Golden State Warriors and Small Ball In The NBA


The Golden State Warriors may have started the next big trend in the NBA.

With the selection of phenom combo guard, D’Angelo Russell, in last month’s NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers decided to prioritize a play-making guard over a skilled big man in Jahlil Okafor. For a franchise that has depended upon HOF talented big men to capture numerous championships, the shift in philosophy was pointing at the NBA trend that to win now you need superstar smalls — small meaning 6′-7″ and shorter.

But the landscape of the NBA is changing and recent data suggests that classic centers and big men who can lead franchises to titles is dying.

LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, John Wall, and Derrick Rose: All point guards or ball handling small forwards heavily counted upon to direct and lead their teams.

The small lineup incorporated by the Golden State Warriors after Game three in the NBA Finals seemed to validate that the NBA was heading towards a league that was phasing out big men. This was the present and future of the NBA: A lineup comprised of long, athletic 6′-7″ players to make up for the lack of talented big men, could win you an NBA title, and the Warriors were the trendsetters.

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Of course, it isn’t that simple. All people remember right now is that once Andre Iguodala replaced Andrew Bogut in the starting lineup in Game four of the NBA Finals, the Warriors went on to win three games in a row to win the title. But how did they get there?

The Warriors best big man, who has been an integral cog in their defense ever since his arrival, again anchored the team in defense and was depended upon to protect the paint and to defend the big men present on a lot of the Warriors’ rivals.

His presence was sorely missed in last year’s round one loss to the Clippers and it’s hard to envision the Warriors getting deep in the playoffs this year against the likes of Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol/Zach Randolph, and Dwight Howard on the opposition. Simply put, the Warriors needed their big man to be healthy and to perform, in order for them to have the success that they had.

It was a historic season to say the least for the Warriors, but just like all title teams, a little luck never hurt a championship team. Health was the number one factor in allowing them the success that they had. But their two biggest stars, also the poster children for modeling the teams’ small ball style, were drafted in spots that were below their true worth.

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How does a GM expect to emulate this? The greatest shooting duo in NBA history, drafted within a few years of one another, outside of the top 5 picks. All of these factors combined, and you don’t have much margin for error. Some, or a lot, of luck is needed to get teams like the Warriors in a position to win it all.

How soon we forget that one of the most recent sports dynasties, the Spurs, starred the best PF in NBA history in Tim Duncan. Even Pau Gasol played sidekick to Kobe Bryant in the Lakers back to back titles in 2009-2010.

These are recent title winners. It’s easy to see in today’s NBA that the litany of star guards and wing players are dominating the headlines, but without the presence of a legit big man, the odds do not seem to favor a winning road to a title. Time will tell how this Warriors championship will influence how teams are constructed to win in the future.

Next: Golden State Warriors: This Season was Golden State's All Along