Monday, May 29, 2006

The Big Bang Theory

Much has been said lately about the Suns and Mavs changing the face of basketball. And you know what? It's about flippin' time.

I always wondered what would happen if 5 guards took on 5 centers. The guards would be able to get the ball up the court easily, but I don't think they'd be shooting too many layups. They'd have to win shooting jumpers. The big guys, would they handle the guard's press? Who knows - just throw over the top of the press, perhaps? - but once they did get it into the frontcourt, it would be a layup drill. Still, thats easier said that done. I could never make up my mind who would win.

Well, I think the Mavs and Suns have answered that question. They have made the big man basically irrelevant - to an extent. Their systems and philosophy force the most skilled players onto the floor. If DeSegena Diop and Nazr Mohammed are dinosuars, Steve Nash an
d Devin Harris are the asteroid that wiped their tall, unskilled butts off the face off the earth - poof - in a single, blinding flash. They were just sitting there, being big and unskilled, and then all of the sudden, they're irrelevant. Poor guys.

This new style of play has been seen as something revolutionary and inventive, which may be true, but it is actually the purest form of basketball. For all the Pistons' success and every coach's harpings that defense is what wins games, basketball is essentially an offensive game. You win by scoring more points. And this "new" style of play forces the best players onto the court; the importance of size is diminished. Skill - reardless of who has it - is what matters. The best players play. No specialists; no one out there just because they are tall. And that's basketball at its purest.


But back to the Suns and Mavs making "the big man" irrelevant. That couldn't be further from the truth; they have done no such thing. If that were true, Tim Duncan would have been chillin' with Nazr and Rasho for the entire Mavs series, and Dirk Nowitzki - all seven feet of him - would not have the Mavs out to a 2-1 lead against the Suns.

What the Suns and Mavs have done, however, is eliminated the
unskilled big man. And that's a huge distinction. Nazr and Rasho and Diop and anyone like them are on the court for two reasons: 1) guard the other team's big man and 2) rebound. Well, when the other team doesn't play any big men, suddenly those big guys are standing around with nothing to do. Not good. They end up guarding small forward-types, which is obviously a nightmare at both ends. Plus, they aren't great rebounders. Serviceable at best, I'd say. Throw in the fact that the Suns and Mavs shoot either layups or threes most of the time, and that means the rebounds are either non-existant (layups) or long (off threes), where centers aren't handling them anyways.

That said, those big men could still be getting some burn. They are riding pine because they can't keep up defensively, plus they can't score, either. So whats their value? None, that's what. But if Rasho and Nazr - or Diop, for that matter - could play offense, their minutes wouldn't have changed. Duncan and Nowitzki, who can actually score - let alone catch a basketball - stay on the court. Why? Because they are good. They are skilled. They can score. Hence, they stay on the court. Their value isn't diminished just because they will struggle on the defensive end.

If the Heat end up playing in the Finals against either the Suns or the Mavs, Shaq's minutes will only be slightly decreased. He's such a good scorer and rebounder (honestly, have you
seen him against the Pistons? The Big Fella is lookin' nimble!) that his defensive shortcomings are worth it. His skill offensively more than makes up for his shortcomings at one end of the court. Same with Ben Wallace. Even though he can't score, his rebounding and hustle make him too valuable to sit on the bench (plus he's quick enough to guard a small forward without too much dropoff, so maybe he's a bad example). The point is, Shaq, Duncan and Nowitzki all create matchup hell when other teams try to go small. Rasho, Diop and Mohemmed, Inc. don't. Skill rules. Basketball at its purest.


Honestly, Diop scored 192 points the entire season. He's not a good basketball player. He's just big. Why should he be on the court? The newest iteration of basketball, sans the quickly-becoming-extinct Hugus Bigguyus, is phenomonal for the sport. Pair it with the new Golden Age the NBA is teetering in the brink of, and I for one couldn't be more excited.

And that question the Mavs and Suns answered, who would win 5-on-5, guards or big men? The answer is obvious now, isn't it? Obviously, its whoever is more skilled. Regardless of size. And isn't that how basketball should be played?

(Nod your head yes.)

Read the Rest After the Jump...