The more the Golden State Warriors soar, the more credence is lent to the notion the NBA is no longer the land of the giants.
When Steph Curry is dialled in from range, who is thinking about memories of Shaquille O’Neal driving in the lane?
It’s purely subjective which finish is the more aesthetically pleasing, but there’s little debate about the nature of the league today; speed kills.
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The Warriors have amassed a tremendous 38-4 record and blew out the Cleveland Cavaliers – leaders in the east – 132-98 at the Quickens Loan Arena on Monday evening.
Having picked up their first NBA title in 40 years with a 4-2 win over LeBron James and the Cavs, the franchise from the Bay Area have every chance of beating the mighty Chicago Bulls 1996 regular season record of 72-10.
But how have they done it? Curry is an obvious answer, but the balance that Steve Kerr, and interim head coach Luke Walton, have found in the MVP’s supporting cast; Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, has been pivotal.
The Warriors are a well-oiled machine who space the floor terrifically for their laser shooters. They don’t need the stereotypical seven-foot beast.
Kerr's pivotal decision in game four of the Finals, replacing Andrew Bogut with Andre Iguodala in the starting five and moving Green to center, emphasised how the Warriors can thrive playing small ball. Iguodala's Final's MVP award was no stroke of luck.
Yet, last Sunday the Detroit Pistons shocked the Warriors and dealt the NBA champions only their fourth loss of the season. Who was at the ‘center’ of it all might you ask?
Between Drummond and the Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside, the fading legacy of the proverbial ‘big man’ in the NBA has received a glowing resurrection.
Drummond leads the league in rebounds-per-game and he managed 21 more as the Pistons sunk the Warriors 113-95.
Whiteside is the standout performer on ‘D’ with four blocks a game. His triple-double against the Denver Nuggets included 11 blocks; the 26-year-old is the only player in the last three years to record a triple-double including blocks.
The Pelicans' precocious talent Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan are way back with an average of 2.4 per game. That’s some company to leave in the dust.
Dwight Howard and indeed Jordan have been considered the top tier talent at the five-spot in their generation.
O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell are the benchmarks for what a center should be. Since Shaq retired, has there been anyone who can dominate the stats in attack like the aforementioned names?
There’s something majestic about the athleticism a skilled giant can showcase at the pivot. New York-born Drummond has been setting personal bests aplenty this year in points, rebounds and steals while Whiteside has also done so across the board, to a lesser degree.
Whiteside is the late bloomer whose hunger underpins everything about him. He’s got that edge that only doing it the hard way can give you. Drafted in the second round in 2010, Whiteside spent time in the D-league and backup for DeMarcus Cousins at the Sacramento Kings for the first three years of his professional career.
Now, the North Carolina-born seven-footer is turning heads at the Florida-based franchise.
But it’s Drummond who holds the keys to the kingdom. At 22, he’s leading the Pistons to an unexpected new era. Alongside former Oklahoma City Thunder man Reggie Jackson, Detroit are sixth in the east and the sky’s the limit with a player like Drummond on your roster.
Is this proof that one big man can still have a profound impact on a franchise?
Cousins in Sacramento and Marc Gasol in Memphis are two examples of leading lights whose side's fortunes don’t accurately reflect their talents. Is Drummond the man to break the mould?
How important is a big-man to success in the NBA? Leave your comments below