable absence of big men who excel at scoring in the paint with their backs to the basket. Players like Rudy Gobert, DeAndre Jordan, Clint Capela, Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis and the list goes on, all struggle scoring in the paint and easily exploiting their size advantage. Even worse, with today's switching style of offense, a mismatch often occurs and yet today's players are unable to consistently exploit them enough to force defensive adjustments or command a double team.
The game has become reliant on easy buckets in the paint, drawing fouls, and commanding double teams. Without these skills, teams are left vulnerable during the playoffs when defenses tighten, and shooting can falter.
A player who can effortlessly score in the paint, command double teams, and create easier baskets for their teammates can change the dynamics of the game. The pressure that a skilled big man puts on the defense is unparalleled, forcing opponents to adjust their entire game plan. However, the rise of ball-handling, three-point shooting centers who only shoot an average percentage from beyond the arc does not effectively exploit this advantage. These players struggle to draw fouls, command double teams, or punish smaller defenders. By neglecting the potential dominance inside the paint, their height advantage is neutralized, and smaller players can guard them more effectively.
Consider Victor Wembanyama, a talented player risking the negation of his height advantage by playing like a guard on the wing instead of utilizing his guard skills to exploit his height. While it may be mesmerizing to watch skilled big men like Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Davis showcase their perimeter skills, it inadvertently plays into the hands of the defense.
When big men spend too much time dribbling and operating away from the basket, they allow shorter players to guard them effectively. However, when they leverage their height close to the basket, they exert tremendous pressure on the defense, making it nearly impossible for shorter opponents to contain them.
By combining size, strength, and refined post moves, such a player can exploit the weaknesses of modern defenses and create a powerful presence on the court. The return of a dominant big man would not only disrupt the current style of play but also reestablish the importance of interior scoring, drawing double teams, and commanding respect from opponents.
As basketball has evolved towards a perimeter-oriented game, the absence of dominant big men who can score in the paint and command a double team has become apparent.
The reliance on three-pointers and layups (thanks Steph Curry) has created an opportunity for a skilled and punishing big man to rise and redefine the game.
The lost art of back-to-the-basket play presents a gigantic opportunity for a player who can leverage their size and skillset to dominate the NBA and remind us of the impact a dominant big man can have on the court by creating a black hole in the paint and striking terror in the hearts of defenses.