The Art of the Big Man Reloaded

In Basketball by Jo Anne Mabika

2017 is bizarre and unlike any year before it. There’s an app that lets you locate which McDonalds restraunts have “broken” ice cream machines. People are calling for Migos to play the hyenas in the Lion King live action. There are trolls on social media literally paid by foreign governments to troll you.  Also undergoing change, the NBA.  Suddenly, some of the most versatile, electrifying and LARGE humans in the league have gone rogue.

In a staggering paradigm shift, the number of big men shooting from outside the arc has skyrocketed.  Big guys in the NBA are typically known for monster blocks, protecting the rim, and maybe even a few highlight dunks.  Typically, you flinch when your big man tries to dribble too much, let alone shoot from a distance.

Once upon a time, the Golden State Warriors were the only team known to live and die by the three. It was one of their distinguishing characteristics that made them so difficult to defend because everyone on the team could drain 3’s. In an effort to catch up to those freakishly talented guys, teams are shooting more and more 3’s.

So here are some of my favorite big men thus far this season. This list is non-exhaustive nor in any specific order; it is purely a list of tall guys who are fun to watch having fun.

  • Rudy Gobert is one of the most versatile bigs on both sides of the court.  His efficiency rating last season for the shots he made without dribbling was 88.2%.  So basically, 9/10 times he was just hanging in the air, waiting to catch and shoot, basically levitating.  At 7 feet, that’s pretty impressive and he has already had similar amazing plays for the defense this year too.
  • Brook Lopez has been really fun to watch with the Lakers this season.  He will put up with the ball from literally anywhere and he refuses to let your preconceived notions of a center change that.  If he feels like taking 20 shots outside the arc, he does, and more often than not it’s going in.  I love his confidence and his balance.  Watching him score a combined 85 points versus Memphis, Brooklyn, and Portland just makes me excited to see what else he will do.
  • And then there’s the freaking unicorn.  Lordzingis himself. Kristaps Porzingis is the scariest type of monster because he’s masquerading under the face of a sweet teenage boy who might sell lemonade for your local church fundraiser.  Towering at 7’3, his shot chart is bananas, he’s the second highest scorer in the league, he’s third in blocks, and has the highest usage rating.  I’d vote for KP for any and all things at this point-lets make him president.
  • I’m not always a fan of Boogie as a general human or as a teammate, but what he’s been doing so far this season is staggering. Standing at 6 feet 11, DeMarcus Cousins was ranked the #1 big man in isolation plays per game.  In his last three games he is averaging 25.6 points and 15.3 rebounds and his impact is undeniable.
  • Yes, I am aware Kyle Kuzma is a small forward, but he’s also coming in at 6’9.  I’m also taking any reason I can to write about MonteKuzma’s Revenge and remind you all he was the 27th pick.  Kuz is averaging 15 points, 4.8 boards, and 1.5 assists.  His impact is baffling because he plays like a veteran.  The floaters, the tips ins, the way he spins around defenders-Kyle Kuzma is a prime example of the paradigm shift to more versatile and unique big men in the NBA today.
  • The Joker- he has a tantalizing accent, he can pass, he can get triple doubles, and he’s shooting 43.9% from 3. Nikola Jokic is one of my favorite superhumans & he deserves better than Denver. I cannot wait to see him become a household name.

Honorable mention: Klay Thompson, Joel Embiid, Kevin Love,  and Laurie Markaanen

Some would say the art of the big man is dying, but I would say it is merely changing and adjusting to the new needs of the NBA.