It is hard to dispute that these days, the NBA is a point guard driven league. Without a great point guard there is little chance of your team being great. The influx of hyper-athletic and exciting point guards over the past 6 or so years has been nothing short of a full revolution in the game. On the 50th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points in a single game, I put forth this question: Where has the big man gone in the NBA?
This is not to say that there aren’t still great big men in the league, or that there is no place for them anymore. Dwight Howard is without question the most sought after upcoming free agent. I would argue that there will be a time in Howard’s future where he is bar-none the most dominate player in the game. Even so, the culture of the NBA has changed. Teams are no longer built around the center position. Today, it starts with the point guard (1) and works its way down to the center (5), who’s main job is to rebound and have a defensive presence in the paint. It is an astonishing feat that one man scored 100 point in a single game, but even more unbelievable is that it was done BEFORE the three point line, and by a center. In the last 30 years, the only big man to even get close to 100 points was David Robinson with 71 points in 1994 (an era with many great big men: Karl Malone, Patrick Ewing, a young Shaq). Single-game statistics are fun, but what I am talking about is a broad shift in how the game is played.
A number of arguments can be made as to why the big man has taken a back seat to the point guard position. Maybe it took a full thirty years for the culture to change after the addition of the three point line, which was added in the 1979-1980 season. Perhaps some of the highly touted big men failed to reach their potential (Kwame Brown, Michael Olowokandi) or were plague by injuries ( Greg Oden, Yao Ming) and teams began looking elsewhere There is hope yet for the big man. Lamarcus Aldridge plays back to the basket offense better than anyone in the game today. The Gasol brothers also do the position justice. And what about the eventual number one overall pick in the upcoming draft Anthony Davis. We know he can block shots, but will he be the type of player to build a team around? There is no one answer, and honestly, I love the fast paced style that is being played today. My argument is that the league is lopsided towards the guard position and the play reflects it. I would like to see a more balanced style of play evolve over the next 5 years, where the big men get their share of the credit.
P.S. Dwight Howard and Deron Williams to the Mavericks next year? I sure hope so