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Where Has The NBA Big Man Gone? ……By Daxton Bonnewell
The NBA big man is a myth in modern day NBA. The premier position that everyone looks for is the Small Forward or the Hybrid Point Guard, someone who can pass effectively as well as drive and shoot the three to get their points.
The last dominant big man was Shaquille O’Neal, where his last dominant season was in his 2nd season with the Miami heat where he was a 20 and 10 guy all season long still being the dominant force in the paint. Since then there hasn’t been any big guys who have truly dominated the game like players such as Shaq, Hakeem, Kareem, David Robinson, and Tim Duncan.
The big man has begun its rise back into prominence in the last few years. Young bucks like Karl Anthony-Towns, Jahlil Okafor, Hassan Whiteside,and the older of the young guys, Demarcus “Boogie” Cousins, have brought the center back as one of the most important positions in the league.
Towns as a rookie is averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds a game along with around 2 blocks a game. Okafor is also averaging 17 points with a lesser 7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a game but it’s a good start for the young guys of the league, both of which are only 20 years old. The ceiling for the big man in the NBA is incredible, according to Sam Smith for NBA.com “The center is back.”
Let us look at the top centers in the NBA during the 1990’s; you have guys like Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Shaq, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo. There is a parallel for almost all of those guys in todays game, Karl Anthony Towns, while I may be a bit early is so similar to Hakeem, he can do anything on the court. He can shoot from the post out to the 3 point line, he can pass, he is a defensive presence in the paint, he is the next great center.
Nikola Vucevic is the David Robinson of Today’s NBA, that may be a bold comparison but like Robinson, Vucevic gets his points and rebounds as well is a team leader for a young Orlando Magic team. Jahlil Okafor is so similar to Alonzo Mourning. Mourning averaged 17.1 points per game and 8.5 rebounds a game, Similar to Okafor’s 17.5 points and 7 boards. They are both athletic post scorers and Mourning is a little more advanced on the defensive end, but, Okafor does have time to build up his game and become a good shot blocker.
One of the most underrated centers leading into this season, Demarcus Cousins is the most like (most people might not like this) Karl Malone. Like Malone, Cousins is solid in the pick and roll/ pick and pop game. He is dominant on the offensive end of the floor. He has gotten better on defense and is one of the most passionate players in the game today.
Malone was a perennial scorer, 2nd all time in fact, that is in part due to his point guard being one of the best passers in NBA history in John Stockton. Cousins does have Rajon Rondo now so his numbers could go up and they have this season so far.
As you can see, the NBA big man was gone and not as dominant for a period of time, however, the big man is back. With all these young guns and the veterans playing at a higher rate than ever NBA teams can look forward to a future of very solid big men in the association. So do you think the NBA is still a hybrid guard and athletic forward league? Or, is it time for the NBA to go back to its roots with big men who dominate the game?
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